Back in my college days, Spring Break was synonymous with the warm,
sinny sunny city of Las Vegas, Nevada. Our week-long hazy adventures were filled with late nights, bright lights, neon signs, casino chips, strong drinks, and your typical silly shenanigans as we hopped from casino to casino along the Strip.
This past spring, more than seven years post-college, I found myself enjoying another Spring Break adventure — albeit slightly more tame compared to the shenanigan-filled adventures in the desert playground.
My older brother and his cute family planned to visit Zion National Park for Spring Break and they graciously invited me and Cody to tag-along for some fun in the sun. Although I have lived in Utah for the majority of my life, I had yet to make the four-hour drive south to visit Zion National Park, so this invitation was the perfect opportunity to get out and explore. And with over 3.6 million visitors per year, I was intrigued to see what all the hype was about.
Our home base for the trip was located just inside the sanctuary of the park boundary at a campground known as Watchman Campground. Right next door to the Visitor’s Center, this campground offers a plethora of options for every camper — trailer hookups, tent-only sites, and facilities — and for around $30 a night it comes complete with a view that can’t be beat.
We spent our days exploring the canyon and at night we settled back into our camp to enjoy the dark nights filled with thousands of bright stars, delicious dutch oven dinners, campfires, and incredible sunsets.
When you visit Zion, plan on leaving your car in the Visitors parking lot because Zion National Park provides a shuttle system to transport visitors from the entrance of the park up the Zion Canyon to the nine different stops along the Virgin River. The National Park Service implemented the shuttle system back in 2006 to help with traffic congestion within the park and the system runs like a well-oiled machine. Throughout our visit we never had to wait more than ten minutes for the free shuttle to pick us up and take us to our next destination; which is impressive when you consider the size of the park and the amount of visitors each and every day.
The grandeur of Zion Canyon is impressive and no carefully constructed paragraph can really do justice to the beauty found along this 15-mile stretch of canyon in southern Utah. As I stepped off the bus and looked around I was completely blown away by what I saw. Vertical rock walls towered 2,000-feet into the sky and the entire area was filled with the most amazing natural architecture — spectacular domes, pinnacles, chiseled landings, and rockslides dominate the landscape — and these incredible natural formations are brushed with the most beautiful colors. It looks as though an artist’s brush painted the canyon walls with hues of pink, white, dark grey, deep red, and fiery orange; enough to make even the Pantone color-loving crowd swoon. The canyon floor is covered in over 900 species of plants ranging from bright-green trees to colorful wildflowers, and the prominent Virgin River continues to sculpt the canyon as it has done for millions of years.
During our visit we completed three different hikes — the Weeping Rock Trail, the Riverside Walk, and Angel’s Landing (I’ve dedicated an entire post to this death-defying Bucket List item coming up next), and while I felt like I saw a lot during our visit, those three hikes are only a small portion of the 18 different hikes found within the Park.
Zion is not only a hiking destination, there’s a great trail for bike riding, an option to go horseback riding, and opportunities for rock climbing. Unfortunately, Cody was unable to go on this trip due to work constraints, so I am looking forward to another visit when we can make the trek together. On our next visit I’d love to hike up to the Emerald Pools, venture into The Narrows, and conquer Angel’s Landing for a second time. I’d also like to skip the camping route and reserve a cabin at the Zion Lodge which just happens to be the only lodging available within the park itself.
My goal for 2016 is to visit all five National Parks in Utah — Arches, Bryce, Canylonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion — which are collectively known as Utah’s Mighty Five. And after exploring three out of the five parks so far I understand why so many visitors travel from all around the world to see these parks for themselves. If you’re looking for adventure, you’ll find plenty of it here in Utah.