My Favorite Hiking Trails in Zion National Park
Zion National Park was the first National Park I ever visited. As much as I loved the outdoors, it was not until my third visit that I realized how much I missed the “cloud” layer. Being able to walk without feeling like I was either covered in a heavy mesh vest or wrapped in some sort of bug repellant made me realize that perhaps living in the desert was not for me after all.
Since then I have continued to visit Zion National Park (now my favorite place to visit) but each time I think about my first experience I come away feeling like I have just witnessed the birth of a baby deer. Nothing could have prepared me for being so close to wildlife that I could not even begin to imagine.
The three main trail clusters in Zion are the White Cliffs, Canaveral National Seashore, and the Angels Landing. The white cliffs are a mecca for hikers and can be accessed on all of the trails costing less than 12 miles. The cliffs themselves are very accessible and the sheer number of wildlife that will abounds in the area makes it a wildlife watcher’s paradise.
The Chetith Cave Area is my favorite destination in Zion. To get to the Chetith Cave you need to traverse about 5 miles on the rocky Lookout Road. To get to the unusual cave formations you need to access the road about halfway. It is not really a trail in the traditional sense of the word. Instead it is a series of trails that have been carved into the cliffs and are not the usual trails you see on most trails. To get to the formations you climb down the rocks on the north side of the cave and descend and ascend back out on the other side. It is a dangerous situation and I cannot stress how dangerous it is enough to admire the formations or tourist to this site. It is a view so breathtaking it is hard to describe.
The Angels Landing trail is my least favorite trail in Zion. This trail is not necessarily bad but I could not get past the Appalachian Trail, which meanders past the old Zion Canyon Dam. I have heard that the trail below the dam is extremely dangerous, but despite this I have yet to see or hear anything about this trail. It would be a trip in and of itself, but I would not recommend it without a moderate hike first.
For me, the trouble with hiking in Zion is the altitude. Zion is around 9,000 feet, and that is a pretty high number. Even the trails are not really well marked. Zion Canyon has one trail that extends all the way to the base of the Arches National Park in Utah. I have heard that the trail patterns are very specific and cannot be followed in the middle of the night. I have also heard that the trails are slippery and require a lot of balance. However, if you are a regular hiker, the climbing experience in Zion Canyon will be well worth the effort. It is well worth the effort.
The reason I am mentioning this is to try and encourage you all to spend time in Zion Canyon instead of just the weekends. The first two months of the year are extremely hectic and it is very difficult to even find a trail to hike. During the spring time when the trail is all of the way down, it is not that bad, but it can get awful late into summer. I have heard that starting at the south end of the canyon is the best time to go. Also, the wildlife is less crucial in the summer, so you might miss some of the big horn or black bear inviteances.
The final recommendation I would offer is to bring a camera, not to take a lot of pictures, but to keep a close eye on your favorite snacks and meals. Zip lock bags make great containers for keeping your food cool. Be sure to keep your insides well hidden… like your tax returns. For example, the really smart thing to do is to bring a bottle of water with you, and fill a bunch of those bags with theliquid products of your choice. Then when you are thirsty you simply open up and eat that bag full. The liquid products will have eaten into the space in the bag and you will be left with the space on the outside. You can even leave stuff like that home in your apartment complex.
The end of the day, remember remain calm and comfortable. If you feel your life is in danger, anybody who knows the area will help you. Call the rangers if you need help. The really smart thing to do is keep your wits about you, and you are sure to have a great time.