Zion National Park

(This post is a continuation of a little series of posts about our trip out west. Before reaching Zion, we visited Albuquerque, Page, and Bryce Canyon.)

Of all the places we visited on this trip, Zion National Park was by far my favorite. It was also the most difficult to photograph, and therefore the one I have the fewest photos of. Most of our trip consisted of canyons and hoodoos. Zion places you right in the middle of majestic cliffs that reach so high you feel like you could fall over backward just looking up at them. I am fairly certain that I have never been as in awe of any other sight than I was at Zion National Park.

One thing I hadn't expected was to find that national parks are so very CROWDED. Zion was so crowded, in fact, that a large portion of the park was closed to automobiles and we were required to use the shuttles to get to the various trailheads and vistas we wanted to find. The shuttles, however, ran very efficiently and we didn't mind taking them. 

On our first day at the park, we decided to do a very challenging hike to Angels Landing. The hike is a steady climb for 2.5 miles with the last half-mile crossing a very narrow sandstone ridge. The elevation gain of the trail is almost 1500 feet. There are anchored support chains along the narrowest and steepest portions and without those chains, I am certain I could not have completed the hike. Even with the chains it was very difficult and at times a little scary.

We set off on our hike in good spirits and it wasn't long before we came to some large switchbacks. I was so grateful when we reached what they call Refrigerator Canyon, a respite from the sun with a very cool breeze running through it. Not long after that refreshing portion of the trail, we reached another set of switchbacks, this time a killer set that was very steep and seemed to never end. They call these Walter's Wiggles, and I had to take several breaks to catch my breath as we made our way to the top of them. I'm sharing a borrowed postcard photo so you can get an idea of what this portion of the trail was like. Walter's Wiggles are at the bottom of the image. Angels Landing is at the very top.

When we reached the top of Walter's Wiggles, I thought surely we must be almost finished with the hike and ready to head back down when in fact, we were not even almost done. We still needed to climb the very narrow ridge in order to reach the landing. With a bit of encouragement from my husband, I took a deep breath, and we started up the ridge together. 

One thing to keep in mind is that we did this hike with what seemed like a million other people. There was not a single moment when we were not surrounded by other hikers. We were in a long line of people crossing the ridge, and at the times, the ridge was too narrow for more than one person. We often had to wait as a line of people heading the opposite direction passed very closely and we tried to share the one chain we were all holding on to. There were moments when a stranger was basically hugging me in order to avoid letting go of the chain. 

When we reached the top, I felt so relieved to finally be there! Once I caught my breath, I was amazed at the view. It was as wonderful as I had expected, maybe even more so due to the feeling of achievement that I had. I snapped a few photos with my camera, but it felt like there was really no point in taking photos. There is not a lens wide enough to show the view that we saw. Only a drone photo could do it justice! My husband took a few panoramic shots with his phone that give you just a little taste of what we saw.

Here are a few more photos from this hike. The photo of us together is on a small landing before we actually reached the top, I believe, and the other was taken by my hubs showing me as we were going back down in one of the rare moments that we weren't surrounded by other hikers.

Angels Landing was an exhilarating hike and I am so glad I did it! But I was probably even gladder when it was time to head back down. The two and a half miles in reverse were much faster than they had been climbing up!

After Angels Landing, I probably should have known better than to try another strenuous hike the very next day, but that's exactly what I did. Our second hike was a very long trail that led to Observation Point, which was as picturesque as it sounded. This hike was extremely more physically challenging than the previous one, and as I said before, the previous one had been the hardest hike I had ever done. When we finished, my husband admitted that had he realized it would be as long and difficult as it was, he wouldn't have asked me to do it. But I am so glad we did do it, if for no other reason than the sense of accomplishment I had when we reached the top! 

Our hike to Observation Point was a 7.5 mile hike with an elevation gain of almost 3500 feet. I had to stop so many times to catch my breath. By the time we reached the top my legs were absolute jelly and my shoes were full of sand. But the entire trail was absolutely gorgeous. The landscape was constantly changing and every view was breathtaking. I have very few photos from this hike because there was just no way photos could capture the beauty and besides, I was too busy just trying to breathe!

By the time we left Zion, I was exhausted, proud of what I had achieved, thankful for my ever loving and very patient husband, and in awe of God's beautiful creation. I can't wait to go back! I will finish by sharing the few photos I did take while I was there. But photos will never do this place justice. You simply must go experience it for yourself!