Hidden Canyon Hike & Photo Tour of the East Side of the Park - Zion Canyon National Park - Utah
Today we did a hike that included narrow ledges and chains to hold onto attached to rock walls. Then we did a driving tour on the east side of the park which has it's own unique beauty that is different from the more popular Zion Canyon section.
Today, we got a late start - I seem to say that a lot - and decided to do a short hike in Zion National Park.
It was close to 1:00 by the time we hopped on the shuttle at the Visitors Center. Eventually, we were dropped off at the Weeping Rock stop.
We didn't do the quarter-mile trail to Weeping Rock, but rather started up the Observation Point/Hidden Canyon trail. The Hidden Canyon hike is listed as 2 miles round-trip or 3 miles round-trip on some websites. Either way, we thought it would be a nice, "short" trail for this afternoon.
However, in the mile to the mouth of the canyon, the elevation gain is 850 feet. The trail is "paved" as it zigzags steeply up the mountain - it's paved in the sense that it's a hard surface, but it's not a smooth surface.
There were great views of the canyon floor and the Virgin River as we climbed.
The "paved" part ends shortly after the Hidden Canyon Trail branches off the right at this sign.
And there was still quite a bit of climbing to do. The sloping ramp trail turned into steps. We came to another sign pointing us to the left.
Some of the ledges had no chains, but the footing was better.
Even for me, who doesn't like ledges at all, it wasn't too bad. We climbed more steps and came upon more ledges with chains.
Linda went ahead to do a couple short videos.
Moving on, there were more narrow ledge sections. Yeah, that's the trail on the right hugging the gray wall.
Very shortly thereafter, we came to a sign that says "Mouth of Hidden Canyon - End of Maintained Trail". From there you can continue on into the mostly flat, narrow canyon.
There is some scrambling required to get around boulders blocking the sandy wash of the canyon floor, but it's not too bad.
Actually, the hike getting to Hidden Canyon is more interesting, in my opinion, than the canyon itself.
The one highlight was this small, free-standing natural arch.
Linda decided she wasn't going any farther, so she rested there while I went on to explore a little more. I had read that you could go as far into the canyon as you wanted or until you came to a place where the canyon was blocked. However, not far from the arch was a sign saying "Sensitive Species Habitat - Canyon is closed beyond this point".
So, I turned around and joined Linda for a short rest before we headed back down.
She did a two more videos on the ledges.
The descent on the hard, sloped ramps was a bit tough on the toes, but the views were nice and there were lots of wildflowers in bloom along the trail. The Hidden Canyon hike was just about right for this afternoon.
Back at the road, we waited for the next shuttle and took it back to the Visitors Center.
Rather than heading home, we took a right onto the main road through the park. I wanted to get some pictures on the east side of the park (east of the Zion - Mt. Carmel Tunnel) where the terrain is completely different.
In fact, Linda thinks that the often ignored east side is more interesting than the much more popular Zion Canyon.
Here are a few photos from the many pull-offs on the east side.
This is Checkerboard Mesa.
It wasn't quite in the right light, but it's still pretty interesting with its criss-crossing erosion lines.
I took this photo from the Checkerboard Mesas Viewpoint ....
and then we turned around and headed back. Just a few more shots.
On the east side, we always keep our eye out for Desert Bighorn Sheep. They are spotted quite frequently. And we just happened to catch a glimpse of three young ones scrambling up the side of a mountain.
I didn't have my zoom lens and the lighting wasn't very good, but I was able to crop this photo and bring them in closer.
We see mule deer, squirrels, and lizards daily. And we've seen turkeys and chipmunks as well. But it's always a treat to see the sheep nimbly negotiating the steep slopes.
We think that entering Zion from the east provides a much more impressive introduction to the park than entering from the south. Driving the entire park road provides diversity and a spectacular view as you exit the western end of the tunnel.
Back on the west side of the tunnel, I took a few more rock shots as Linda drove.
The South Campground has some pretty nice early evening views.
Well, that pretty much wraps up today's time in Zion. We're really enjoying the diversity of this wonderful park.
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