We finally made it! The gem of our 2 week adventure through Colorado and Utah. The one we had been looking forward to since we started planning our trip. The National Park we had heard so much about and everyone has heard of. We didn't have to worry about finding a plethora of information or tips on what hikes we should do or what trails were the best., however the information we found didn't prepare us for how busy the park was going to be.
We arrived at the West entrance to the park at about 10am with a long line of other cars. Getting in was quick and the drive in from the west side of the park is a great introduction to Zion and an area no to be missed. The main attractions are centrally located in the park and it seemed as if our information had rarely mentioned the west entrance to the park or the trail opportunities on that side of the park. Make sure you save some time for that area because it has some of the best animal watching as well as easy access to trails and parking.
We got to the visitors center and it was complete chaos! We weren't expecting the park to be as crazy as it was. The main and only parking lot at the visitors center was completely full with cars wandering around waiting for a spot to open up. We had to get into the visitors center to pick up our backcountry camping pass and luckily they had a few 15 minute parking spots to be able to pick it up. Unfortunately after that we had to drive out of the park entrance and find a spot on the side of the road to park. This didn't go over too well since we were going to be parking there overnight and we were a little worried about our car so far out of the park.
There is a bus system that runs along the south entrance road that picks up and drops off at stops along the road and takes you to the visitors center, but the first two buses that came along were completely full so we ended up walking into the park from the town. It was only a couple of miles that we added to our distance traveled for the day.
When you arrive at the main visitors center you will have to board a bus during the summer months to get to the most popular trails. The park shuts down the northern road to avoid traffic issues, which is a great idea since our experience would say people are terrible at driving and parking in National Parks.
We were torn on whether to try the most popular hikes in the park or avoid the crowds and hike the more unknown trails. We opted to play it by ear and we stopped at the Narrows first. Since it was early in the day we decided hiking in the river up the narrows would be a nice cooling hike while it was warm out. Make sure you have the patience for the walk up to the entrance to the river because it is a fairly skinny path with two way traffic. The narrows is a great hike, but definitely wear shoes that you can get wet and they will hold up to a very rocky trail. I wore water shoes and wished I would have opted for my gore-tex hiking shoes. We would also recommend trekking poles. We did not have ours and lost our balance a few times.The river was extremely crowded even after the first couple of miles. We were hoping it would thin out and it did a bit, but I think you have to go pretty far to really escape the crowds. Overall a really great and unique hike, just far more touristy than anywhere else we had been.
After the Narrows we decided to hike up to Angels Landing. The hike up to Angel's Landing is steep but paved all the way up which was very surprising to both of us since most of the trails we had been on for the past two weeks, unless short and close to the park facilities, were dirt trails. Walter's Wiggles was a favorite although I think the count of the number of switch backs is a little low. We opted to turn around once we made it to the chains. Neither of us felt that we had the ability or guts to make it all the way up. Absolutely worth making it that far though and seeing what the hype is all about!
You will want to make sure you don't miss out on the last bus back to the visitors center because if you do you will have a long walk back to your car.
Overall Zion National Park has a lot of beauty in a small area, but try and schedule a trip when there won't be as many people around to truly enjoy yourself. There were a lot of hikes we didn't have time for so this would also be a great place to plan more than 1 day.