Zion National Park springs up out of nowhere in the middle of southern Utah.
It’s really crazy, actually, how you’re driving through the desert – wide, open expanses with some rock cliffs off in the distance – and then you come upon this gorgeous chunk of land with massive rock structures, canyons carved by a teeny river, various shades of green with pretty wildflowers and something impressive everywhere you look. We arrived in Zion in the afternoon and drove through the park to get to our campsite in Springdale, which is a small, charming town just outside the gates of the park. After spending the last week or so in more rural areas, it was nice to have cute shops and restaurants nearby and the kids were especially excited about the great pool (which they hopped into right away).
The next morning, we decided on a few hikes to try and took the shuttle from Springdale into Zion. At the Visitor’s Center, we took another shuttle that runs through the whole park and makes 8 or so stops along the most popular sites and hiking trails. The shuttle made things super easy for us; the drivers share some information as they drive and you get to just take in the views.
Our first hike was the easy Riverside Walk. It’s about 2 miles roundtrip along a paved path that runs parallel to the river. Zion is famous for its hanging gardens – something I had never heard of before venturing into the park. Water from rain and snow seeps into the rocks and hits a harder inner layer, which forces the water back out the face of the Navajo Sandstone. It becomes the perfect place for ferns, wildflowers and mosses to grow – just hanging on to the side of a cliff. Our next hike was to Weeping Rock, a .5 mile hike (really more of a quick, teensy bit steep walk) to a carved out area where the water literally drips from the rock overhead. I was mostly taken with the maidenhair ferns that grow wild and abundantly along the trail (you can see more of my fern obsession on my pinterest board dedicated to the lovely plant). It’s pretty crazy to see these shade/cool-temperature loving plants growing in the high desert!After a stop for a picnic lunch on the lawn outside of the Zion Lodge, we took off on one more easy hike to Lower Emerald Pools. This one was paved, curved around the river and ended at a small pool that takes on a green-ish hue due to the minerals in the water. It wasn’t particularly emerald (or all that impressive), so the boys continued up to the middle Emerald Pools which they said were bigger and prettier. Audrey needed a break from all this hiking, so we sat back and she played with my hair while we waited :)
The hike back to the lodge was really nice and full of wildflowers, trees, deer and a flowering cactus. We spent most of the day in the park and took the shuttle back to the base of Zion, and then another back to our trailer for dinner.
Our plan was to spend the following day driving to Bryce Canyon (about 2 hours away) to do more hiking, but by the end of our day in Zion we decided we needed a break. Our pace has been quick; we have done a lot of walking and sight-seeing, lots of driving and very little hanging out without an agenda.
So rather than fill our day with more driving and hiking, we opted for a whole lot of this:
The kids swam for most of the day. I sat poolside with three months worth of my favorite magazines I hadn’t gotten to. Ryan spent time catching up on work. We took a walk to a funky coffee shop. We ordered pizza from a local pizzeria (so good). It wasn’t at all what we had planned for the day, but it was absolutely what we needed.
Roadtrip Life Lesson #1: Be willing to stray from the plan for the health of the people.
As it turned out, we were driving the next day from Zion to Moab, Utah and Bryce Canyon was less than 30 minutes off our route. Rather than skip it altogether, we decided to just make a quick lunch break out of it and ventured in to Bryce Canyon National Park. These crazy rock formations are called hoodoos – tall skinny piles of rock that resemble totem poles.They are so strange!Since we didn’t have time for a big hike, we just took the shuttle to the rim trail. The walk from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point was less than 1 mile and the perfect vantage point to take in the sweeping views.
We only stayed for an hour or two, but we were so happy to at least see the park, stretch our legs and snap a few photos.
This portion of our trip was a little more challenging than others – not so much because of where we were, but more because of how quick we’ve been traveling and how BIG these places we’ve been visiting are. We went from Yosemite to Southern California to The Grand Canyon to Zion within a week and a half and our brains, bodies and emotions were a bit overloaded. Someone told me that it would take a few weeks to settle in to this new way of life and I think we needed to work through some of it during this stretch of days.
Both Zion and Bryce are gorgeous and we hardly cracked the surface of enjoying their beauty. Someday we’d love to come back, but I will always remember these two places for the good lessons we learned while here: listening to the heartbeat of our family, slowing down, taking time to be agenda-less and having a willingness to stray from the plan.
Good lessons learned in awe-inspiring places!