Visiting Zion National Park

It’s no secret I’m a total national park nerd and I’m lucky to live relatively close to a number of them. Sequoia, Joshua Tree, Yosemite and more are all within a days drive. When researching which one I wanted to explore next I happily discovered Zion National Park was only 6 hours away. 6 hours? That’s nothing! Armed with that knowledge I planned a trip with my sister, Shannon, and a few weeks ago we paid it a visit.

Just 2 hours east of Vegas, Zion is located in the southwest corner of Utah and is one of their 5 (!) national parks. Founded in 1919 it remains one of he nation’s most popular parks.

Although we were visiting in late October it was still considered peak season with plenty of visitors expected. Ordinarily, that would mean parking at the visitor’s center and taking a shuttle to the most popular spots but we were given special access to use the park roads. Why? Because we spent the night at Zion Lodge!

In all my national park visits I’ve never once stayed overnight. But as luck would have it, I managed to snag the last room available at the lodge. Or rather, the last cabin.

We stayed in a cabin! Usually, they’re well out of my price range but this time the stars aligned and we scored a night at a reasonable rate.

And it was so cozy. Since most of the park is in a canyon it gets quite cold at night but each cabin is fitted with a warm fireplace that keeps out the fall chill. Although it looks rustic it had every amenity except television…and cell phone service. I didn’t care about the TV at all but it took getting used to no service. Although there’s technically wifi it doesn’t work since the lodge is located at the bottom of the canyon. So be prepared to unplug. After awhile I got used to it and was happy to just enjoy being in the moment.

When we headed to dinner we came across a number of deer grazing on the great lawn. Not at all afraid of humans the critters munched away while guests wandered about. I was happy to sit in a rocking chair and watch them for awhile.

After dinner (the less said the better) we wandered back to our cabin and enjoyed some stargazing. Zion is a Dark Sky Park meaning that it uses very little artificial light. So once the sun sets the park is DARK. That is, until you look up. Then you see millions and millions of stars. Constellations abound and you can even see the Milky Way! As a city girl through and through I’d never seen the Milky Way before and it’s quite a sight. Also quite a sight? A shooting star. Yet, that’s just what I saw when I awoke before dawn and did some stargazing from our porch. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it event that’s incredibly powerful. A shooting star! I still can’t believe it!

In the morning, It takes a long time for the canyon to be fully illuminated by the sun but we managed to catch an impressive sunrise that made the tops of the cliffs looked like solid gold. It was so incredibly beautiful.

Since we were up so early we got to hiking and started on the Lower Emerald Pool Trail. Now, Zion is a park with super strenuous trails that involve river fording and a rock climbing – neither of which my sister and I wanted to attempt. Luckily, it also has a good number of easy hikes tailor made for wimps like us.

The Lower Emerald Pool Trail was just perfect – paved, slightly inclined and so chock full of beauty that we thoroughly enjoyed our early morning sojourn.

Plus, there was a waterfall at the end! I’ll never say no to a waterfall.

Zion is a park filled with such immense beauty that it almost feels unreal. I Wandering around I couldn’t help but be filled with elation that I was lucky enough to witness it.

But, alas, all things must come to an end and soon it was time to move on. We decided to exit east where we soon found ourselves in a completely different setting.

Now we were on top of the cliffs. The sun was bright and there was a lot less vegetation but it was beautiful nonetheless.

Whether on top of cliffs or deep in the canyon Zion National Park is a true slice of paradise. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and won’t soon forget it. Luckily, since it’s reasonably close I won’t have to and I’m sure I’ll be back.


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