Because a rock slide blocked the east entrance, we entered Zion National Park (Mukuntuweap) from the south entrance adjacent to the town of Springdale, population 548. Parking, as I told you in my last post, is a huge issue. We first arrived in the afternoon and all lots inside the park were full and closed. We searched Springdale for street parking to no avail. We finally found a lot off the beaten path requiring a bit of a hike to even reach the shuttle into the park. That accomplished, we boarded the shuttle and rode the short distance to the park.
Once inside the park, the only way to see the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is on the free park shuttle. This service, initiated in 2000, reduces the traffic, parking issues, and pollution, and provides a measure of protection to the park. We decided to ride to the last of the 8 stops, the Temple of Sinawava, so that we would see the entire scenic route from the bus before we got off at each stop on our way back to explore further.
Jim riding the Zion Canyon Shuttle
The Riverside Walk, an easy 2.2 mile, partially paved trail, begins near the Temple of Sinawava bus stop. We enthusiastically joined the throng.
View of the Virgin River from the Riverside Walk
Respite along the Riverside Walk
The hanging gardens along Riverside Walk in the picture above and the video below are fed by trickling waterfalls. Watch the upper right corner of the brief video to see the trickling water.
At the end of the Riverside Walk, hardier hikers continued on to the Narrows, a strenuous trail over 9 miles long that is only accessible if the water is not too high. Signs everywhere in this park warn visitors to be aware of conditions, take care, and bring water.
Swimming in the Virgin River at the end of Riverside Walk
View of the Virgin River from the trail
Jim at the beginning of the Narrows
On the return trip, I had an experience that is worth sharing. There are squirrels everywhere and they appear to be tame…probably from too many tourists feeding them. I had just seen a photo of a hand with a squirrel bite in the Zion National Park Map and Guide with the caption, “The squirrel bit me in less than a second” along with the admonishment, “Wild animals can hurt you. Do not feed them.” Then I saw a child around middle school age trying to pet a seemingly tame squirrel while her mother watched! I couldn’t contain myself. I said, “Please don’t try to pet a wild animal that will probably bite you! Read the park guide and see what damage they can do.” They both just gave me that “mind your own business” look. I moved on, not wanting to see what happened next. Please help keep wildlife wild.
One of the many “tame” squirrels that frequent the area
The next stop was at Big Bend where I took this shot of the Organ and the Great White Throne.
The Organ and the Great White Throne
Weeping Rock boasted more hanging gardens fed by trickling spring water.
Friends who have met the challenge strongly recommended we hike to Angel’s Landing but as a recovering acrophobe, I thought that was pushing it. This 5.4-mile hike is billed by the national park as strenuous with “long drop offs. Not for young children or anyone fearful of heights. Last section is a route along a steep, narrow ridge to the summit” (Zion National Park Map and Guide). I have no regrets about our decision.
Here are more spectacular views along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
View along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
Another view of the Great White Throne
As we rode the shuttle bus back to the visitor center, the driver told us that the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway was cleared of the rock slide and reopened that day at 5 pm. (This road is normally open to vehicular traffic unlike the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.) We decided to get our car and drive this road through the long tunnel. That morning we had driven from the east entrance to the tunnel where the road was closed which I covered in my last post.
Views along Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway
Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway
Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway
We readily identified the location of the rock slide by the debris remaining in the area and the orange cones still on the road.
Where the rock slide was located on Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway
We drove through the 1.1-mile tunnel and then turned around and drove back. I especially wanted to see the gallery windows. I’ve been through many tunnels but I’ve never seen a window in one. Unfortunately, I was unable to get any photos out the windows because you can’t stop or slow down in the tunnel.
Entrance to the 1.1-mile tunnel on Zion-Mt.Carmel Highway
Light shining in through one of the gallery windows
When we decided against the hike to Angel’s Landing, we determined instead to hike the Emerald Pools Trails early the following morning. The Lower and Upper Emerald Pools Trails combine an easy and a moderate trail totalling a little over 2 miles. We climbed enough to the Upper Emerald Pools that I felt like I had hiked further than just 2 miles, however.
We arrived before the crowds and had no trouble finding a parking place. Zion is a very different place without the crowds. If you’re a morning person, as I am, get there early to experience the peaceful nature of Zion without the crush of people.
Early morning at Zion NP
We saw few people along the trail as we started out.
Trail to Emerald Pools along the Virgin River in the early morning
Enjoying having the trail to the Emerald Pools to ourselves
Jim on the trail
Check out the cacti
Beautiful trail view
The climb gets steeper
When we arrived, I realized why they are named Emerald Pools. The reflection in the pools of the greenery surrounding them is indeed emerald.
The waterfalls along the trail were especially impressive. I took several videos to better showcase them.
The end of the trail crossing the Virgin River
Back to the parking lot that was now full with cars circling like vultures waiting for our spot
After our hike to the Emerald Pools, we were ready to have a picnic lunch then hit the road for our next adventure even though there are lots more things to see and do in Zion National Park. We barely scratched the surface but we believe we got a pretty good overview and enjoyed a memorable experience.
Based on events from September 2015.