Fall Road Trip: Zion National Park

Things aren’t quite back to normal. I’m still teaching from home as I work in a city with the most cases in our county. However, I was able to sneak away for the weekend. To be honest, all my friends and hiking groups have been posting pictures of Zion. I didn’t go last year because Angels Landing and the Narrows seemed to extreme. Spoiler: they’re not! Zion is also small so we could hike in 2 days. We didn’t get to Observation Point since the trail is closed – the other trail (East Mesa) is over an hour drive away so we skipped it. Maybe next time!

The Hikes

Angels Landing

On Friday morning, we were ready to get our tickets at 8 PST/9 MT, but they were gone quick. After refreshing, I could only get 12 PM shuttle tickets. However, this wasn’t a problem for the hike.

We parked in Springdale and walked 0.5 miles to the visitor center to catch the shuttle. We suggest giving yourself an hour because you can start getting on the shuttle 15 minutes before your ticket time.

We psyched ourselves out by watching timelapses of hikers on Angels Landing, but in all honesty, it wasn’t as narrow as you’d expect. The trail is tiring – I started to get a little calf cramping with the immediate incline and switchbacks. The beginning is paved and very safe. Then, there’s a short and leveled dirt path with some shade. You’ll reach Scout’s Lookout, a flat rock with lots of people before seeing the final climb.

The path has cut outs in the rock, chains to hold onto, and people… lots of people. This helps actually because it makes me feel less scary. I also just stared at my friend’s boots in front of me the whole time. 😉

Emerald Pools (short, easy hike)

We still had some energy so from the trailhead, we took another trail to the Emerald Pools. This was a mistake because my adrenaline wore off and I was exhausted and hungry. Tbh, all I had was a protein bar. The pools were disappointing during this season and the path was sandy, but the views on the trail were gorgeous.

The Narrows

We’re pretty fast hikers, but hiking in water is a different story. We weren’t able to hike the whole thing because we would have to swim past 3.5 miles. I was already chest deep in water twice. We also weren’t willing to hike more than 5 hours.

The first mile is a paved walkway. I would say that the views don’t change a whole lot the farther you go. It’s stunning the whole way, but I was tired of slipping on rocks and stubbing my toes. The rocks where it’s deeper are smooth, but often, the rocks are larger and challenge your balance. I wore trail runners and Jordan wore his Teva sandals… they worked for him. I brought a pole – I wouldn’t have been able to hike without it because I freak out when I think I’ll slip.

We were able to get shuttle tickets for 9 A.M. Some people told me to start later because it’s cold. It wasn’t too cold when we started. We also liked finishing earlier and avoiding the crowds!

The Food

Spotted Dog Cafe

The Spotted Dog Cafe in Springdale was suggested by an influencer. We got there at exactly 5:01 P.M., after hiking Angels Landing, when they opened. The party in front of us said they hadn’t gone all season because it’s always packed, so we took it as fate and ate here. It’s a little fancier than what we’re used to. The menu is full of hearty meals and since we didn’t eat much that day, we ordered appetizers and dinner.

I got the brie plate and game meatloaf. Jordan got the caesar salad and spaghetti & meatballs. Both were okay. We were happy to sit down and enjoy the view.

River Rock Roasting Company

So, I came here last year on my birthday road trip. This was on the way from Springdale to where we stayed in Hurricane, Utah (at the Rodeway Inn because we’re cheap). We wanted to go to the Pizza Wagon, but they were closed on Sunday. We still got pizza – I got BBQ chicken pizza, which I never do because I’m a believer that pizza should have marinara. But… their cold brew BBQ sauce was amazing as was the cinnamon roll I got when we stopped in for coffee in the morning.

It was sweltering hot, but we sat outside anyways for the view. The little river at the bottom is part of the Virgin River that leads into the Narrows.

*Also pictured, a beer at Jack’s Sports Grill for the ultimate small town experience.

**I would’ve gone to Feellove Coffee right outside of the park too.

Other stops

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

I came here last year also and loved it! It’s peaceful and quiet. We drove an hour here although I really wanted to go to Bryce but the drive is 2 hours the opposite way home. We didn’t spend much time here so we just walked up two sand dunes and enjoyed the view.

We stopped at one of the mega gas station markets in Jean, Arizona, south of Las Vegas. We tried White Castle for the first time. I got a double cheeseburger slider without the middle bun and Jordan got 10 cheeseburger sliders…

We listened to the entire 4th season of Scene on Radio during this road trip as well as 3 episodes of Unsolved Murders on The Axeman.

…and now it’s time to plan a trip to visit Moab (Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks), Grand Staircase-Escalante, and everything else in between! I’m shooting for April. 🙂

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