Did you know that over 4 million people visit Zion National Park every year? This summer we decided to join the masses and see what all the fuss is about. Part of a larger loop, Zion National Park was our second stop, which included stops in Nevada, Utah and Arizona, over the course of two weeks.
Located in Springdale, Utah, Zion is a very manageable 2.5 or 3-hour drive from Las Vegas (our first stop). We arrived in the mid-afternoon and there was plenty of daylight left, so we went straight to the Park.
There are many walks and hikes of varying lengths and difficulties. We chose “hikes” that would suit everyone in our group, which was made up of all ages and fitness levels. Strenuous or more challenging hikes weren’t ever on our agenda, however with temperatures soaring into the hundreds even the easiest hikes can feel challenging.
During our visit we completed two hikes, both of which were paved and felt more like walks, and both would be suitable for all ages, The River Walk, which leads to The Narrows, and the Lower Emerald Pools Walk. During our visit we saw wild turkeys and their babies, countless squirrels, and many deer.
The Riverside Walk (Shuttle Stop 9)
The Riverside walk is an easy 2.2-mile paved path, which follows alongside the Virgin River. This is also the access point for one of the Park’s most popular hikes, The Narrows, a strenuous 8+ hour, 9.4 mile hike through the river.
The Riverside walk was perfect compromise for our group! We saw wildlife, hanging gardens, and cooled off by dipping our feet in the river. We felt like we got a small taste of the Park and even saw the famous Narrows!
The Lower Emerald Pools Trail (Shuttle stop 5)
The Emerald Pools Trail consists of three parts. Parts two and three are more strenuous, with a moderate rating, while part one The Lower Emerald Pool Trail is listed as easy, making it a perfect choice for our second walk in the Park.
The 1.2-mile trail is paved and leads to a waterfall, which is a very rewarding end to this 1-hour walk with a slight elevation and limited shade.
Once you reach the waterfall you can continue on and complete the entire Emerald Pools trail, or like us, you can turn around and head back. Keep in mind there are some very steep drop offs. If you look carefully at the photos below you can spot some tiny people up on the ledge, which is located just above the waterfall where we ended our walk!
With temperatures well over 100 degrees, not everyone in our group wanted to participate, so we dropped them at the Zion Lodge, a lovely place to take a break and relax. If you’re looking for a souvenir there is a lovely gift shop inside as well. You know I stopped there!
Navigating within Zion:
It’s important to note that vehicles aren’t allowed within Zion National Park. The Park Service operates a free shuttle bus, which takes visitors throughout the Park, stopping at 9 different designated stops starting at the Visitor Center and ending at stop 9 The Temple of Sinawava. The ride takes about 40 minutes from start to finish, and its not only incredibly scenic, but informative as well. Shuttles come about every 10 minutes*.
As I mentioned above, 4 million people visit Zion every year, so you can imagine that at times the park will be very crowded. Because the shuttles are the only way into the park consider arriving on the earlier side, or at off times to keep your wait times down.
For example, our wait time in the late afternoon was nonexistent, but on our second day we attempted to ride during a peak time, and we were met with an hour + line, just to get on board. After all that waiting we still had to contend with multiple shuttle stops, a long hot ride and 108-degree temperatures. An earlier start might have saved us as much as two hours!
Zion is an oasis in the desert, but it is still a desert. Bring water everywhere. I really can’t stress this enough. It’s important to bring enough water for everyone in your group. Temperatures can and do reach well over 100 degrees.
I admit I didn’t research accommodations in Zion, I didn’t have to! My fellow blogger, Oregon Girl around the World, suggested The Desert Pearl Inn, and we couldn’t have been more pleased! However, we weren’t the only ones happy with this choice, it was completely booked, so planning ahead is a good idea.
The property is conveniently located within walking distance to the Park’s entrance, but if you prefer a ride there is a separate town shuttle which stops right out front of the Inn.
The service, pool and grounds were all lovely. The room was spacious, the beds were comfortable, and even with a full kitchen two double beds and a sitting area our group of five had plenty of room to spread out.
Tips & Advice:
- Check the weather and possibilty of flash flooding before you go, especially for The Narrows.
- Bring lots of water and snacks for everyone in your group.
- Wear appropriate clothing, hats, and shoes.
- Heed the signs. People have died on these trails, and many more have been injured, or suffered heat related illness.
- The Visitor Center doesn’t sell food or drinks, but there is a little grocery just outside the park gate.
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