Today, we entered Zion National Park for the first time. We used the free shuttle to drop us off in Zion Canyon for a couple of short hikes and to get a feel for the park. So far, we're pretty impressed.
I have lots of hikes I want to do at Zion National Park, but we decided to take it easy this first day.
Today's plan was to drive to the Visitors Center at the southern entrance to the park, take the free shuttle into Zion Canyon, and do a couple of the short, popular hikes.
The main section of the park includes a twelve-mile road - called the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway - from the south entrance to the east entrance of the park. Personal, private vehicles are allowed on that twelve-mile section (except for the large vehicle prohibitions and restrictions in place due to the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel).
About half way on the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, the seven-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive spurs off to the north. In the winter season, from approximately November through most of March, private vehicles are allowed on the Scenic Drive. However, from April through October, the Scenic Drive is accessible only by shuttle.
We left about 9:30 and drove the 14 miles to the Visitors Center. We arrived a little before 10:00 and there was plenty of parking. The next three photos are from the Visitors Center.
We jumped on a shuttle (they run every 7 - 15 minutes) and headed "up canyon". But we hopped off at the first stop - the Zion Human History Museum.
That's where they show the 22-minute orientation movie about the park (shown on the hour and half hour).
After the movie, we got on the next shuttle that came through, ....
and went into Zion Canyon.
We got off at the Zion Lodge stop.
From there, we walked to the Emerald Pools trailhead.
We crossed over the Virgin River that runs through the canyon.
This is designated as an "easy" trail to the Lower Pools. The path is paved (although much of it is covered in red dirt) for the .6 miles to the Lower Pools.
It was an uphill walk to the first set of pools.
We walked behind the two small waterfalls.
Seconds after that photo was taken, some rocks fell from the overhang above. Another couple was standing by the railing, and the rocks landed maybe two feet beyond them on the other side of the railing. It looked like it was continuation of the natural erosion, but those falling rocks would have killed them. A couple minutes later a smaller section fell in the same spot. That was pretty scary and certainly made us pay attention.
From there, it was a short, steep walk up to the Middle Pools.
And then it was about a third of a mile farther uphill to the Upper Pools. By the time we got there, it was already crowded.
We took a couple pictures, ....
had a quick bite, and got out of there. Lots of people were coming up the trail as we were going down. It was getting congested, so rather than going back the way we came, we took the Kayenta Trail above the river toward the Grotto Picnic Area.
That turned out to be a great decision.
The views were wonderful from there.
That trail wasn't nearly as crowded, we were just high enough to have great scenery, and we were just low enough to be able to hear the rushing water in the river.
The Kayenta Trail is only about a mile long, but it's a great alternative way to exit the very popular Emerald Pools.
At the Grotto Picnic Area, we hopped on the next shuttle and took it to the end of the canyon - the Temple of Sinawava stop. There, we walked the one-mile, paved Riverside Walk.
More gorgeous Virgin River views.
At the end of the Riverwalk Trail, you can continue to walk up the river into The Narrows - one of the classic "must do" hikes in Zion.
Stay tuned to see if we decide to tackle this scenic, but very wet hike.
After a brief rest and shooing away the aggressive Rock Squirrels, we walked back out. At the trailhead, while waiting for the next shuttle, we had this wonderful view.
And with that, we rode the shuttle back to the Visitors Center and called it a day. Not a bad introduction to the very beautiful Zion National Park. I think we'll be hangin' out here several more days. Might as well come on along.