Tips for Planning a Trip to Zion:

-Book your permit for the Narrows well in advance–we were narrowly able to reserve two passes the night before because a couple had decided not to go

-If you have a permit and decide not to go on the hike, let the park rangers know so that people are able to experience it

-Showers are located at Zion Outfitter, Zion Mountain School, and Zion Rock & Mountain Guides (all within 1.5 miles of the park entrance). Most people don’t think they need to shower when camping, but after the Narrows, the stank is no joke.

-If you leave the park on foot, bring your pass with you, for they check it on your way back in. If you don’t have it, you may have to purchase another one.

-Zion Adventure Company shuttled us up to the trail head for the Narrows. On the way, we played an impromptu game of Jello in the car and saw a family of Little Big Horned Goats perched on the cliff. The drivers are knowledgeable and personable.

-If you plan to hike the Narrows, purchase the poo bags. During the hike, we walked up on a Boy Scout who, like an ashamed puppy, tried to hide his business that he was clearly trying to scoop into a personal sized empty Doritos bag. We had a good laugh about it, but reflected that would suck to carry your crap in a tiny bag whilst wading through chest high waters.

My Experiences

Upon Arrival-

Utah breathes heat from the ground up in late June: a shock for this California coastal girl. The lower you are, the hotter the oven. Shale and rock jut out red at every corner to remind you of what your knees might look like if you fall.

Setting up the tent seemed like it would give a bit of reprieve, until sitting atop my sleeping pad with the realization, that while tents provide a certain protection from the elements, I just locked myself in an oven bag basted with my own sweat.

Angels Landing (5 miles)

Switchbacks on the way up

Traversing 2 miles up calf killing switchbacks, only to grab on for dear life to a chain that has soaked up the palm sweat of hundreds of nervous knuckles, as they ponder the grip of their shoes on the slightly sandy rutted and worn away rock that gives you two feet of space on either side before plummeting down a 1,500 foot drop, provides you little leeway for error and a small bit of confidence. At the top of Angel’s Landing, I shuffled my way along for a half mile, willing myself not to look down. For if I did, an immediate dizzy spell would follow as I found myself humbled by the view and the proximity of my feet to my own mortality. The grandiose Zion Valley floor and Virgin River would at times bring me to my hands and knees when my body would ask for more stability, guiding my every step.

Sitting on the last bit of trail is like sitting on an island in the sky–you’re above everything and yet have nowhere to go. As I sit, I reflect on the perilous journey up to this island and I watch some teenagers full of a Superman complex prance around me like the half mile drop to the Valley Floor is nothing. My thoughts are then directed towards the universe and my part in it.

Being so high up, people move like small specs, yet remain the most dangerous creatures here. For, driving in the park itself is banned in places because of the havoc humans have caused. I think about the power of the flash floods, the and how the Virgin River has carved this gigantic larger than life canyon, and how we, like the water, can create, decimate, and protect.

What the switchbacks look like close up
A moment of rest at the bottom of the hike in the shade

Post Narrows: Thoughts and Reflections on the Bucket List Hike (17 miles)

Yesterday was the hike that will forever be my measurement to all other hikes in terms of difficulty, beauty, remoteness, and overall experience. I suddenly didn’t feel like a tourist, but an authentic explorer blazing trail down the Virgin River. Literally no signs of humanity as each individual is instructed to pack in and pack out–bodily waste included. (Luckily nature never called me to do so).

There was one sign to mark the trail head and a couple of campsite markers to denote that other humans have been there once before. Otherwise, I was surrounded by majestic walls towering hundreds of feet overhead, all cut by the power of the very river my feet were soaking in as I sloshed my way along for the ten hour trek.

As I neared the finish, I neglected to take any photos because I was feeling the purest form of exhaustion that I had ever felt, but was surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery the 17 mile tramp had to offer. I now preserve that sublime beauty only in memory, but there, the exhaustion lives there as well, equally as beautiful and a testament to the human body and that the will to move forward exists in all of us.  

Mid hike water is about knee high

As the waters rose to the level of my chest, I began to see signs of civilization –more people seem to frequent the bottom of the river for an easier hike from the bottom up to turn around at any given point when they become too tired. Finally, after what my knees determined was an eternity, I was greeted by the ever familiar masonry of steps leading to a paved pathway. Running down that path may have been a mistake, as I felt pins and needles in my feet when the blood returned to long forgotten capillaries. My lower body then thawed by the warm thudding of my feet on pavement–solid ground. Instead of slowly enduring the pain that would lead to my feet pinking back up, I demanded it’s end with that run, dodging people and their judging looks as I imagined what sitting on the bus would feel like. And when I finally found a home for my ailing rump, it felt like a full Swedish butt massage. Who knew sitting on a cushion on a bus could feel so good?

In the beginning of the hike, there are bits of green that litter the shores while the shores last. Eventually there is nothing but the river and the rock that towers overhead.