Saturday, September 15, 2007

Zion National Park

Zion National Park (Utah) is a cool park, although probably lesser known to East Coasters than parks like Yosemite, GC and Yellowstone but it seems to be a staple for West Coaster outdoors-y types. The park is full of rock climbers and hikers… there are less “snap one photo and leave” tourists here. This seems to be due to the fact that the entire canyon is only accessible by shuttle and there are no scenic overlooks. To see this park you have to get out and walk, hike or climb.

We got up early Saturday and did a hike into the Zion Canyon “Narrows.” A famous hike that offers superb views of the narrows Zion slot canyon from the bottom up and an ever present risk of a deadly flash flood. People die here each year from either not being prepared or walking into the canyon when storms are in the forecast in the Virgin River headwaters. The hike is about 8 miles roundtrip up into the canyon with about 70% requiring that you actually hike in the river. The water levels can range from ankle level to deep enough that you have to swim to proceed. Luckily the water levels were fairly low, but we were up to our thighs in a couple of places which was a little uncomfortable considering the water is moving quickly and it is cold (64 degrees). The mostly sandstone canyon ranges anywhere from 100 feet to about 15 feet wide in some places. The sheer walls reach up over 1000 feet, which blocks out the sun and causes a dark and narrow passage through some sections. Since we got an early start, we were treated to relative solitude for most of our trip and were able to have a lot of the canyon to ourselves. Tomorrow we are headinig out to Bryce Canyon but are going to get in a nice long hike early in the morning which takes us along the ridge tops for some top-down canyon views.

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