We were thrilled to have yet another opportunity to visit a national park this season. We allotted ourselves one afternoon to see as much as possible in Zion National Park. When we arrived we got worried that we wouldn’t see much — the park was packed, which surprised us given that it was a Wednesday in October.
With the Sprout asleep, our first activity would be a drive along the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, which traverses the canyon wall towards the east entrance of the park rising over 3,000 feet in just a few short miles. We had fantastic views of arches and sheer red cliffs as we climbed toward a 1.1 mile long tunnel blasted behind the canyon wall. This tunnel, completed in 1930, is a National Engineer Historical Landmark.
We were heading up to get some views of the canyon, but it turned out the canyon rim did provide the panoramic view we expected. Above the rim was a labyrinth of bizarre rock features unlike anything we have seen before. Unfortunately, we did not get pictures, but they likely would not have capture the chaotic beauty. While Jacqui contemplated pictures, Aaron contemplated how many lost, dead hikers could be found in the maze.
While we were stopped looking at some bighorn sheep (which according to the NP website, are rare in Zion), Sprout awoke and appeared disoriented by the landscape. We quickly retraced our trail back to the canyon floor and miraculously found a parking spot adjacent to the Canyon Junction shuttle stop. The park service provides a shuttle through most of the park to reduce traffic. From April through October private vehicles (with the exception of lodge guests) are not allowed on the Zion Canyon Scenic drive.
We then merged onto the Kayenta trail in order to return to the road at the Grotto shuttle stop. Little did we know this would be the most breathtaking leg of our whirlwind tour. The trail hugs a ledge on the canyon wall just above the trees on the canyon floor.
We boarded the shuttle with an hour left to enjoy in the park so we rode it to its farthest stop — The Temple of Sinawava. At this stop there is an easy riverwalk along the Virgin River that leads to the Narrows section of the park (where 7 hikers died in a flash flood a few weeks back). Sprout was exhausted by this point in our trip, so she became obsessed with placing rocks on the trail back in their ‘homes.’
Our trip was too short. Zion deserves more time to fully appreciate its wonders, so we considered ourselves fortunate to be passing by again in four days.