Friday, May 31, 2013

Adventures in Zion National Park

Utah is a very special place in the sense that within a 5 hour drive from Salt Lake City, you can go from some of the best skiing in the Wasatch Mountains, to some of the most sought after places in the world further south. With ski resorts like Park City, Canyons, Alta, Snowbird, and national parks such as Zion, Bryce Canyon, Kolob Canyon, and many others, Utah is truly a unique place that enables you to "get away," even if you only have a day or two to do so. 

Since I only had 2 days off of work, my boyfriend and I decided Tuesday morning that we would hop in the car and drive down to Zion National Park to hike Angels Landing the following day. Although the campsites in the park were occupied we found a really amazing spot to camp above a little canyon on some BLM land. Early the next morning we woke, antsy to get our hike going, and check out the rest of the park. The initial drive into the park was mind-blowing to say the least. With big sandstone walls lining the road, the Virgin river below, and the greenest trees you have ever seen, the canyon was truly one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been.  It was very Yosemite-esque, in that the sheer size of the rock walls you are looking at is quite stupendous, and you have to tilt your head back to see the tops of the walls. 

We arrived at the trailhead around 9am after a short bus ride up the canyon. From looking at pictures of the hike we knew we had to be aware, but didn't really know how aware we had to be until we were switchbacking up the sheer rock walls. We summited around 11am after hiking for 2 hours on some of the most intense hiking trails in the continental US. After taking WAY too many photos, we started up the West Rim Trail (An eleven mile round trip hike) just to take a peak before turning around to hike back down to the valley floor. Since the Angels Landing hike took much less time than expected, we had the opportunity to find our way to the Upper and Lower Emerald Pools at the base of one of the tallest rocks in the park. Having accomplished what we came there to do plus more we felt thrilled at our day, and were ready to hop on i15 for the straight shot back to Salt Lake. 4 and 1/2 hours later we were greeted by  one of the heaviest rainstorms I personally, have ever seen in Utah- guess we picked the right time to head South! 

Scenery along highway 89

Our campsite at the end of the rainbow overlooking the valley

Checkerboard Mesa

First glimpse of Zion Canyon

Pheasant on the run!

Beginning of Angels Landing Hike

Looking back at Zion Canyon from Angels Landing

Red Sandstone Canyons 

Top of Angels Landing Hike just over my left shoulder.

Lots of wildflowers in bloom right now

The last 1.4 miles of the hike is all chains and loose rock as you see below;
Virgin River makes its way through the valley

The last leg (spine) of the Angels Landing hike. 

Looking back at the first "landing zone," from the summit

I read that a Norwegian tourist jumped off this rock below, fracturing his leg, resulting in an airlift out of Zion! 

Max and I at the first "landing zone"
For the harsh environment, there is a lot of natural wildlife at the summit. 

Max and I at the very top.

Tree posing in the tree.

The way back down was almost as treacherous as the way up!

The WEST RIM trail
View of Angels Landing from West Rim Trail

There are slot canyons everywhere in Zion.

Another glance at Angels Landing

The switchback trail

The wind blowing in different directions for thousands of years created these lines in the stone below;

Natural rock frame looking at Virgin River

Birds' eye view of the trail

Upper Emerald Pool
Frogs enjoying a little sun.
Snack time at Emerald Pools! 

Lower Emerald Pools 

View of Angels Landing from Emerald Pools

We took a swim in the Virgin River after hiking!

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