Oct 30, 2018

Zion National Park

So this past Friday, October 26th we headed off to Zion.  I had to chuckle at a weather forecast saying “delightful”.

We spent last Thursday here at the RV recovering from our long day at Bryce Canyon and working on the photos.  Friday, October 26th was our Zion day.  The weather was perfect with an eventual high of 77F and best of all it was only a short 50 miles away.  We were a tad late leaving at 7:25 AM which was 8:25AM Zion time.  So by the time we reached the park gates it was 9:30ish.  Again we paid the $35.00 park fee as there was no point adding another $45.00 to our Bryce Pass to make it a one year pass for any National Park as it would have cost a total of $115.00 when in all we ended up only paying $105.00.  We know that we will not be visiting another National Park in the next twelve months.  Our plan had been to start the day with the Canyon Overlook Trail but the ranger told us that parking within the Zion Park was almost full.  As we passed the parking area for the Canyon Overlook Trail we saw that it was full on both sides of the road.

The drive into Zion was spectacular with so much to see, the colors, the shapes of the rocks, the crevices and the mountains themselves but there was no place to pull over to stop and take a photo.  The very few pullouts that there were, were full of hikers parked for the day.  A truly dramatic National Park from the red rocks to the mile long dark tunnel to the switchbacks descending to the canyon floor.  I knew that we could park at either the Museum or at the Visitor Center.  The Museum was totally blocked off due to construction and somehow we missed the sign to the Visitor Center.  But I did spy a sign that said there were zero parking spaces left in the park and to please proceed to Springdale to park.  Because we had missed the turn to the Visitor Center we somehow were leaving the park and were in Springdale within moments.  There was no free parking there, you had to pay $20.00 for the day 😯   So we turned around and headed back into the park and made the first right turn and found the parking area at the Visitor Center.  Initially it appeared full but we kept driving around and discovered an area with at least 20 – 30 empty spaces.

Because you can only use shuttles in Zion due to the huge amounts of visitors and lack of parking you have to carry everything with you for the day.  It was cool and we layered up knowing that I would be carrying a heavier and heavier knapsack as the day wore on and of course we had to carry our water with us not to mention snacks.  Oh and an extra pair of sandals for me once I could no longer stand wearing my runners.  By now we were not big fans of the shuttle system.  We were spoiled at both the South and North Rims of the Grand Canyon as well as at Bryce Canyon.

Line for the shuttle.

After a stop at the actual Visitor Center we discovered the long line for the shuttle 🙄  There was no shuttle and then suddenly there were two.  I believe we got on the third one.  Why do people think these are wonderful?  You can’t really see anything, especially not the mountains and their peaks.  Secondly you are restricted as to only nine shuttle stops including the Visitor Center and the Museum which was closed.  Also the Big Bend shuttle stop was closed due to construction.  In fact there was a good deal of road work happening in that area and the shuttles often had a 10 – 15 minute delay, stopped right on the road waiting for the road equipment to move.  So that meant that the shuttles were very irregular and sometimes three came at once and then you had to wait a long time for the next.  I will say that after the initial morning rush leaving the Visitor Center we always got on and except for once got a seat.  We did not find the shuttles a good way to travel ( yes I know they are the only way ) as you could not see much.

Each shuttle has what the driver refers to as a trailer which is yet another shuttle.

You really can’t see much plus the windows only open 2 inches, not enough to take a photo.

Our first stop was at furthest point, Temple of Sinawava.

Us and about 200 others were all doing the 2.2 mile Riverside Walk.

Hard to believe that this small calm Virgin River carved out this canyon.

We had no idea that at the end of this walk you could cross the Virgin River and continue walking through a slot canon all the while in the icy cold water.

It became apparent to us that you could rent  ( in Springdale ) special waterproof shoes and pants and poles to walk through the water which helps to decrease the cold.  I later spoke to a lady who said that even with the rental equipment, that it took her over 2 hours to warm up again.  I would love to try it sometime as I really want to see the slot canyon.

As we were watching the people cross the river, many barefoot and totally unprepared, I saw movement up the bank.  This fellow had arrived and was watching the activity.  We could see that he was frustrated.  I believe that he wanted to go down to the river for a drink but his territory was being taken over by a bunch of loud tourists.  Very few others around us noticed him.

It was nice enough but you are restricted to taking photos along this trail or at the shuttle stop.  You are not free to stop along the park road when you see something that you wish to see and photograph.  We felt very restricted.  Colin wanted stop at Big Bend but we were not able to stop so the next stop was the Zion Lodge.

There were climbers on the mountain.

Fortunately we were stopped waiting because of the roadwork and Colin got these climbing shots.  We were perfectly parked and he was able to just get the lens out the 2 inch window opening.  It almost looks like this guy is barefoot.

From there we set off to do the 1.2 mile Lower Emerald Pool Trail with a 69 foot elevation.

First we had to cross the Virgin River, by bridge of course.

Right at the end of that trail a recent huge rock slide had occurred and the Upper Emerald Pool and the Kayenta Trials were closed.

Once back at the Lodge I changed my shoes as my feet were screaming by then and adjusted the straps of the now very heavy backpack.  It was at this point that I remembered Suzanne mentioning that they served a very nice soft ice cream here.  We each got a huge serving for $4.25 each which certainly filled me up.  Much later I would recall that I had not eaten since dinner the night prior.  My intention had been to eat a Clif Bar at my 2PM eating time ( intermittent fasting ), instead I had ice cream.  It was so good but by the time I ate every last bite my tongue was frozen 😀

Next stop was #4, thanks to mi amiga Suzanne for suggesting it.  Great photo op.

The Court of the Patriarchs.  Named for three towering figures of the Old Testament, these sandstone cliffs hold court over Birch Creek Canyon and this section of the Virgin River. From the left, Abraham Peak @ 6890 feet, Isaac Peak @ 6825 feet and Jacob Peak @ 6831 feet.

We had asked the ranger about this stop and he offered that we should cross the road and go through the ‘Authorized Personal Only ‘ sign and check out the bridge over the Virgin River.

A beautiful area that we got to see thanks to his suggestion.

This is where we had a very long wait for the shuttle and then two came at the same time.

Zion is beautiful however Colin wants me to add that he felt it was like being in Disneyland or Jurassic Park.


Back to the Visitor Center and to the car.


To be continued.



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16 responses so far

16 Responses to “Zion National Park”

  1. Rae says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t have a great experience at Zion. When I was there, I arrived super early to beat the shuttle crowds and mostly focused on one or two stops per day rather than trying to take a ton in. It seems like the parks are getting crowded later in your year — I was there earlier in October than you were and don’t remember as many people.

    I’m glad you tried the ice cream at the lodge — worth a splurge, no?! 🙂

    • contessa says:

      We did enjoy our time in Zion, just not the way we like to do things. Not everyone has more than one day at Zion, wish we did. We went to every stop that we could actually do a hike at plus we stopped at every stop which were only six because of the construction. Often not much to see if you are not able to do a hike. There was so much to see along the way in and out that was beyond spectacular. The ice cream was certainly worth the splurge.

  2. Maxx Trails says:

    We loved our time at Zion, when we were there you could drive around, park, and hike anywhere and that was only three years ago! I have heard that it has all change now and that is really sad. Your pictures are fantastic and bring back such good memories!

  3. Arrowhead Gramma says:

    So shocked to see so many visiting the park at this time of year. When we were there many years ago about the same time it was not like this. Also, my husband drove our then 35 foot motorhome (before we purchased the 40′ one) with tow car through the tunnel, while I as the passenger was a nervous wreck. Fun times.

    • contessa says:

      Good for your hubby to drive thru the tunnel like that. It seems to me that there are many more RVers this fall that in past years. But it was very nice that week while we were in the Zion area. Tough to get a reservation in many parks.

  4. George Yates says:

    Some nice photos you managed to get there but the crowds and shuttle doe not sound like a lot of fun.
    Now to enjoy your next adventure.

  5. Marsha says:

    I wasn’t a fan of the shuttles, either. It felt too restrictive. I enjoyed the other national parks in the area more because we had the freedom to stop, see the sights and move on without waiting.

    • contessa says:

      Welcome to the comment section of my blog Marsha. Nice to have you here. It is too bad that Zion is so small and that there is no other alternative. However like your there are other parks to revisit and enjoy.

  6. Kathryn Tycho says:

    When we went through on the bike it was really busy, no where to stop and bumper to bumper. I took pictures which Eric looked at later. Didn’t enjoy the experience at all.

  7. Suzanne says:

    I am not sure anyone thinks the shuttles are “wonderful,” but they are a necessary evil. Can you imagine what that narrow two lane, 10 mile scenic drive would look like if they let all those cars that fill the Visitor Center parking lot, overflowing into Springdale drive up in there? It would be utter gridlock.

    There has been talk of limiting admission into the park, or admitting only by permit, but people don’t like that solution either. Most would rather be able to ride a shuttle than not be able to enter at all without a permit. It’s a tough situation with few options.

    It’s only been recently that the shuttle is mandated seven days a week this late in the year. In the not too distant past, they were only enforced on weekends. Monday through Friday, you could drive where ever you wanted. But the crowds just keep growing and growing. So maybe if more people are honest in their assessment of the overcrowding situation in the park as you have been in your blog, people will stop coming. Or at least slow down a bit.

    The shuttle really benefits those outside of it. In other words, to be able to enjoy the park as peacefully as possible without a line of traffic stopped along the hiking trails, or motorcycle pipes roaring along the river. One of my favorite things to do in Zion is to ride my bicycle up the scenic Zion Canyon drive, as I know I will be safe from getting flattened by someone driving through there sightseeing and not watching where they are going.

    I understand Colin’s “Disneyland” comment, but if you consider the true reason for the shuttles is to get people into the trail heads and lodge without overflowing onto the road, and limit the environmental impact of exhaust from so many cars in a “box canyon,” rather than an amusement park ride, well, hopefully their purpose is better understood.

    My dear Edward Abbey said it best, “A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”

    Sorry you didn’t enjoy it, but appreciate the candor. Glad you got out of the shuttle. 😉

    • contessa says:

      Thank you for your in depth comment. I did mention early in the post that I realized the necessity of the shuttles but it limited our viewing of the park. I agree that a bicycle would be the perfect way to see the park. But we did enjoy the park as best we could under the circumstances. I was actually surprised at how nice our photos were. Colin was referring to the amount of people being shuttled about and how we were all being herded in essence.

  8. ARIZONA GAL says:


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