Trekking through the canyons began in the Southern portion of Utah, with Zion National Park.
The Road Trip officially began with Hoover Dam. From Hoover Dam my friend and I went to Las Vegas, and from Las Vegas to St. George, UT to Zion Canyon, (located between St. George and Panguitch, UT)
Short version of Road Trip thus far: Hoover Dam -> Las Vegas, NV, -> St. George, UT -> Zion National Park, Springdale, UT
Zion was my first experience in hiking and seeing the Canyons that I live so near to. I love nature, so I was very excited about visiting the canyons. And still am, even, because we did not see all parts of Zion, only a glimpse!
“Located in Washington, Iron, and Kane Counties in southwestern Utah, Zion National Park encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States. Within its 229 square miles are high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstone canyons, and the Virgin River and its tributaries. Zion also has 2,000-foot Navajo Sandstone cliffs, pine – and juniper – clad slopes, and seeps, springs, and waterfalls supporting lush and colorful hanging gardens.
“With an elevation change of about 5,000 feet-from the highest point at Horse Ranch Mountain (at 8,726 feet) to the lowest point at Coal Pits Wash (at 3,666 feet), Zion’s diverse topography leads to a diversity of habitats and species. Desert, riparian (river bank), pinyon-juniper, and conifer woodland communities all contribute to Zion’s diversity. Neighboring ecosystems – the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Rocky Mountains-are also contributors to Zion’s abundance.
“The park has more than a 1,000 species of plants ranging from tall, graceful cottonwoods growing along the river to towering pines and firs shading the higher elevations. Prickly pears, cholla, and yucca are among Zion’s desert-adapted plants. The hanging gardens support brilliantly-colored Zion shooting-stars, scarlet monkeyflowers, and Western and golden columbines.
“There are approximately 67 species of mammals, 29 species of reptiles, 7 species of amphibians, 9 species of fish, and 207 species of birds. Endangered California condors soar above the cliffs of Zion; threatened Mexican spotted owls – Zion has the highest density of these owls breeding in the state – live and raise their young in Zion’s narrow canyons.”
For more information on the make up of the Zion Canyon, click here: Nature & Science
For information on Zion Canyon and its Culture, click here: History & Culture
For information on the variety of things to do at Zion, click here: Things to do
For hiking, click here: Hike Guide(s)
Trails range from Easy -> Moderate -> Strenuous
Trails my friend and I hiked:
We started from the Zion lodge. From the Zion lodge we went up to Lower Emerald Pool trail [easy trail, minor drop offs and paved trail] then continued to the Upper Emerald Pool trail [moderate trail, with minor drop offs on a sandy/rocky trail that climbs to the upper emerald pool at the base of the cliff], which connected us to the Kayenta Trail [moderate trail with moderate drop offs; an unpaved climb to the emerald pools], creating a 2.5 mile loop, that led us back to the parking lot. All together this loop trail was around 3 hours long (stops and picture opportunities included). This is a recommended trail for first time hikers and first timers visiting Zion, especially if you have a short time stay (meaning only visiting Zion for a day).
If you plan your trip to Zion for more than just a day trip you can book rooms at the Lodge. An alternative to the Loop Trail is to begin it with the Grotto Trail, which is also another good option for first time hikers. The Grotto Trail [easy trail] connects the Zion Lodge to The Grotto. It can be combined with the Lower Emerald Pool [easy trail] and Kayenta Trail [moderate trail] to create a 2.5 mile loop, that’ll lead you back to the Lodges. So it is very similar to the trail my friend and I chose, except you circle back to the Lodges instead of a parking lot.
TIP FOR PLANNING A QUICK FIRST TIME VISIT TO ZION: if you want to do the loop trail, start with the Lower Emerald Pool trail [about 1 hour long hike], since it is marked as an easy trail (meaning minor drop offs and paved trail). The waterfall(s) that you will see on this trail are small, and if you want to see the waterfalls in full (meaning more than just a trickle of water) it is best to hike this trail in early spring, but that is only if you are hiking solely for the waterfalls. It’s still a beautiful trail that gives a great view of the canyons, no matter the time of year you hike it.
Picture of ME near waterfall on Lower Emerald Pool Trail:
Canyon wall near waterfall:
View of Canyon from Upper Emerald Pool, deep red rock here:
Once the Lower Emerald Pool trail ends you come to a crossroads. From here you can immediately begin the Kayenta Trail [about 2 hour long hike, moderate trail; moderate drop offs on an unpaved trail that leads to Upper Emerald Pool] which connects The Grotto trail to the emerald pools. OR you can take the Upper Emerald Pool trail, which will lead you to the middle point of the Kayenta Trail, that’ll take you back to the parking lot. There will be signs that lets you know which direction you can choose.
Picture of Emerald Pool:
The last trail we did in Zion was the Riverside Walk [easy trail, minor drop offs; paved trail that follows the Virgin River along a narrow canyon], another recommended trail for first time hikers as well as first time visiting Zion.
TIP: This Trail also connects you to the Narrows, but it is best to do your research for the proper clothing to wear and proper gear to bring to hike The Narrows.
View of Virgin River with the canyons in the background:
End of Riverside Walk, past this point you will be hiking the Narrows, best to be wearing waterproof pants and shoes to walk further than this point:
AND that was the end of our trip at Zion, next stop: Bryce Canyon