On Monday we drove ten miles from our park into Zion National Park for some exploration in Zion Canyon. The most prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park, the canyon is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. Zion Canyon Scenic Drive provides access to Zion Canyon. Traffic congestion in the narrow canyon was recognized as a major problem in the 1990s and a public transportation system using propane-powered shuttle buses was instituted in the year 2000. From late March through late October, the scenic drive is closed to private vehicles and visitors ride the shuttle buses. We rode the shuttle during a June visit we made here a few years ago and found it to be a very easy way to access the canyon. But right now there is no shuttle and a relatively small number of visitors, so we are able to drive in and enjoy the park without the crowds of summer. While working in education during an earlier life, we couldn’t see the need to keep schools going year-round. Now that we are free of the constraints of the working world, we think that student vacations should be eliminated. Keeping America’s youth in school would help raise test scores and, more importantly, keep them out of our way!
To begin our day we drove all the way to the end of the road and hiked out a paved path called the Riverside Walk. The trail is about a mile and leads to a place called The Narrows.
The trail hugs the canyon wall and is a bit wet and muddy at spots. This was the first day the trail was open all the way to the Narrows due to the threat of falling ice.
The Narrows is where the canyon becomes so narrow the river has no banks. To hike further up the river you need to wade the ice cold water of the creek, which requires special equipment.
We had no wading gear and taking off our shoes to walk in ice cold water was not an option, so we returned back to the Jeep and headed back down the road to do some more exploring.
A short distance away is a parking area to access the Weeping Rock. A very short walk up a paved trail leads to a large rock outcropping covered with water draining off the canyon walls.
From a distance you can see that the rock is wet, but you don’t see the water draining off it. As you walk up under the rock you are treated to a nice shower of cold water. Once under the rock ledge and looking back to the sun, you can see a curtain of water in front of you.
Our main hike of the day was to the Emerald Pools. An easy, half mile hike up a paved trail leads to the Lower Pool. After hiking behind a waterfall, you go up a more difficult trail to the Middle Pool.
The view of the Middle Pool and the canyon below is pretty cool.
From there the trail rises steeply as you head toward the Upper Pool. But the hike is definitely worth it, as the Upper Pool is the highlight of the hike. Hidden deep in the canyon, the Upper Pool is more like a small pond. It has a large pile of snow along the canyon wall and a beautiful waterfall high above.
The return trip hugs the canyon wall, provided great scenes in every direction.
Day one of hiking in the canyon was a complete success. We have a number of longer, more challenging adventures planned for the next few days.
More on that later . . .