Zion National Park, Utah ***WOW***

Trip Start Feb 09, 2013
Trip End Jun 30, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday, Saturday, Sunday - April 26,27,28 – We left Valley of the Fire State Park in NV after taking a nice sunrise picture and headed north out the east entrance towards Overton and eventually Utah. The drive out was beautiful and when we were out of the park we passed some BLM lands where about 30 RV's were camped overnight on top of a cliff – stunning views.  We also found out that if you enter the Valley of Fire from the east entrance you don’t pay the entrance fee unless you exit through the west.  A section of Lake Mead Recreational Area was only six miles away from the east entrance.

    It took us almost an hour to get to interstate 15 north.  Drove through NV and then AZ, where we had to drive through The Beaver Dam Mountains Wilderness.  What an outstanding drive through these mountains.  In Nevada, we passed by so many casinos heading north and there are so many towns that the snowbirds stay at with golf courses, gambling and great weather.        Entering Utah we had to make a stop in St. George’s and this is where I heard that  Rosemary Jones and her husband moved to after she retired (George and I both taught with Rosemary at North Smithfield).  I can see why!  Everything is new and the city is clean and has everything shops, houses, and if you like to be outdoors - camping, mountain biking, water skiing, golfing, fishing, hiking and kayaking.  This is considered to be Utah’s "Dixie “where summers are warm and winters are mild.   It was settled by Mormons to raise cotton and the first Mormon Temple was built here.  It is not opened to the public but you can see iy from miles away driving on the interstate.  Brigham Young’s winter home was located here and guided tours are offered daily.  Snowbirds from Canada and the northwest states stay here for three or more months.

   After a gas stop we headed up interstate 15 and took the highway east on route 9 towards Zion National Park west entrance.  This was about another 30 something miles most on four lane roads until we got close to the park then it was down to 2.  Springdale is at the entrance to the park with hotels, restaurants and shuttles.  The day we entered was a free National Park entrance day and it was mobbed since it costs $25 for a seven day permit.  We have the America the Beautiful Pass so our stay was free and camping was 50% off.

Zion is known for its desert landscape and huge and sculpted red sandstone rock formations.  The valley is green with the Virgin River flowing through it.  The last time there was a rock slide that caused the river to come up over the road and close the park was 2010.

Free shuttles now take visitors through the valley with many stops and you can get on and off from 5:30 in the morning until after 8 or 9 at night but this changes with the seasons.  In the winter the shuttles don’t run and you can drive your car but then you might not be able to find a parking spot.  We had to find parking spaces for our RV when we visited this park in the 90’s so this is so much more relaxing.  We parked our camper at our site and did not have to drive it again until Monday morning.

   On Monday, we have to drive out the east entrance and have already purchased our pass for RV’s.  We will be escorted out in a single lane through two tunnels – one over a mile long.  We were going to drive around through AZ to get to the other side but it does save us over 55 miles of driving so for $15 it is a good deal.  The east section of the park looks so different from the valley and before we get to the tunnel entrance we have almost seven switchbacks to drive through.  We have been to Zion before,  the last time with our kids and two other families with RV’s and it didn’t bother me then in 90’s but as we get older cliffs and switchbacks seem to be taking its toll!

   Friday we took the shuttle all the way down the valley and got off at the last stop the Temple of Sinawava which is also called the Narrows and Riverwalk.  I remember walking this with our kids at dusk.  We almost did not find our way back then, not one of us had a flashlight.  It was a great walk.  Took the shuttle back to the Visitor Center  and it was mobbed and one women pushed her way on it and almost knock some people standing off the bus.  We enjoyed walking around the campground, park and along the Virgin River.  During the evening we also road the bike trail past the other campground and into the valley.  There are more tourists from overseas here than Americans.  The RV rentals are all around us in the campground.

  Saturday – we decided that we would start off early to avoid the shuttles being crowded so we headed to Weeping Rock with its dripping springs and hanging gardens.  Nice hike and what views.  Then we went to the Grotto and hiked around there and from the Grotto we hiked a mile trail to the Zion Lodge.  This Lodge is right in the middle of the valley and if you stay there you can drive your car to the Lodge.  The Lodge is an historic hotel and the lobby is very nice.  The gift shop has a lot of native American pottery and other items.  Walked across the street to see the horses and then we hiked up the Emerald Pool Trail.  This trail leads to three pools Lower, Middle and Higher.  We went to the first two and what a trail it is right along the Virgin River, under shade in most spots and when you reach the Lower Pool the water is coming off the rocks right above you and misting over you.  It was great.  Hiked back down and got on the shuttle to Canyon Junction, which is at the intersection of Mr.Carmel Highway and the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

    The bike trail begins here and we walked it back towards the Visitor Center but stopped at the Visitor Museum or Zion Museum to look at exhibits and view a great movie about the park.  It was good to see the movie even after seeing most of the stops that it talked about.  Some great views there outside of the peaks around the museum.

   Got on the shuttle again to the Visitor Center and came back for lunch and some rest since we had been hiking and viewing for almost four hours.  Saturday and Sunday night the  Amphitheater near our campsite will have ranger talks and shows around 9pm.  Sunday morning we are scheduled for a free ranger tour of over two hours on a shuttle to view the valley again with some talks, walks and who knows what else.

   Of all the parks Zion is my favorite and I have been here four times but two with George.  It is beautiful and now with the shuttles it is so relaxing.  You are on the valley floor in viewing this park so it is different since most canyons you are on top looking down.  If you have one park to visit except for the Grand Canyon – Zion National Park is the place to visit and the month of April is a great time to come.  They have had problems with gypsy moths the last few years and they are just starting to come out but this year they sprayed.  The weather on Friday was around 85 degrees and Sat in the 90’s so May, June, July and August are hot, hot, hot!

Update:  The ranger show Saturday night was very interesting about the rocks and roots in the park.  She had slides of all the wildflowers that are in bloom and gave us the history of the rock formations located here.

     The morning ranger shuttle tour was great.  First of all, our ranger Carolyn was good and knew her stuff.  I thought at first that maybe we would just stop at some of the shuttle stops that we had already been to but we stopped at places that the shuttles don’t stop at. One hidden stop is called Menu Falls and the reason it is called that is because one of the restaurants in town used to have the picture of the falls on their menu.  They would always be short of menus at the end of the day and found out that visitors would take the menu to the visitor center and ask the rangers where is this and we want to go.  So the park built stairs up to the falls and named it Menu Falls but it is not on the scheduled shuttle stops.

   We also stopped right in a small canyon and could see hikers at the top of Angels Cliff and also rock climbers.  You do not have to get permission to rock climb here during the day.  I thought this was nuts and they don’t used ropes.  This morning there were many climbers at the different stops that we made.  Zion National Park has trails on top so that the Rock Climbers if they desire can rock climb up and then hike down but there are many places where they might have to stay overnight and then take the climb down.

    If you come to Zion sign up in the Visitor Center for this two and a half hour shuttle Ranger Tour – it was excellent!   We had some lunch and decided that around four we will take our bikes and go to one of the shuttles and get on and go to the next to the last stop Big Bend and then ride our bikes back down the canyon.  Carolyn convinced us that this was a must thing to do and there is only two short uphills and then all the way down until we hit the Visitor Center.  We are waiting until it cools down and later maybe the shuttles heading into the canyon won’t be as crowded.  Planning to attend another ranger talk tonight at the campground at 9.  Heading out the east of the park tomorrow morning to a Utah State Park.  We have really enjoyed our stay here.  Quite a few campers checked out of the campground today so maybe tonight the park won’t be as crowded!

Friday, Saturday, Sunday – April 26,27 & 28    Watchman Campground, Zion National Park, Utah

   This is one of two campgrounds at the southwest entrance to Zion National Park and the only one with electric (no water only at the dump station).  Watchman Campground is now reservations only.  All campgrounds were full when we arrived at 11am so we were glad that we had reserved an electric site in the B Loop right next to the river.  Our site did not have shade but it still was quite comfortable even with the temperature hitting 90 degrees and the river for swimming was about 5 yards away.  The A and B loops bath houses were upgraded just a few years ago so they were nice and clean. There are over 61 sites in this campground laid out in A-E loops and another walk in tent loop.  Some sites are private and others are right next to each other but just being in the park within walking distance to the river, visitor center, shuttles, amphitheater and the shuttle for Springdale was great.  The last time we were here we had to drive our RV down in the valley and it was bumper to bumper and hard to find a place to park our camper.  Now there are shuttles that start at 5:30 in the morning until after 8 or 9 at night.  They come every 8 minutes and it made our stay here so much better than last time.  You can get on and off at all the stops for hikes, walks and ranger talks.  I have always loved Zion National Park and it still is my favorite canyon to visit with the rocks, mountains and the beautiful Virgin River flowing through it.   Entrance Fee is $25 for seven days ,but with a pass it was free and the cost per night was $10 with the pass.  We only stayed three days but should have stopped here for at least a week.

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Linda on

Karen and George--fantastic pictures-I remember swimming/floating in the Virgin River when it was 102 degrees! And later walking among the towering cliffs--yes, Zion was beautiful but I don't remember spending a lot of time there--

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