Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The First Timer's Visit to Utah's 5 National Parks, Day 3: Finding the Magic in Zion National Park

Day 3 Start in Zion National Park End in Bryce Canyon

Finding the Magic in Zion National Park, Part 2

SCENIC DRIVE 1: Sunrise (Since we were here in October sunrise was not unbearably early, plus we were still on East Coast time.)

We picked Kolob Terrace Road. It is about 15 min west of Springdale and provides some magical views in the morning light.  We took the road until the 5 MPH turn, you can't miss it, and then turned around.  You have more extensive views here than in Zion. If you would rather hike here than in the busy part of the park, check out these options.  

Moonset from Kolob Terrace Road*

Moonset from Kolob Terrace Road*

Have a later breakfast at Oscars.  (The waffles were delicious by the way.)

HIKE 1: Choose a hike in Zion. Or see below for Upper East Canyon options. 

We chose the West Rim Trail from The Grotto (stop #6 on the Zion Shuttle) which is also used to access the popular hike to Angel's Landing (5.4 mi/3-5 hours RT) Footing for this hike is easy for most of the way as it is paved. The Angel's Landing part at the top is more difficult and very steep. The hardest part of the West Rim Tr hike is the steep incline. If you are cardio-fit you will be fine. I am moderately fit and had to stop to catch my breath throughout. (I am also not used to altitude.) This is a very popular trail that most people do early, we found doing this late morning helped avoid some of those crowds. This worked in October but the summer heat could make that pretty intolerable. You do not have to do the entire hike, a natural stopping point is Scout's Lookout (4mi RT.) Or as the host at our B&B suggested, take the trail to the left from Scout's Lookout, West Rim Trail. Hike until you reach a downhill that you probably will not want to hike back up. Then turn around. There are a lot less people here and its beauty is underrated.

View from West Rim Trail*

From Scout's Lookout, West Rim Trail*

Hikers on Angel's Landing*
*Angels landing was a beehive of activity. There was a park guard regulating the number of people permitted at one time. Decide if you really need to do this or not.

West Rim Trail from Scout's Lookout*

West Rim Trail*

SCENIC DRIVE 2: Upper East Canyon (East entrance to Zion). Route 9 leaving Bryce.
After hiking grab lunch or snacks and make your way to Bryce Canyon.

And here is the magic leaving Zion on Route 9 East....
of course if you are entering from the east you will see this first.


I sure wish I had know about this before I left!* 

Such cool formations.*

The road is surrounded with this beauty.* 

Checkerboard Mesa*

I am just going to say I wish I had allowed more time to explore Upper East Canyon.  Leaving Zion on our way to Bryce, this drive was where the magic was for me.  It was stunning!  I would return to Zion to explore this area. I would suggest to choose from this list rather than do the crowded West Rim Trail above.  You can also look for these slot canyons on the east side.  Our B&B host recommended East Mesa Trail to Observation Point (top down). Observation Point trail from the bottom up is closed.

Allow 2 hours to Bryce plus time to stop and savor the views.  Or add some additional/alternative hikes if you've allowed the time.  

If you arrive in Bryce in time for a sunset:
Sunset Options in Bryce
1) Bryce Point*** 2) Inspiration Pt.** 3)Sunrise Pt* (less crowded than Sunset Point!)

Check into your hotel.  Ruby's Inn is close and pretty much the spot to be.  It is a large Best Western but still family owned.  It is nothing special but it serves the purpose in a location that does not have a lot of options. 

Dinner: There are not a lot of restaurant options either, we knew this in advance, so we saved our delicious leftovers from our meals in Zion to have here.  (Yes leftovers on vacation. What can I say?) Rooms have fridges and microwaves. 

*Most of the locations on this trip are also International Dark Sky Parks: Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Capitol Reef NP, Dead Horse Point State Park, Goblin Valley State Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, and Zion NP.  My trip also coincided with a full moon so I had to time photography before the moon came up. 

*I packed light.  My Canon 24-105L lens stopped communicating with my Canon 5D Mark IV so most of 
my photos were taken with a Sony Point and Shoot.  I was soooo disappointed. But lesson learned. Never pack light! 

Click any link to go directly to that day:


Bryce Canyon


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