We drove east from California after a wonderful visit with friends and spent three days camped outside Zion National Park in Utah. The campground shared a space with a local hotel and we were unexpectedly able to use the pool too! We met people from Kentucky and the Netherlands and laughed that the pool was full of campers rather than people from the hotel. The temps were in the upper nineties the second week of September, we all knew a good thing when we found it!
We got into Zion around 4 pm the first day and I’d like to thank Andy’s tattoo for getting us some good info from the get-go. At the visitor center a Park Ranger recognized Andy’s tattoo, they talked about Big Sky, Montana (where the mountain range on his arm is from, and wouldn’t you know the guy used to work there). And he said, “Okay, I’m going to give you all the cool spots- let’s see, what time is it, okay, you can see this and this tonight and then take the walk back at sunset to have a full view of the Watchman (big mountain) with the sun setting on it.”
Zion park has become so popular (nearly 4 million visitors last year) that there isn’t enough parking for everyone within the park limits. So they have a shuttle service that runs people back and forth to set destinations in the park and then you can hike, climb, wander from there.
This was a really nice treat for us since we had been in our car for 2 months at this point and now we could BOTH stare out the windows in awe as we listened to the narration through the park.
One thing I noticed right away was it seemed that everyone had the same awe and appreciation for what we were seeing. The shuttle was packed but when the guide started talking everyone fell silent and listened while looking at the tall red rocks just outside the windows.
For our first night in the park, we followed the Ranger’s recommendations from the visitor center and he was spot on which gave us a great start and welcome to Zion. The walk he mentioned was about 2 miles and we only saw about 10 other people on the trail at sunset with most of the time we were alone with the vast park all around- it was surreal and stunning.
There was huge red rock all around us in the park, the Virgin River was green and breathtaking, and we were just two small people walking beside it. I was wowed from the first moment I saw the park.
Zion Park walking path that meets up with the Virgin River
This walk made me think of the Animaniacs song where Yakko sings, “It’s a great big universe, and we’re all really puny, we’re just tiny little specs about the size of Mickey Rooney.” So maybe I was humming that as we walked along.
Our campground was just outside the park but this was my view while I did the dishes at the campsite each night.
Sunset at the campground overlooking Zion
The next day we visited Bryce Canyon National Park which is known for their amphitheater and huge hoodoo rock spires. I found this lone tree and used one of the roots (below my right arm in the pic) as a seat to look out over the spires while Andy went exploring for a while. It was one of my favorite spots in the park.
We didn’t do any long or crazy hikes in this part of the trip since Andy had sprained his ankle on a bouncy house slide when we were visiting our friends in CA. But we did hike down a bit to see what it looked like from underneath. I kept saying wow on repeat.
We met some kind retirees on a bus tour who took the time to tell us about their lives. One guy had met Michael Jackson and had designed some of our childhood toys. Some asked us questions and encouraged us to keep traveling and taking trips like this.
Our last day in Zion we did more hikes, saw some beautiful waterfalls and a rock climber who was stuck with not enough rope (he got help).
These are two parks I would go back to again with no hesitation.