Zion National Park

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The Quick & Dirty:
:: Zion National Park – Well worth spending a long weekend here. $25 for park pass per vehicle (good for 7 days). A shuttle runs very frequently from the Vistior’s Center to the Temple of Sinawava (Entrance to The Narrows hike).
:: The Narrows Hike – 1-13+ mils, a must do! Hike for as long as your heart desires up the Virgin River thru the Narrows. Try to hit morning or evening sun to really see the colors of the canyons. Can get very busy. Water shoes / sandals advisable – I wore Zoots tri shoes w/ a thin pair of socks and it was perfect. Bring lunch, plenty of water, swimmable wear and a camera.
:: Angels Landing – 5 miles round trip (Grotto Stop on the Shuttle). First mile is easy but exposed – so start early to avoid the heat / sun. Next section takes you thru a cool (as in temperature) canyon section before hitting the tight switchbacks to Scotts Lookout. Outhouses are at Scott’s Lookout and plenty of places to eat lunch. If you’re brave, venture the 1 mile (out and back) thrilling climb to the top, though beware, steep cliffs on either side make it not for the vertigo-challenged.
:: Emerald Pools – A series of 3 pools each equi-distant from each other. To the 3rd upper pool, expect a 3-mile round trip. Probably a lot more exciting after a rain (which is rare), otherwise you might be unimpressed. Trail is well marked, though very sandy. Not recommended during high heat / midday.
:: Zion Lodge – super cute, has a cafe so it’s a good opportunity to grab a soda if you’re needing extra calories. Gift shop and the accommodations looked nice, though I bet they book out well in advance.
:: Springdale UT – Gateway town to Zion National Park. Boasts cute shops and cafes.Deep Creek Coffee Company is just off of Main Street and serves up some tasty beverages and cafe food. Desert Pearl Inn is very nice for accommodations (pool, cafe). We stayed in a homestay called NamaStay, very nice for large groups.

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The name alone instills a sense of wonder. Zion. Hebrew in origin, Zion is often a synonym for Jerusalem. Words like ‘temple’ and ‘fortress’ are also used to historically describe the name – and no wonder. Zion National Park is breathtaking and being a lone person amongst the vast canyon, one cannot help but feel a sense of godliness. So for the last couple of months, I’ve casually but excitedly prepared for an all-gal trip to the wonders of Zion.

Being heads down at work leading up to the impending bachelorette trip, I didn’t do much research into the park or the surroundings. Plus I had an amazing friend (who is the bride’s MOH) planning the whole weekend, so I decide to just go with the flow and be surprised. We flew into Vegas at night and while gawking at the lights on the drive out, headed for Springdale UT, a quaint town at the edge of the park entrance. We slept the night at Desert Pearl Inn (highly recommended!) before switching over to a home-stay within walking distance to the town. Springdale is one of those towns whose Main Street packs a ton of character for it’s 1/2 mile presence. The park is really why people venture to Springdale, but the town itself boosts enough character to keep your attention in your down time.

The park operates off of one long road that leads thru the canyons by shuttle buses – dramatically reducing traffic and noise from within the park. Park fees are a mere $25 per car for 7 days – most definitely the steal of the weekend. Along the shuttle stops, an overhead recording goes thru the history of the park and I am happy to report that I actually retained some of the history! On day one, we ventured to the end of the road to The Temple of Sinawava (again – fantastic name). After a mile hike on a paved (wheelchair accessible) pathway, you come to the entrance to the river and hike into The Narrows. Donning water shoes, a walking stick and my camera, the girls and I gleefully stepped into the river to continue our hike in the Virgin River.

IMG_2192The start of the hike thru the river is busy – many people coming and going make for quite a scene – but the further you go, the fewer there are and you are left with plenty of space to contemplate the wonders of the canyon. It’s not everyday you hike in a river on purpose. The heat of the day was a nice contrast to the coolness of the river. Around every bend, there was a new and amazingly beautiful sight to behold. The further upriver you go (and it goes for quite a ways), the narrower the canyon becomes. As the 4 o’clock sun started to make it’s exit from the canyon walls, the canyon wall hues turned into brilliant reds and oranges. It was with reluctance that we turned to make the return trip back to the shuttle.

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For the remainder of the weekend, we stayed in a beautiful home called Name Stay – a clever twist on the Hindu phrase nameste. It was suiting however as throughout the weekend, we toasted to our friendship and the souls we cherish in each other. Waking up early, we ventured out to a hike called Angels Landing – a marval of engineering to the very top. I found a video online that helps depict the beauty of the hike (below). The last half mile is not for the faint of heart – a trek to the end requires traversing a narrow cliff with steep drop offs at either end. I only got so far before I paniked and had to turn back. Regardless, the view was pretty great from Scotts Lookout.

After the hike, we lunched at Zion Lodge. The Lodge was reminiscent of times past when families would drive their 1950’s Oldsmobiles up and vacation for a month in the park. Today, the Lodge has individual rustic cabins, hotel rooms and suites. Certainly not a bad way to get a taste of the Park! We continued to hike to the Emerald Pools (not recommended during midday heat) and took the classic drive thru the tunnel that connects Zion to Bryce National Park.

Nights were spend enjoying fine wine and food with the best group of a ladies a girl could hope for in her 30’s. It’s rare a bachelorette party doesn’t involve excessive drinking, strippers and sex toy paraphernalia, but I have to say, our version was simply fantastic.

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