In the spring of 2011 we visited Zion National Park for the first time. We were blown away by the beauty and sheer scale of this amazing park. We knew we would return again someday to explore it further. This year as we were making our way back north to Canada after enjoying a warm, sunny winter in Southern California and Arizona we found ourselves hanging around just north east of Las Vegas. Being that we were just a few hours away from Zion and there was a nice window of weather, we decided to head up there for a week.
Where We Stayed
Like last time when we attempted to book a reservation in the Zion National Park campgrounds we found they were basically fully booked, unless we wanted to move the rig around every day or so. So again like last time we stayed at a full hookup RV Park called Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort located about a ½ mile out of the NP park entrance gate in Springdale, Utah. The park is a little pricey at 39 dollars a night but there are not a lot of options in close to Zion so we bit the bullet. We were able to cut it down a wee bit by booking a full week at a rate of $234 weekly. Other than the cost the park was quite nice. The hookups are good and most of the sites were easy pull-thrus able to accommodate even the biggest rigs. At the bottom end of the park is the Virgin River, with some tent and RV sites located right on its banks and towering over the park is the famed Watchman Mountain, one of Zion’s signature landscapes features.
Stormy Spring Weather
This visit we experienced the stormy side of Zion. On two of the days the skies got fierce, the wind howled and it poured rain. It was a little disappointing, more so for the tent campers I imagine, but the payoff was in the hours after the storm. We quickly headed up into the Zion Canyon to enjoy the unique scenery after the big rain. All the sandstone was still wet and extra colorful and the sun was causing huge clouds of steam to billow in and around the mountain cliffs and peaks. This was a side of Zion I hadn’t seen before and we thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the popular vistas to see them in this new light.
Day Tripping along Zion’s Other Scenic Drives
Most visitors to Zion National Park will take a drive or shuttle bus along two popular scenic drives. The road through Zion Canyon and the other branch of it that winds its way up and through the famous tunnel on the Mt. Carmel Highway to the Checker Board Mesa and beyond. Having been there and done that last visit, this time we headed off to explore a few of the lesser known drives. The first required us to double back to Interstate 15 and head north on it for 15 or 20 miles to Kolob Canyons. Here we found a five mile scenic drive showcasing huge sandstone cliffs and narrow canyons, terminating at a high elevation viewpoint with huge sweeping views south all the way to the Grand Canyon. Along the drive there are many points to park the vehicle and get out to gawk in slack jawed awe at the fantastic landscape. The roadways in Zion are really this reddish orange color. They make the pavement from the sandstone rock.
Kolob Terrace Road
The other scenic drive is up Kolob Terrace Rd. and starts in the town of Virgin and heads north off Highway 9 up onto the Kolob Plateau region of the Zion National Park. It’s a nicely paved road but a little narrow in sections. The scenery here is a little different than the other parts of Zion in that it is mostly high elevation meadows, small pine forests and outcroppings of white silica domes. You do get some really nice views of Zion’s famous mountains and peaks from a different perspective as you drive alongside to the west of the Zion Canyon. In a few areas you pop out of the NP and drive through some private ranch land and may even like we did find cows on the roadway. It’s really a cool view looking around at all the barren, hilly desert sandstone landscape and then down into the green, green pastures in the valleys below. Quite the contrasting landscapes.
Hiking Angels Landing
I missed doing this bucket list type hike last time and was determined to get my butt up to the summit of Angels Landing this time. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating; Angels Landing is no place to be when it is raining and windy, or foggy. Finally on the last day of our visit conditions were perfect, a nice cool and calm morning and I was off. First obstacle was not the steep switchbacks but finding a place to park! This was the last day before the Zion Shuttle Bus started seasonal operation and the canyon was packed with vehicles. I ended up finding a spot a half mile away and had to hike along the river just to get to the Angels Landing starting point at the Grotto. The trail was very busy but it’s fairly long so soon folks were spaced out pretty good. Looking at the weary faces of the folks returning I knew I was in for a pretty good work out. Avid hikers may laugh but for the average person it’s a pretty strenuous hike. 2.5 miles and an elevation rise of 1500 feet.
The first section of the Angels Landing hike gets you up to Scouts Lookout along a fully paved and sidewalk width pathway. The only hard part is the steep incline and constant switch backs needed. Scouts Lookout has fabulous views of the Zion Canyon below and is a perfect spot to stop for a bite to eat. For a good portion of the hikers this was the end of the hike because after this point the trail gets far more difficult and dangerous.
The final .5 mile hike to Angels Landing involves cambering up sandstone steps, along narrow ledges and in many places grabbing hold of safety chains to hoist you up. Add to this that your peering down on both sides 1500 feet to the canyon below and it can get a little dizzying and unnerving at times. The pathway in many spots is so narrow only one person at a time can safely pass and with two way traffic there are many times you have to wait for folks going the other way. This was fine with me as I needed many times to stop and catch my breath. Finally after about 40 minutes I reached the pinnacle out on the point of Angels Landing. What a view! All around was the gorgeous Zion Canyon laid out before me. I was so glad I made the effort to get up here. A sandwich never tasted so good.
After enjoying a good hour admiring the views it was time to head down. You would think it would be easy but not really. My 50 year old legs were already wobbly and tired from the climb. Muscles were hurting that I never knew I had and every step was a little painful. Sure glad I brought my hiking pole with me as it ended up by the bottom of the hike turning into a cane, haha. I was so happy to finally reach the truck. Sore and stiff but smiling ear to ear I headed back to the RV for a cool one and a big dinner. What a great day!
Video Highlights of my Angels Landing Hike
Photo Gallery of 2014 Zion NP Visit
That wraps up another fun RV trip to Zion National Park in Utah. We already want to return again and try the hike to the Narrows. If you have never been to Zion NP, you gotta go; photos and videos don’t do it justice.
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