The first day of Brendan working from the road. He got up early so he could get a few hours in before checkout. Breakfast was americanos and breakfast sandwiches from a cafe in the hotel.
The highlight of the day, and somewhere I had been wanting to visit since we first drove across the country to move to LA 1 ½ years ago, was Zion National Park.
We drove the couple hours from Las Vegas to Springdale, the town right before the park entrance. One highlight on the way there - as you pass through the corner of Arizona, you go through it very cool canyon carved by the Virgin River, the same one that formed Zion Canyon. Here's our video of that drive:
In Springdale, we grabbed some lunch from Oscar’s Cafe, a popular Mexican joint. The food was decent and in huge portions, but most importantly, they were willing to take Brendan’s guitar for him while we went into the park. The heat was crazy - we saw one sign that said it was 108 degrees - and leaving the guitar in the car in that heat would be a serious problem. Good thing for friendly restaurant owners!
To get into Zion, you can try driving in and parking at the visitor’s center, but they say it fills up by 10:00 am, so instead you can park in Springdale and take a free shuttle in that runs pretty frequently. We waited no more than 5 minutes for it in each direction. Within Zion, you also take a shuttle bus to see the main area - Zion Canyon - no cars allowed. The visitor’s center was nicely organized with info about hikes and things to do depending on how much time you have. Of course, they overestimate how long it takes to do things, so we found we were able to get 3 short hikes in (~2 miles each) plus ride the shuttle the full length of the canyon within 4 hours.
The canyon is really stunning, and we were surprised also at how green it was within the canyon. Despite the reported heat, we didn’t find it oppressive and really enjoyed our hikes.
We explored the Emerald Pools first. There are three pools - the Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools. The trail for the lower pool is easy and all paved, but very cool because it takes you right under the ledge that overhangs the pool, and the water feeding the pool drips down on you from above.
The trail that takes you by the middle pool and to the upper pool is harder - rocky, sandy, and uphill, though not too steep - but the payoff for the Upper Emerald Pool is totally worth it. The pool is about 100 feet across, and the cliffs that surround it on three sides are 300 feet high. I hear that during the spring/fall there are waterfalls here, but it was cool even without them.
Here are some additional views from our hike.
And a couple photos of me "rock climbing":
The big attraction for many people who come to Zion Canyon is the Narrows, where you can hike a trail that doesn’t just follow the river, it IS the river. You can rent special shoes and a walking stick at a number of outfitters and then explore up the river. Photos I’ve seen look gorgeous, but we didn’t have the time for it on our trip. Instead, we just hiked the path to the start of the Narrows trail and watched the huge number of water-logged hikers returning from their day in the river. Maybe on a future trip.
The drive out from Zion to our motel in the tiny town of Beaver, UT, was really beautiful, as well. The desert started turning to green, rolling hills, with some short, scrubby trees - a welcome break for the eyes.
We definitely wouldn’t recommend Beaver for your trip to Utah, though - it was a depressing place where everything was closed. We grabbed some snacks from a truck stop for dinner and hit the hay, having decided to push through all the way to Jackson Hole, WY, the next day.