Oh Zion, where to even begin…..
We had an incredible trip to this beautiful desert oasis. The entire time, we felt God’s hand on our plans. We encountered His favor everywhere we went. From keeping us safe in the backcountry to allowing us to see some of Zion’s most spectacular and popular locations all by ourselves. Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe it. This was easily one of the best backpacking trips we’ve ever done.
All in all, we hiked just over 32 miles. At least 16 of those miles were spent hiking in water. If my feet never get wet again, I’ll be happy! 🙂 I reaalllly debated whether or not to bring my professional camera equipment. I so badly wanted to photograph this area with my camera. But ultimately I decided it wasn’t worth the risk to carry thousands of dollars worth of gear through so much water. I would be beside myself if anything were to get damaged. So I’ll have to settle with iPhone photos and pictures from our point and shoot.
My only complaint is that we didn’t spend enough time there. There were just too many things I wanted to see and do. But I feel like I have unfinished business with Zion and it’s compelling me to go back. I doubt I’ll have to twist David’s arm to make that happen 😉
I feel so lucky that this beautiful area is just a day’s drive away from where we live. It’s a long drive, but still doable in a day. We opted to drive halfway there on Tuesday and stay in a hotel that night to help shorten the drive on Weds. Our arrival on Wednesday was nothing short of spectacular. We spent the afternoon setting up camp, hopping on and off the park shuttle (the only way they’ll let people see Zion canyon), doing little hikes to see some of the main attractions, taking pictures, eating at Zion Lodge and watching the stars come out at our campsite. Not a bad first day if you ask me!
The beginning of The Narrows, one of the many reasons we want to go back is to explore this area more. We simply didn’t have time to do more in this area. I need to see more of this place!
Cruising on the shuttle bus
Our second day was one that we had been anticipating ever since we won a spot in the lottery for The Subway hike. It’s a gorgeous 9 mile hike starting at the top of a canyon. The trail descends at a very steep rate down to the Left Fork Creek. The trail stops there! The creek becomes the trail. So it’s kind of like choose your own adventure as you navigate all the obstacles in your path. There are waterfalls to circumvent, logs to cross and flood debris to cross over. You hike upstream for several miles until you reach The Subway. It is a beautiful narrow area that looks just like a subway tunnel. The tunnel is full of pools of deep water and a waterfall at the end. We were brave and went swimming all the way to the end at the waterfalls. You only live once right?!
9 miles took the better part of 8 hours for us to hike due to the amount of zig zagging around you do in the canyon with all the obstacles in your way. On your way out, you have to climb back up the canyon. I’d say it’s probably 1000 ft. elevation gain in less than a mile. Steeeep! It was brutal, we were so tired by the end!
Our swimming hole for the afternoon 🙂
After getting to the car, we ate a quick dinner in the parking lot, packed up our backpacks and headed into the Wildcat Canyon area to set up camp for the night. We found a nice spot in a meadow beneath some pretty sandstone and called it a night. We were soooo incredibly tired. We had moments while packing where we were so tired we could hardly form a fluid sentence.
Friday morning we set out on a longer backpacking trek through Hop Valley into the Kolob Canyon area of the park. This area is a bit more remote and less visited by people because it’s on the north end of the park, away from the main areas people visit. It takes a lot of effort to get into the canyon, which weeds out a lot of day hikers and leaves the area for backpackers and crazy people who don’t mind a 15 mile day hike.
The trail descends into a beautiful valley with a stream running through it. You follow the stream for about 2 miles until you reach the canyon edge and then the trail descends into the Kolob Canyon area. We got rained on but we didn’t mind because it made for a beautiful, mystical setting. We half expected to see dinosaurs roaming around, it felt so otherworldly.
Eventually we made it to La Verkin Creek, which runs through the bottom of the canyon and parallels the trail. We knew that our campsite was nearby! We saw a sign that pointed to our backcountry site on the north side of the river and so and we began to set up camp. It was a small site, but doable. After about 15 minutes, David looked around and saw a sign across the river pointing to the real backcountry site on the other side of the river. Arg! David decided that rather than break down the tent, he’d just carry it across the creek 🙂
The new site was even better, with a great view of the river and the canyon walls. It was the perfect place to spend the next 3 days!
Our camp was half a mile away from Kolob Arch, which is the world’s largest freestanding arch. After we set up camp, we took a quick little hike up to see it. Pretty cool!
Saturday was probably my favorite day. We did a day hike up La Verkin Creek into Beartrap Canyon to see Beartrap Falls. The entire hike was gorgeous. The falls were so peaceful! I could have stayed there all day.
He could’t seem to help himself 🙂
We got back to camp and spent the rest of our afternoon hanging out in our camping hammock, which was maybe our best purchase yet. This thing is awwwweeesome! We just snuggled together, spying on people hiking, watching the sunset on the canyon walls, listening to the creek. It was perfect!
Against his better judgement, David decided that it would be worth carrying the extra weight in order to have a couple beers with us on our trip. I have to admit, it tasted pretty good after all our hiking. The creek was nature’s perfect beer cooler!
Sunday, we woke up with the sun. Had a vanilla latte (yep, we keep it classy in the backcountry) and packed up. The hike out was much tougher than it was coming into the canyon. We had almost a 1,000 foot elevation gain on the way back to the trailhead. It was slow going at times with our heavy packs on, but we made it to the car. Then we packed up and headed back to CO with happy hearts.
David saying his goodbyes to Zion
This was me celebrating my last few steps of walking through water. I was so happy to have dry feet again! With as much water hiking that you do in Zion, footwear is pretty tricky. It’s tough to wear normal hiking boots because they don’t drain water very well. I opted for open Keen sandals, which drain water pretty well but aren’t quite as sturdy as hiking boots. David did about 14 miles of hiking in his Chaco sandals, I was so impressed!
My sister happened to be in Moab for the weekend, so we took a quick detour to say hi to her before a torrential rain storm settled in. The rain was intense but quick, leaving for some really beautiful cloud formations in Castle Valley as we drove through on our way back to Colorado.
We made it to Grand Junction for the night, got pizza delivered to our hotel room, enjoyed hot showers and crashed. Monday morning we headed back home and managed to avoid the holiday traffic. It’s good to be home for sure, but I’m pretty sure I left a piece of my heart in Zion. I’m already plotting our return trip 😉