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Trip 5, Park 1: Zion National Park

After flying into Las Vegas, we drove early the next morning (about 3 hours) to Zion National Park. Let me just say that Zion is a very popular park and was crowded, even though March was considered to be early in the season and the shuttle buses were not yet in operation. (The shuttle started for the season the weekend after our visit.) By the time we arrived at the park (prior to 11 am), the parking lots were full and cars were not allowed to enter the scenic drive. We fortunately had booked a room in advance at the Zion National Park Lodge, so were allowed entry and were able to park in the lodge parking lot on our day of arrival as well as the day of departure. (The lodge was great! If you are unable to get a reservation, check in the weeks leading up to your trip, as reservations may be cancelled. It was well worth staying there!)

Our first hike was the Grotto Trail to the West Rim Trail to Angels Landing. (While a permit was not required at Angels Landing at the time of our visit, starting on April 1, 2022, the park began a pilot program requiring a permit to hike any portion of Angels Landing at any time.) The first two miles on the West Rim Trail is a steady, uphill climb on a wide, paved path. The trail passes through a nice, shady canyon before reaching "Walter's Wiggles," which are 21 steep switchbacks leading up to Scout Overlook.

The most harrowing part of the hike was next...crossing a steep, narrow ridge with the help of chains to reach Angels Landing. I did only part of the hike with chains before the height, steepness and narrowness caused me to bow out, while Mike continued on the rest of the way. All told, the hike was about 5 1/2 miles long and took about 4 hours, including a break for a picnic lunch at Scouts Landing.

We did drive the entirety of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, with lots of beautiful formations and views. We then enjoyed Zion Brewery, just outside the park in Springdale, Utah, for dinner and a beer. There are paths nearby that lead directly to the park, the visitor center, and the paved Pa'rus Trail, which winds through the south campground and along the Virgin River. We hiked the trail as the sun went down in hopes of seeing stars as the sky darkened, but it was too cloudy and the nearly full moon rose almost right after sunset. The light on the canyon walls at sunset was spectacular and it was surprising how illuminated the formations were under the moon. (The bottom picture below looks like a sunrise picture instead of moonrise.)

We rose early the next morning to do a sunrise hike to the Emerald Pools. Even in the pre-sunrise early morning, cars were pouring into the park and we could see lights from people already climbing to the top of Angels Landing in the dark. We enjoyed having the trails to the Emerald Pools mainly to ourselves and hiked to the lower pool, then middle pool, then upper pool. The skies had cleared overnight and it was dark enough when we started our hike that we were able to see stars over the canyon walls. We enjoyed watching the skies brighten and the light begin to play on the top of some of the formations. The trail for the Lower Emerald Pool passes behind a waterfall, so our picture looks out at the light glowing over the canyon with the thin waterfall flowing in front of us. By the time we reached the Upper Emerald Pool it was full light and we were easily able to see another tall, thin waterfall that helps create the pools.

As we departed Zion Canyon, we drove the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and passed through the tunnel. The views in this area are spectacular and well worth the drive and a few stops along the way. The pictures pale in comparison with how massive and awe-inspiring these features are.

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