Zion National Park is popular. So popular in fact that private cars are no longer allowed in most of the park. Anyone who has experienced the overflowing parking lots at Arches will understand that banning cars is a good thing.
Rather than drive, visitors use the free bus system to travel from their accommodations in Springdale along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Buses are frequent and stops are closely spaced. It works out well.
There are two main entrances to Zion. The eastern entrance, which we took, enters Zion Canyon via a mile long tunnel. Before we get to that, let me say that the scenery between the eastern park boundary and the tunnel was some of the best the park has to offer. Do not rush through this area.
Notice the huge ”blind” arch. This is the name for an arch that forms against a solid wall.
This photo was taken after passing through the tunnel, down a dizzying series of switchbacks, and into Zion Canyon. At the middle right you can see the tunnel opening. Look to the far left and you can see one of the tunnel “windows” that supply light and ventilation.
After breakfast, we boarded the shuttle and headed to the last stop, extravagantly called The Temple of Sinawava. Here, at the end of the road, the valley transforms from a wide expanse to a deep narrow cut wide enough only for the river. And for anyone willing to get their feet wet.
We were willing and came prepared with appropriate footwear, but the weather Gods were not supportive. The storm that I mentioned in my Escalante post arrived overnight, dumped quite a bit of rain, and sent the temperature plummeting. When we arrived at the top of the valley, the stream was flowing well over the maximum safe rate for wading visitors. The level fell and the canyon was opened, but with the temperature in the fifties, we were not inclined to wade in frigid water for hours.
What I can show you is the one mile walk from the bus stop to where one has to get one’s feet wet. I think you’ll agree that it’s a walk worth taking.
Mary Anne is standing about where the wading begins.
Fortunately for you, faithful readers, our friends Helen and George have stepped in to continue the tour into the Narrows (as this part of the park is called). They were on a similar Parks tour a month or so ahead of us and were able to make an adventurous excursion and record a short video of their experience.
Here’s what George has to say about The Narrows…
It was Sunday, 9/11/22, and there were hundreds of people making the hike. We say “hike,” but that is not all it is. For most of the journey, you are walking though and up the Virgin River, the river that has carved out Zion over millennia. While the rocks are surprisingly not slippery, the rocks are uneven and you are fighting the current up and then back down the river. The National Park Service categorizes the hike as “Strenous” and has many flash flood watch warnings like this in their printed handout: “This hike is in the river and subject to dangerous flash floods.”
Two weeks prior, a woman perished in a flash flood in the Zion Narrows, so the rangers take flash floods very seriously. 3 days after we hiked the Narrows, it was closed to hiking as thunderstorms rained down on Zion and the flash flood risk soared.
Most people hike the river with hard-toed sandals (think Keens or Tevas), rigid water proof boots and trekking poles or “wooden staffs” rented from a concierge shop just outside the park at the shuttle stop (tremendous business they must do judging from the number of people hiking with rented staffs and water boots).
The date of our hike was Sunday, 9/11/22. It wasn’t lost on us that it was the anniversary of 9/11 and we were hiking with hundreds of people, many from other countries or different heritage. We heard at least 10 other languages spoken during our hike. Everyone was courteous, happy, respectful, engaged and clearly in awe of one of the most amazing experiences anywhere on the planet.
Including the guy in the American flag bikini briefs who made the hike bare chested and bare foot (you will get a glimpse of him in the video). So there was laughter, too.
This short video is only a glimpse of what the experience is. We hope you enjoy and maybe put the Zion Narrows on your bucket list.—George Pilant
Take a look at Helen and George’s video.