Hey everyone! My name is Rob Cichocki and for my first post in Steemit I wanted to introduce myself to the community by writing about a multi-day hike through Zion National Park in Utah with a couple of my friends . The sites were breathtaking, in both an awe inspiring and frightening way given that the best views were at the edge of a cliff. Additionally we visited the nearby Bryce Canyon and Valley of Fire. I’d like to share some of the planning, photos, and stories to inspire and encourage you to take a similar trip. If you have questions please comment and I will respond with thoughts/advice. I plan on posting more adventures in the future which I hope you will look forward to after reading this post.
General Info: Money, Lodging, Food
The bookends of the trip were Las Vegas, which is probably the place diametrically opposed to the aesthetics, spirit, and feel of Zion. Besides that, it is the best place to fly to in order to get to Zion, and we stayed there after and before flying. Zion is about a three hour drive from Las Vegas. Our base camp during the week was a town called Hurricane, which is only a 30 minute drive to the park.
Since we planned the trip last minute we did not have a chance to reserve a camping site in the park. When I looked into it in July the only available spots were in October, so my advice is plan early if you want to camp. It would have been nice to camp out because there was a meteor shower visible from that area while we visited, but maybe you’ll have better luck than us.
The places below left a good impression:
Crepe Expectations, Las Vegas: Cheap and yummy Crepes
Fryz, Hurricane (town outside Zion): Giant ice cream
Fort Zion, Outside of Hurricane: Nice people, good food, and funny atmosphere
Travel with friends, it’s more fun and cheaper! My costs for the six day trip are below. The room and car were so cheap because they were split between three people.
Car and gas: $100
Total Park Entry Fees (Zion, Bryce, Valley of Fire): $23
Hiking gear: $30
Flight: $466 (Free for me since I paid with points)
We planned late so tickets to McCarren International Airport were a bit high ($466), but I paid with credit card reward points. There are a million websites out their detailing how to play the points game to save money on flights, so I won’t go into details here.
Another money saver is Swagbucks, which pays you back a percentage of the money you spend at other stores (Travelocity, Amazon, Ebay, etc.). They pay you Swagbucks (SB; 1 SB = $0.01), which can be redeemed for gift cards or a paypal deposit. Example, you get 8 SB for every dollar spent at Hotels.com. I’ve used Swagbucks to purchase cruise tickets in the past and got 6% back. It’s nice to get money back from already planned spending.
We hit the major attractions in Zion Canyon, hiked Bryce Canyon, and drove through the Valley of Fire. Photos and descriptions below!
We did a Bottom Up hike through the Narrows; as opposed to Top Down, which requires a permit. Bottom Up means you start at the Riverside Walk, go up the river, and turn back to hike to the start. I would recommend starting early in the morning. Please be conscious of the weather as well, flash floods are not fun to be in.
The hike is through the river so renting water shoes, socks, and a dry bag makes it more enjoyable (the local stores have similar prices, about $30 total). Also, rent shoes that are slightly bigger than your foot, so that when you stub your toe on a submerged rock (you will) there will be some dead space to soften the impact.
We rented walking sticks as well, which were useful, but it wasn’t necessary since previous hikers leave sticks by the entrance of the hike. A wind breaker is also recommended, the temperature in the canyon doesn’t change much and treading through water makes hiking chilly.
I loved the experience, sloshing through the river and looking up from time to time at the towering canyon walls. Some areas are lush and green, others still jagged, and some well worn from the river’s work.
The most interesting section is called the Narrows, which is right after the canyon splits between the Virgin River and Orderville River. It gives you the sense of walking through a nature made Manhattan.
The hike ends at Big Spring since you would need a permit to continue further.
Take the right fork in the Narrows Hike which splits off to Orderville Canyon. In this canyon there are little puzzles for you to solve by maneuvering through water falls, bridges, and slopes. Some of them, especially near the end, get quite difficult. I fell off a log bridge once, which I’m not very proud of, and got soaked, so keep your belongings safe (I don’t have pictures because I kept my electronics stashed). Technically you should have a permit to continue further than about a half mile into this canyon, so be safe and don’t climb up anything you don’t think you could climb back down.
“It’s so high that only Angels can land there” or so they say. This is the most popular hike in Zion. Be ready for a lot of switchbacks and elevation gain. The path ends at Scouts Lookout, which is where the real hike to Angel’s Landing begins. The footing is mostly poor, especially since there is a lot of sand that makes the stone surprisingly slippery. The hike has a chain railing which is great assurance while climbing, but it is still an intimidating hike (six people have died attempting the hike since 2004, be safe and don't attempt it in rainy/windy weather) The perch and view at the end is well worth it.
This is a long one, but a very rewarding one. The trail juts out from the cliff face, but it is well made and wide. Make sure you stay hydrated and rest periodically. You can see the top of Angels Landing from Observation Point and you get a great view down the canyon. Stay a while, chat with other hikers, be happy. We were lucky enough to get a visit from a condor, which provided some entertainment with its swooping and swiveling in the air.
You will need to drive up to this trail. The view to hike ratio is the best you can get, so it is definitely worth squeezing in.
I also mustered the courage to do a classic leg dangle :)
Outside of Zion
Bryce is a few hours north of Zion. The rock features (large multicolored pillars called hoodoos) are very unique and you won’t see them in Zion. Take the Queens Garden trail starting from sunrise point, jump over to the Peak-A-Boo Loop, and jump back to the Queens Garden Loop to end the hike at sunset point. Peak-A-Boo is a roller coaster ride, meaning a lot of going up, then down, then up, etc… but still fun and beautiful.
The Valley of Fire
The valley of fire is 30 minutes outside of Las Vegas, so it is a good spot to visit before flying out. It was deathly hot when we visited, so we stayed mostly in the car and cruised around. The elephant rock is a nice feature to get a photo with.
Some rocks had Native American petroglyphs; sadly, people also scratched a bit of graffiti on these ancient markings.
I hope you found the read worthwhile enough to try hiking Zion yourselves. In the future I hope to add more of my adventures and thoughts to the community. If you have any questions on the hike please comment and I will do my best to answer and give advice.
I’d like to leave you with a quote from Jack Kerouac. Although he was not the exemplar of a well organized life, he did have a certain energy that went beyond money, politics, and the mundane.
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain” -Jack Kerouac
Or in this case, canyon; but either way, enjoy the journey.