Since area schools are on spring break, Zion NP has been a bit crowded this week. This has caused a severe shortage of parking in Zion Canyon, the main attraction of the park. Next week the park will ban driving in the canyon and begin bringing tourists in by shuttle, eliminating the need for parking. But for this week we concentrated on hikes in the eastern portion of the park, as it is less crowded.
Yesterday we decided to hike what is known as the Shelf Canyon, just east of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. According to the site Joe’s Guide to Zion National Park, this is a short hike of about a half mile over some rocks and boulders before entering a narrow canyon.
The hike up the canyon began fairly benign on sliprock.
It quickly flattened out for a short distance
But we quickly reached a point where some boulder scrambling was necessary.
Then the boulders became larger and more numerous.
We then hit a point where we just couldn’t climb the boulders blocking our way. John climbed a path up the side of the canyon looking for a way around the rocks.
But it looked like we would have to push our way through the bush along the canyon wall for quite a ways. This was not part of the description for this hike so we began to think that we may be in the wrong canyon. So we turned and retraced our steps to the Jeep and drove further down the road to try our “plan B” hike to the Many Pools. This hike fit the description from the web site, and we didn’t have to crawl through the brush.
We soon learned why they called this area Many Pools, as we passed many, many small pools in the rocks left as the stream dried up.
Since we had already hiked into one canyon before this hike, by the time we went very far up the trail it was time for lunch. So we looked around for a place to gain some altitude with a nice spot with a view.
It wasn’t long before we found a great spot with a view!
After lunch we continued up the dry stream bed, passing many small pools as we ascended.
While most were very shallow, some were very deep. In the pool pictured below the stick we used to take a depth reading never hit the bottom.
We continued to pass pools as we hiked along.
At some points the severe drop offs required some complicated rock climbing
OK, full disclosure. We didn’t climb the rocks pictured above. Instead, we took a fairly easy hike around them. We could have climbed the rocks, but we just didn’t want to!
After climbing up the stream bed for about an hour we came to a sandy mesa area that appeared to continue for a while. We decided it was a good spot to take a rest, then begin the return hike down the rocks.
For the return hike, we stayed up on the rocks overlooking the stream bed below.
About half way back to the road the canyon narrowed and we needed to scramble down a fairly steep wall to the stream bed below.
We then easily hiked back to the end of the trail and climbed out of the canyon.
Returning to the Jeep we noticed many vehicles on the road slowing down and pointing cameras at the nearby hill side. When in a national park, this means wild life in the area. We scanned the hill and spotted the cause of their attention, a heard of Big Horn Sheep.
A herd of at least fourteen sheep were enjoying a meal and observing the human activity below them. We watched the sheep for a bit, then drove back to the motorhome. The sheep provided a great ending to another great day.