Zion National Park

Ok, we’ll ignore the fact that I got a little behind here and just press on a bit with the wrap up BWR and the final couple big events of 2021. I’m not so far away from it all that I feel like I need to just skip it, but I will be soon. So, with that out of the way:

We left off with bedtime ahead of a day of exploring. The plan was to spend two days at Zion and/or Bryce National Park. In Zion I really wanted do to Angel’s Landing and The Narrows. I know Angels Landing is “overrated” but I really wanted to see it (spoiler: it’s not overrated, it’s spectacular). BUT, I also wanted to miss the crowds. Despite the long day I was SO excited to get to the park.

We headed out in the dark, only slightly delayed by me re-bandaging my knee, and drove the ~hour down to Zion. In the early dawn light we could tell we were driving through a beautiful area but everything was mostly silhouetted. We arrived at the visitor’s center just before sunrise along with a number of other folks.

Zion runs shuttles throughout the park to cut down on traffic and congestion. It’s fantastic. They run constantly so there’s hardly a wait. Even from the visitor center it was only about 10min before we were on a bus heading into the park.

We decided to start with Angels Landing before it got too hot and crowded. The hike up could definitely be challenging for folks not used to altitude or hiking. It does get a bit steep in places, and switchbacks as you get higher. However, the walking surface is excellent (partially paved!) and it didn’t cause us any issues. A couple miles up you hit a large open space. Some folks choose to stop here, but it’s actually not the summit.

The ridge leading up to the true summit of Angels Landing

From here you continue up along a long, narrow, windy ridge to reach the true summit. There lots of handholds along the way, but you’re limited in pace a bit by the folks in front of you. Those afraid of heights could find this quite intimidating, but anyone who scrambles or climbs will be quite comfortable. Those who venture up this ridge are rewarded with absolutely spectacular views that don’t even seem real:

Looking out towards the entrance of the park
And looking out towards The Narrows at the other end

We spent some time snacking and enjoying the views, along with taking some goofy photos.

You can see my knee is all bandaged up to try to prevent it from getting infected. I wasn’t too worried about the hiking, but I was concerned about The Narrows.

We could tell it was starting to get crowded so we decided to get going. The downhill was slow. On our way up we were some of the first folks there so there weren’t too many people heading down. Now, however, it was mid-morning and there were throngs of people heading up and down. This was only an issue because of how narrow the ridge is. The group heading down would have to pause to let a group of ~10 head up, and then the groups heading up would have to pause to let a group of us go down. It was too narrow to try to have two-way traffic. It took a bit, but we eventually made it off the ridge and back to the wider part of the hike. The downhill was actually more challenging for both of us than the up. My knees were not thrilled with all the steep descending!

From there it wasn’t even noon, and we were equipped with snacks and water, so we decided to press on to The Narrows. I originally didn’t think we’d be able to do them both in one day, but it was clear we had plenty of time.

We arrived at the start not knowing exactly what we’d find. The hike through The Narrows is essentially hiking through a river. This time of year is fairly ideal as the temps are warm but the river isn’t too high. This means a lot of mid-shin high water, occasionally going to waist high (or a little more if you’re short!). However, there was a warning for toxic cyanobacteria bloom and I had a pretty gnarly gash on my knee that was too big for waterproof coverings. We decided to see how far we could get. I managed several slightly deeper areas by essentially just one-legged hopping, but not too far in there was a ~20ft long area of waist deep water. Slightly defeated I suggested maybe it was best to turn around. But Paul kindly offered a piggyback ride, and thus we continued!

A good thing too, because down river the crowds significantly lessened and the walls narrowed. It was really spectacular, if not someone slow going (between the slick river bed underfoot, my extra ‘hopping’ along (+2 more piggyback rides), and also some fatigue from the earlier hike and the long day yesterday.

We made it about 2.5 miles in to just past a side canyon called Orderville Canyon. You could spend an entire day exploring The Narrows, but our few hours felt pretty great.

From there we turned around as we were getting quite hungry and our snacks were dwindling. We made it back to the start of the hike and I peeled off slightly wet bandages and redressed my knee before jumping on the shuttle to head back to the visitor’s center.

We wrapped up our day there and decided to head back to the hotel. A late lunch/early dinner was grabbed at a local supermarket, donuts included!, and we finally got to see the jaw-dropping views we’d driven in the dark that morning.

We arrived back at the hotel in the early evening thoroughly exhausted. Two back to back days of adventure had taken their toll, and I was 100% ready to crash. We had two more nights and the hotel, and I started poking around to see about exploring more of Zion or heading to Bryce the next day. But although you absolutely could spend days in these parks, we were just not up for a lot more hiking. So, we did something I rarely do, and we decided to head home early. Although I felt a tiny twinge of disappointment, I knew realistically that rest was going to be the best idea here. Plus with crowds and COVID we decided it was just the right choice.

We packed up our things, got a good night’s sleep, and headed back to Boulder early in the morning (but, in the daylight this time!). I’m SO incredibly grateful for Hylands for giving me the chance to race BWR, which got me to spend time in Utah. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve spend time in, and I look forward to being back!

Author: cartwheelsandcake

Cyclist, climber, hiker, trail runner, back country skier, dabbling mountaineer Lover of cake, chocolate, brownies, and sweets. Excellent napper.

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