Zion and Bryce, June 2017

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Zion and Bryce, June 2017

Postby al_in_al » Thu Jun 15, 2017 9:41 am

My brother claims Zion as his favorite National Park, so I finally gave it a try this year. While the trip didn't change my favorite NP, it was still pretty terrific.

Day 1

After a mid-day flight into St. George (love tiny airports like these - we were out with our luggage and rental car in no time flat), we headed up to the Kolob Canyons section to buy an annual pass, drive the Kolob Canyons Rd, and take a short warm-up hike on the Timber Creek Overlook trail. It was definitely uncrowded. I was hoping to stay closer to sunset, but was anxious to get into Springdale for the night.

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Day 2

I have to admit, the Narrows was a pretty amazing hike. It was TOUGH. The hike had only reopened a week or two before, after being closed for several months due to snowmelt. The flowrate was in the mid-90s, I can't imagine how much harder it would be near 150 when the hike first reopened. It was hard to get an early start - we had to rent gear (special shoes, neoprene socks, and sturdy sticks - all very much appreciated) and shuttle to the trailhead at the end of the park, but we were still able to get started before 9 am, and still beat the mass of crowds.

The start of the Narrows.
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Mystery Falls.
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Tall canyon shot.
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Wall to wall water.
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Calmer spots.
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Even though we were staying at the Zion Lodge for the next three nights, we still had to drive back to Springdale to return the rental gear. Surprisingly, I got a parking spot at Canyon Junction for a classic shot of the Watchmen.

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Day 3

Hoping to escape the crowds and do something off the beaten path, I decided we'd hike the West Rim Trail, top-down from Lava Point (ish) to the Grotto. I have mixed feelings about this hike. On one hand, the scenery was varied and I enjoyed pretty much everything along the way. On the other hand, it was pretty long, and I was hiking with a novice hiker and while we tried to prepare for this, the look on his face was pretty miserable all day, in spite of his claims that he was enjoying it. We did successfully avoid crowds most of the day - aside from the one guy who took the shuttle with us, we saw no one on this hike until we got to Cabin Springs (mile 10 of 14.5). And after than, only a handful more until we got to the base of Angel's Landing. I'm disappointed that I didn't try Angel's Landing, but my feet were tired, it was hot, there were people (though not as packed as I imagined), and my BF was definitely not going to do it.

Morning views on the "boring" side.
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The more exciting side.
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Descending.
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We came from somewhere up there.
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Zion Canyon.
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Last edited by al_in_al on Thu Jul 13, 2017 9:02 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Zion and Bryce, June 2017

Postby al_in_al » Thu Jun 15, 2017 1:13 pm

Day 4

This was my rest day, so I managed to hold the hikes to about 3 miles.

I was up early to see sunrise from the Canyon Overlook. I did not time it well, and got pretty bad lighting for photography (I assume earlier would have been better). It was still a nice place to hang out and watch the light change. I wanted breakfast and coffee, so I didn't get to see the light hit the valley.

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I thought the views in the other direction were pretty nice.
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After breakfast, we drove the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway.

Bighorn Sheep on Checkerboard Mesa
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Then I hiked the Emerald Pools trail. Unfortunately, it was in the afternoon and was still pretty crowded, particularly at the Lower Pool. The hike to the Upper Pool was short, but a little difficult.

Middle Emerald Pool
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Upper Emerald Pool
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Lower Emerald Pool
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Now for a short note on Zion Lodge. I loved the setting and convenience of being in the park, and the room (a cabin) was extremely nice. Also, the wifi worked really well for me (I'm not a "streamer"). However, the services at the lodge left a lot to be desired. The Cafe was open pretty short hours with no times posted (our key card said it opened at 6:30 am, but was actually 7:30 am) - I never actually made it there. The restaurant set up with two hosts would be comical to watch, if you weren't hungry. Definitely make reservations here. Even if the dining room is never full and it seems unnecessary - it is actually "required" for logistics. The service and food are so-so. You go there for the convenience. There is also no "camp store" on site. There is a gift shop, but no bandaids or Gatorade to be found.

Day 5

I hiked to Observation Point in the morning, and it was pretty great! I have to say, this might be a better hike than Angel's Landing - I don't know, because I haven't been to the top of AL, but it seems like the scenery is better, and it's definitely less crowded. I was glad I started this early (around 7:30 am) since it was pretty cool and shaded most of the way up. I "let" the group from the shuttle go ahead of me (okay, they all hiked super fast), and felt like I had the trail to myself the whole way up. I enjoyed the view at the top for 30 minutes - I could have stayed longer, but I had left the BF to check out of our room and he was stuck at the lodge waiting for me.

A neat canyon.
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At the top, looking down at Angel's Landing.
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Big Bend.
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After finishing up the hike, we drove to Bryce Canyon. They made us wait until 4 to check in, so we wasted time visiting the camp store, and returning to town to look for blister products. Dinner at the pizza shop was pretty good. Afterwards, we took the scenic drive to Rainbow Point, stopping at viewpoints on the way back. It wasn't great for photography, but it was nice to enjoy the stops without too many people.
Last edited by al_in_al on Thu Jul 13, 2017 9:11 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Zion and Bryce, June 2017

Postby al_in_al » Fri Jun 16, 2017 8:23 am

Day 6

We stayed in a Sunset Motel room at the lodge, which was very convenient for getting to Sunset Point in the morning. We walked down the Navajo trail to get to Thor's Hammer for sunrise shots. I was surprised that no one else ventured down the trail with us.

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After breakfast we headed out on the Figure-8 hike (which combines Queen's Garden, Navajo Loop, and Peekaboo trails). It was a nice hike, and pretty uncrowded until the steep hike up to the rim at the end. I was a little disappointed in the Peekaboo Loop part - it's a horse trail and there were tons of droppings, especially in the first half of the loop where there were less interesting views. By the end of the loop, it was worth it, but it as a little tough at the beginning!

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After the hike we rested, drove to Inspiration and Bryce points, got some beers at the camp store, drank beers on the room balcony, ate dinner, and finished up beers on the rim (very nice and uncrowded in the early evening). Went to bed early to rest for the final day of the trip.

Day 7

Up for sunrise at Inspiration Point.

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After breakfast, I headed out for Fairyland Loop from the lodge. First of all, the Rim Trail between Sunrise Point and Fairyland Point is no joke! Lots of elevation gain/loss. It's definitely a part of the hike, and not just a way to turn it into a loop. I think I liked Fairyland better than the previous day's hike - maybe just for the fact that there was no horse poop. I didn't encounter other hikers until halfway through, and even near the end there weren't a ton of people on the trail. It also went by pretty quickly, I completed the loop in under 4 hours.

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After the hike we headed back towards St. George, with a stop at Zion - I wanted to take a relaxing stroll along the river. That was a bust, as bugs quickly chased us away. We spent the night in St. George, with an early flight out the next morning.

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Last edited by al_in_al on Thu Jul 13, 2017 9:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Zion and Bryce, June 2017

Postby dpratt » Fri Jun 16, 2017 9:02 am

Beautiful place and captures. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Zion and Bryce, June 2017

Postby teapot57 » Fri Jun 16, 2017 10:59 am

I have never visited these parks, but they are on my list. Thanks for taking the time to share your trip report. Your photos are beautiful!
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Re: Zion and Bryce, June 2017

Postby Jay w » Fri Jun 16, 2017 7:52 pm

I agree. This area has been on my list for a while. It's just hard to keep ice on the cooler.

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Re: Zion and Bryce, June 2017

Postby PeteE » Sat Jun 17, 2017 4:59 am

Nice report and beautiful pictures "J". One day I may get down there.
Well done!

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Re: Zion and Bryce, June 2017

Postby al_in_al » Sat Jun 17, 2017 7:51 am

Thanks, all. Zion is definitely worth a visit, especially for the uniqueness of the Narrows (I'm sure there are similar hikes elsewhere, but it's been made pretty easy to access here).

I still have so many parks I haven't visited, crossing them off is slow going when I "have to" go to Glacier every year. I'm thinking Yosemite next year, so it's about time to get on the planning for that.
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Re: Zion and Bryce, June 2017

Postby Pizza Bob » Sun Jun 18, 2017 12:28 pm

The Narrows is a tough one to check off the bucket list, as it is so dependent on
weather conditions. I was fortunate to hike up it in 2010. Make sure you have
a waterproof camera.

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The Narrows and Angels Landing are two of the most incredible hikes
I have ever done. The Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park, Phantom Ranch
in the Grand Canyon, Half Dome in Yosemite, and pretty much any hiking in
Great Sand Dunes NP are others I have personally experienced.
You don't compare them to anything in Glacier because they
are totally different (apples to oranges) and fantastic.

Bryce is also really, really good. Only did one day there -- it was quite memorable!!
I was informed we were just "going down the trail a bit and back", so I did not refill
my camelbak which only had a small amount of water left from the prior day.

It was 60 degrees and sunny, and we ended up doing an 8 mile "almost" loop down into
the canyon and back up to the rim, but 2.5 miles away from the car. It's really dry and we were quite
parched by the time we made it back up to the rim. That's when the clouds came in,
it cooled off, and started sprinkling. I volunteered to run back, alone, and
get the car, despite the mountain lion in the area warnings. I was pretty dehydrated
by the time I got to the car (the rim is at 8000 feet elevation), but arrived uneventfully.
By the time I drove back to rescue the others the sprinkling had turned to rain, and the rain
was turning to snow. We headed out and got hot chocolate and dinner at the first restaurant
we found. All ended well in the end, but I sure never regret hauling extra gear that doesn't
get used on an outing. Much better to be over prepared than under prepared.
You can always earn more money, but you can't earn more time
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