Take Me Back to Zion
Last year, my husband and I visited Zion National Park. I’ve had this park on my bucket list for what feels like forever and was trying to keep my expectations of how beautiful Zion would be in check. I didn’t want my experience to be a let down because I’d only seen heavily photoshopped images.
We booked a flight into Las Vegas and drove to the park in a black Dodge Challenger that made my husband feel like he was in the real life version of Grand Theft Auto. We drove through the desert past people in their dune buggies, goggles and helmet clad, flying with a cloud of sand trailing behind them.
We continued heading towards the mountains where the road disappeared into the crevasse of rock.
Ominous and looming over the highway we cut through them til they opened to overlooks of the valley with spotted red rock. The two lane highway hugged the edge of the mountain as we sped towards Utah.
We arrived at our destination well after dark. We had booked a tent at Under Canvas which is a “glamping” company. As we approached the site, the tents were scattered across the mountain side and lit by little solar lights to help identify the paths around the site. Truly, it looked like we came upon a little Ewok village straight out of Star Wars. The tents were amazing! It combined the some of the best aspects of camping with the comforts of a hotel. Some tents even had their own private bathroom and shower attached. But all tents had Casper mattresses and pillows, batteries to charge your phone, wood burning stoves (for food or to heat up your tent if the temperature drops), and more. Trust me, the Casper mattresses were amazing to come home to after hiking the entire day.
We checked in at the main tent where they had nice fire lit with a kitchen, and tables for visitors to hang out or get dinner. We had someone show us where out tent and the bath house was. Once settled in our tent we sat out on the porch and looked at the stars. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life. Every inch of the sky was dotted with a tiny glittering speck. I could have sat out there all night but knew we needed to go to bed for adventures we had planned for the next day.
On our first day we went on an all day horse back ride through the canyons. We started out the day with meeting the horses and working with them, brushing them and getting all the gear set up. We set out on an intense ride with one other family that had three kids.
This was a serious all day ride. We ran the horses up and down hill and across the desert at full speed and these horses loved it. I, on the other hand, have never been on a horse going full speed and it was both terrifying and fun. When we stopped for lunch, I could barely get off my horse from my legs being so tense while the horse was galloping. Travis still tells me to this day that his knees haven’t been the same since! Haha!
Getting back on the horse for 4 more hours of riding was difficult but completely worth it once we got to the outskirts of the park and watched as beautiful storm clouds rolled in over the mountain. We hurried to get back but ended up being caught in a soft rain. It was so welcome after such a long ride.
The next day we entered Zion National Park and I’m pretty sure my mouth was open in awe of how incredible it was. At that moment, I understood why that place was called Zion. It was sublime.
Our first venture was the River Walk where you can hike on the paved path or on the sand next to the river. We decided to take the path less traveled by the water as it offered an amazing view of the giant red mountains above.
We stopped several times for photos and to check out the surrounding plants and animals. There were HUGE squirrels around us, they were even listed in the park brochure that we picked up. As a warning, the brochure showed a photograph of someones hand all stitched up with a caption saying, “Do not feed the animals!” Once we saw the squirrels in person, we got it. We also saw a Mule Deer and long leg Tarantulas that look insanely big compared to the ones I’ve seen at pet stores.
We walked on, following the trail all the way up to the mouth of the Narrows. We stopped for a break where we took off our shoes and waded in the water as other hikers make their descent into the Narrows in waist-high water. I could feel the current pulling around my ankles, like the river was pulling me to go with them.
We put our shoes back on, hiked back to the pickup area, and caught a bus to the Emerald Pools trail. Red rock stairs led us higher and higher to each pool. We ended up checking out all three. Each one had a gorgeous overlook.
We hiked back down and hung out at the Zion Lodge for a while. We watched a couple Mule Deer eat the grass in this round landscaped area that may have been the only grass in the park. We rode the shuttle back to the entrance of the park and hopped over to the Springdale shuttle to go into the small town just outside the park entrance. We grabbed dinner at an awesome little Mexican restaurant up the road. It was the best food to have after a whole day of hiking. Before heading back to our car, we face-timed our parents to show them the mountains and shops in the Springdale area. The view looked incredible as the sun started to set by the time we got back to the car. We drove through the dark back to Under Canvas.
On our Last day in Zion, we got up before the sun rose. We had to use our head lamps to light our walk up to the showers and the main tent to get some coffee before heading out to our last hike. We loaded up the car and checked out. The sun started to rise while we drove down the Zion-Mount Carmel highway. Once we entered the park, we followed the signs to the Canyon Overlook Trail. We passed through a dark tunnel that had large “windows” cut out where one could catch quick glimpses of the red cliffs outside. Once we were out of the tunnel, we found a parking spot as soon as we could. Apparently, arriving as early as possible is a popular idea and sometimes it can be hard to find a parking spot. We geared up and headed out on our last trail.
I’ve never traveled anywhere where I’ve been so in love with the landscape that I didn’t want to leave. The view was overwhelming.
This place was so beautiful, peaceful, and humbling. This is a place that we could call home.
The top of the trail opened up to an incredible view. We walked around the area to take pictures and attempt to take it all in. Eventually, Travis put his arm around me and said we had to go. Unfortunately, we had to return the rental car and check in to a hotel for our last night in Vegas. Hand in hand, we walked back down the narrow trail while holding hands, trying to take mental pictures of our last minutes in Zion.
Reflecting back on this trip makes me excited for the adventures we have planned for the future. They’re always better when you can share them with someone. Here’s to my favorite adventure buddy, Travis. I don’t want to explore with anyone but you. Thanks for joining me on these adventures!