Saturday, November 2, 2019

Zion National Park - Las Vegas and Utah - May 2019

Las Vegas/Utah Trip Overview

The main portion of Zion was just a 90 minute drive from Bryce.  At the beginning of our trip we visited the Kolob Canyon section in the northern part of the park.   The two areas are not connected through the park.  

We entered the park through the Eastern Entrance which meant our first experience in the park would be viewing the checkerboard mountains.   After a quick stop and a pass through the small carved out arch over the road we stopped near the long tunnel for a quick hike on the Canyon Overlook Trail.  Nothing too difficult other than the steep rock ramp at the beginning of the trail.   Some lady coming down came sliding by us on our way up and Holly saved her from a nasty tumble.   

This was a great place to stop and help us understand how different the scenery would be here vs. what we just experienced in Bryce.   A lot more mountains with straight verticals and more woodlands.

Of note, this was the first day we could be comfortable in shorts and t-shirts.   The cold spell had moved on.

Next it was time for the tunnel.    The thing was carved like a hundred years ago and it's long and creepy.     About this time we realized we never really drove our rental car at night and auto headlights were not turned on.    Dave panicked because he couldn't find the switch for the lights and ended up flashing his high beams off and on until exiting.   Sorry people.

When we made it to the visitor center we could tell the weekend crowds were starting to build.  What makes Zion different from the other parks is cars are not allowed to drive through most of the park.   They have a shuttle bus system that takes visitors to the sights.  This holds for guests of the lodge as well.    We weren't able to get reservations in the lodge and ended up staying in Springdale, UT - a real town at the edge of the park.  We were surprised at the efficiency of the shuttle system.  We maybe waited 5 minutes at most any given time we wanted to take a ride.

Our first stop on the shuttle was number 5 to visit Emerald Falls.  Some rains earlier in the season had closed a few of the trails and sights including Upper Emerald Pools and The Narrows.  We visited Lower Emerald Falls with the rest of everyone else in Zion that morning.    It's a short and easy walk on a paved trail to get to the falls.

Time for lunch.   The only place to eat is the lodge, unless you want to go back to town.   The two options here were table service or quick serve.   We fought the masses and chose quick service.  The bright spot was a beer cart from Zion Brewery in the middle of the outdoor seating area.   After lunch we hopped back on the shuttle to tour the Riverside Walk area and the entrance to The Narrows.  At one of the shallow points we took off our boots and stepped into the water.   Dumb idea - it was freezing!

The rest of our park time that day was spent hopping off-and-on the shuttle to see a few of the sites like Mossy Cave and Court of the Patriarchs.   Zion did have a lot of short walks to get to some fun areas to tour.  Once we were done touring we drove over to the Zion Brewery.   We lucked into outdoor seating with a great view of the mountains.  Dinner that evening was at a bar next to our hotel - Jack's Switchback Grille.   


Up early again so we can beat the crowds to the rest of the sights of Zion.   We started the morning off by getting to the visitor center parking lot and take a nearby hike on The Watchman Trail.   Lines for the shuttles were long; filled with people wanting to hike Angel's Landing before the heat of the day sets in.   We decided we were skipping Angel's Landing because it was described as strenuous and not for those with height issues.  The Watchman Trail had a few steep portions, but nothing too terrible.   We were happy we did this one before the sun came out because we could see it was having a toll on people coming up while we went down.

We took the Archeology Trail to the Pa'rus Trail in order to make our way to the museum for the park movie.    The turn-off for the museum wasn't well-labeled and we ended up walking way more than we intended.   Our easy walk still turned into a dash so we wouldn't miss the movie start time.    We did some more exploration around the area, including the easy portion of Angel’s Landing Trail before heading to the Zion Lodge for lunch.   We chose the sit-down option on the 2nd floor deck which gave us great views of the mountains.  The lodge served the perfect Prickly Pear Margarita - it was in a small martini glass so the balance to tequila to mix was perfect.

Next up was our horseback riding tour.  About 12-15 people go up the Sand Beach Trail in a straight line with a couple of guides.   When horses were handed out the man asked Dave when was the last time you've been on a horse?  40 years ago was the answer.   We chose to wear helmets.    Holly also suggested Dave not bring the big camera, but he did and ended up losing the lens cap somewhere on the trail.  At the top of the trail we had an excellent view of the surrounding valley and The Patriarchs.  Somehow Dave ended up in the back of the horse line-up with the seven year old the only one keeping an eye on him.   We survived and it was a unique way to experience the park.

After our ride was over we crossed the street to visit The Zion Lodge one more time.  We grabbed some beers from the cart, took our shoes off, and sat on the lawn watching people go by and a kid throw a frisbee very poorly.   We evaluated what else we wanted to do in the park and decided it was nothing!  We shuttled to the visitor center and walked over to the Zion Brewery.   It took us a few minutes to get the outdoor seats we wanted, but once we did we settled in.    Dinner that night was across the street from our hotel at the Bit and Spur.  This place was excellent and is a must-do if you are in the area.   

The next morning we were up early again.   Our flight back home was late in the day but since it was Dave's birthday he wanted to spend some more time back in Las Vegas.   The drive back was a little over an hour so not too bad.   We parked for free at The Venetian and spent some time playing slots at The Linq.   An added birthday surprise was finding a horse race game at The Linq with the little mechanical horses going around the track! The Linq also had a nice beer bar right on The Strip - a perfect place for people watching.    Lunch was at Noodle's Asia in the Venetian - also a good choice.  When we left Las Vegas for Utah we were up $13.   That was not the case when we headed off to the airport!

As many of our readers know a week hiking in National Parks is not our typical vacation.    We were actually surprised how much we enjoyed our time in Utah.  The uniqueness of the area and the diversity in scenery makes this part of the country a must-do.   


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