Zion National Park (Part 1)

I am going to break this post into two parts because due to circumstances beyond our control we weren’t able to stay in the same place for the duration of our trip.

Zion Canyon Campground

For the first part of our stay we stayed in Zion Canyon Campground, 1/2 mile from the entrance. We booked this way in advance as it books up quickly. Pros: Close to the park, beautiful site on the Virgin River, views all around. Cons: 6 minute shower tokens per person per day, not much shade, pool shared by hotel was small, flash flood (not in their control…more on that later).

Our site on Virgin River
View from the back of our site
They loved playing in the river!

Mount Carmel Tunnel

One thing I was worried about in traveling to Zion was the tunnel with our trailer. We were coming from the East, which meant going through the Mt Carmel Tunnel. This ended up being way easier than I thought. We paid the $15 at the entrance station (good for 2 trips through) they closed traffic the other way so our trailer went through with no oncoming traffic. It was definitely dark in there, I can see why it’s unsafe to have two way traffic with trailers. We had zero wait time. The drive from that side was AMAZING! Would highly recommend the drive even if you don’t have to travel that way.

View coming out of the tunnel
Scenic views everywhere on the drive

After we got settled in at our campground, we found a coffee shop in walking distance called FeelLove coffee. Not only was the coffee delicious, they also had a great selection of gluten free desserts. There were a lot of restaurants and shops in walking distance in the town of Springdale where the campground was located. It was also a stop on the town shuttle, which we didn’t end up using because we could walk to the entrance.

After coffee we went to check in to the Zion Lodge. Yes, we had our camper but we also had our heart set on hiking Angels Landing and wanted to do so without waiting for the shuttle and being with other people. This ended up being a great decision for us!

Room at the lodge

Angels Landing

Angels Landing is one of those hikes that just sounds like a challenge! I had read so much about it but still wasn’t sure what to expect. The hike is a steep 4.8 mile round trip. I had read horror stories for long waits on the chains and people passing on the chains so I knew I wanted to avoid that. We decided to leave the lodge at 5am and walk the grotto trail the 1/2 mile from the Lodge to the trailhead. We took flashlights until daylight started to break.

Starting in moonlight

The trail starts out relatively easy, crossing the river and then starting a slow climb. The first difficult section is a series of long switchbacks that will have you breathing hard!

First set of switchbacks

Once you get past these there is a small break of relatively flat trail as you go through refrigerator canyon. This is a great place to cool off as it’s nice and shady. Next you come to Walters Wiggles, 21 small switchbacks with elevation gain! Once you get past these you arrive at Scouts lookout, the place to turn around if you don’t want to go on the chains.

Walters Wiggles (picture from the way down when it started to get crowded)
Scouts Landing

To continue on, you start up the chains. It was hard to take these pictures because I am definitely scared of heights! Luckily there still were very few people so we took our time.

Heading up the chains
Watching the kids work their way up

There is plenty of room when you get to the top (atleast that early in the morning!) The views were just spectacular!

View from the top!
View down into the canyon
Looking at the chain section from the top
Once the sun came up we had great views going down too!

The Flood

Not everything goes to plan on vacation. The afternoon after we hiked Angels Landing, a huge flash flood came through. It destroyed parts of the campground (pool, laundry room, front office) and covered everything in a think layer of red mud. Honestly we were very lucky, cars went into each other, some of the tent campers lost everything to the river and the worst thing that happened to us was a broken drying rack and a lost wheel chock. As we watched the river rise behind our site I was very nervous the camper would move.

The during
Pool- after
Virgin River- after
Our site- after

Watchman Trail

Our plan was to hike the Narrows the next day, but due to all the debris and the high water from the flood we decided against it. We also knew we needed to change campgrounds, and were able to make a reservation in St George for the following night. Before we left we decided to walk into Zion and do the Watchman Trail (you can do this from the visitor center without the shuttle). I’m glad we did it, as the views were beautiful. The trail is 3.1 miles round trip and there are some steep switchbacks to teach the top.

Very beginning of the trail walking by the river
Great photo spots on the way up
Views going up
View at top
View on the other side of the top

After our hike we had to pack up and leave to get out of the mud pit. We moved to St George KOA about an hour away and closer to the lesser known part of Zion, Kolob Canyons. Stay tuned for that part of our trip!

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