Zion Park

You are not allowed to drive to most of the trailheads, you have to take the (painfully slow) shuttle bus that starts operating at 6am and runs till 10pm. There are no stores (other than the visitor center) inside the park. All restaurants, supermarkets and souvenir shops are outside. The nearest place is Springdale (literally walking distance from the western entrance) but prices are ridiculously high. Camping in the South Camp ($16) is usually not difficult. It is walking distance from the visitor center and from the shuttle bus. If you prefer disperse camping in the nearby forests, the choices are east of Mt Carmel junction (any of the roads off highway 9) and (west of the park) in Rockvilly (take Grafton Rd going south Be aware that Zion still uses the ancient imperial system (obscure terms like feet and miles) instead of the metric system.

Best hikes:

  • The Narrows, at the end of the Riverside Walk, which is the last bus stop. The first 15 minutes are on a paved trail. At the end of the trail, it is popular to hike into the river. Swimming is often required for short sections, but most sections are easily waded. The walls of the gorge are too steep to be climbed, so once inside you have to return the same way. (A permit is required to hike deeper into the narrows, from Chamberlain's Ranch to Zion Canyon).
  • Zion Subway in Kolob (17kms, 6 hours rt): from Zion National Park drive west on Highway 9 through Springdale to the town of Virgin. Look for the sign for Kolob Reservoir on the right hand side. Turn right and drive north on this paved road. After about 12 kms you will see a sign for the Left Fork Trailhead on the right. Park here for the lower route. The higher route requires rope and gear. A permit is required from the Zion visitor center. Notes of 2013. Only 80 people are allowed every day to the Subway. If there are permits available, you get them at 7am at the visitor center (unless, of course, you book them ahead). Then drive to Virgin past Springdale and Rockville, turn right to the Kolob area and look for the North Fork trailhead. The road is all paved, just pretty far from the park (30 minutes). Since you have to stand in line to get your permit, you will be lucky if you start your hike at 8:30am, which means you will be hiking during the hottest hours of the day. We did not see any ranger along the route checking permits. Rangers to check that cars parked at that trailead have the proper sticker. The route is easy to follow. After the steep descent into the canyon, there are trails on both sides of the creek to walk upstream. You will lose the trails several times but just cross the creek and you'll find them again. Despite the apocalyptic warnings at the visitor center when you pick up your permit, there is nothing technical about this hike: just a hike along a creek like millions of such hikes around the world. (Really dumb rangers might ask you if you want to hike the top or the bottom trail: the top trail is for rock climbers rith rope and gear). It takes about 2.5 hours to reach the Subway at a decent pace (it is, after all, only an eight-km hike). There is no sign alerting you that you reached the Subway so make sure to have a picture with you. Rangers told us that there is an impassable waterfall but that was a two-meter "waterfall" that was easily bypassed to the right. However, past the Subway you enter a slot canyon with water up to your neck. That's a sign you're going too far. You may miss the Subway because the official pictures are wildly edited. The real question is whether this trivial hike is worth it or not, especially in the hot season. In my opinion, not; but, of course, anything that has a quota and requires a permit tends to become popular. Despite rangers telling us that we will be mostly walking in water, we did not get wet at all (until past the Subway), and it was a day after a lot of rain. We never had to walk into the creek and crossing it was always easily done by hopping on rocks. The whole experience was rather disappointing: the adventure was virtually non-existent and the scenic beauty was wildly exaggerated. I would definitely recommend boots: the one person in our party who wore sandals was slower and less safe. If i had to name the main obstacle to this hike, it would be the fact that you have to wait till 7am and then wait in line so you are forced to hike during the hottest hours of the day. (After the hike, we went to report the trail conditions to the ranger issuing permits but he hardly listened to us, a sign that he is simply programmed to repeat the same apocalyptic warnings no matter what).
  • Angel's Landing (8.6 kms, about 3.5 hours)
  • Canyon Overlook Trail from the Mt Carmel tunnel very near the eastern entrance (1.6 kms rt, 1 hour)
  • The East Rim trail (16 kms, 5 hours) runs from the east entrance of the park (the trailhead is immediately west of the east entrance booth) to the Weeping Rock shuttle stop. Have someone pick you up at the visitor center.
  • Weeping Rock (0.8kms rt from the shuttle stop, 30' hour) and Observation Point (13kms rt from the shuttle stop, 4h) are detours along the East Rim trail. So is Hidden Canyon from the same trailhead (3.2 kms, 2hours rt). Echo Canyon slot canyon is on the way to the Observation Point.