Zion National Park
Hello everyone and thanks for being here!
I recently returned from a much needed vacation to southwest Utah…and let me tell you…I needed more time!
The plan was to visit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. I wanted to leave on a Monday night and drive up, arriving Tuesday morning to get some early shots before the sun was completely up, but sometimes, Fate has other plans for us.
As it turns out, I found myself on the road late Tuesday morning, instead.
Fast forward to a few miles outside Zion, Wednesday morning:
It was still pretty early as I was nearing the park and the way the sun was hitting everything, I found myself stopping along the side of the road taking pictures almost more than driving.
The way the reds, oranges, yellows, greens and browns were lit up was amazing. The ranchlands along the way were vast and one could see for miles. The mountains were made up of layered sandstone and looked …painted. Most had these almost perfectly flat tops that almost looked sculpted. They didn’t look like they had been pushed up, so to speak, like other mountains; it looked like their tops had once been ground level and the rest just eroded away.
There were many dirt roads that looked like they led into the mountains off of the main road and I was tempted to try a couple before heading into Zion, but reserved those for the return trip. I was having a hard time processing how huge this place was.
Once on the road leading into Zion, I found myself stopping even more. Wherever the sun hit, just exploded with color. This whole area was very unique, both in views and vistas, and in stature.
When I got up to the gate at Zion, the ranger informed me that due to the amount of traffic the park had been seeing, the scenic loop was only accessible via the free shuttle service that ran through the park every few minutes. He pointed me toward the overflow parking area and let me know that the road was open up to a point, and then private vehicles were required to turn around.
I made the drive, took a few pictures and was in the parking lot before 7:30 am.
I found a spot and noticed a trail that went up the hill next to the parking lot and decided to see where that went.
The trail led up and around a parking area, to a point with a great view.
I took some pics and then decided to make my way to one of the shuttle spots.
It took a few minutes to get to the stop, and in that time, I saw two shuttles pull up, towing an extra car each, and they were pretty full.
When the next shuttle pulled up, it wasn’t as crowded, and I was able to get a seat by a window and there were still some seats open. At our first stop, we filled up.
Along the way, I was able to snap some shots out the window, and got off the shuttle at the Narrows.
The main trail was paved and followed along the Virgin River to a crossing point that led back to the actual Narrows. The river is relatively small, but was responsible for carving out this entire canyon over a couple million years. What is even more amazing is that a majority of the erosion takes place during a 15-25 day period a year when the river floods.
The path back to The Narrows was pretty crowded, but what stuck out for me the most, were the squirrels. They were everywhere, and had no fear. That being said, they were also the most polite squirrels I’ve ever encountered. There were people sitting on the ledge of the pathway and the squirrels would come up and just sit next to them. They were never overbearing or demanding and seemed to welcome us as visitors, with no expectations.
As I was walking, one ran up next to my foot and followed alongside for a few steps. When I stopped, so did he. He stayed there long enough for me to get a couple of pics, and then was on his way.
The other thing that was hard not to notice were the flowers growing right out of the canyon walls. Intense pressure inside the sandstone causes water to seep out of the rock, and at these points, plants and flowers spring up. I have to admit, it was pretty cool!
I walked back to the river crossing at the Narrows, but didn’t cross. I knew that I didn’t have time to get any of the longer hikes done this trip, and I’ve heard the Narrows can take a few minutes to get back to the good spots.
I continued along the shuttle route, getting off at the visitor’s center and the Human History Museum, but in the crowds, my mind started to wander back to those dirt roads I passed coming in. While the views from the visitor’s center were spectacular,
I really wanted to get the shot from behind the museum…and I botched the exposure, lol. Usually, I’ll take a few different pictures at different exposures to make my odds a little better that one turns out, but this time, I got only got one. DOH!
It was about 12:30 pm when I got back to the truck. It was getting hot and the wind was still blowing steady. I had heard on the radio coming in that this had been the earliest in May this area had seen 95°F in a few years.
I drove back out toward the area I had passed coming in and found a dirt road that led up a mountain. I drove about half way up the road and stopped to get some shots. The views were spectacular! This was going to make a great place to get some night shots.
It was coming up on 2 pm and I was getting hungry and was going to need some more water before too long. I marked this road on the GPS and headed off to refill.
I drove around for a while, picked up what I needed and then ended up in a small town diner with a very good looking pulled pork sandwich sitting in front of me. It never had a chance…neither did the apple cobbler. Hey! No one said roughing it had to be painful! J
I eventually made my way back to the road I had marked, and this time, drove all the way to the end. It stops at the top and overlooks the town of Laverkin, UT est 1891… I only know this because there was a plaque there that said so.
Sunset looked like it might be pretty cool. I had a clean shot of the west facing mountains, and from up here I could see cuts in the ground that opened up into smaller canyons.
As I walked around, I found a trail that led to the rim of a small canyon and followed it down, until I was standing at the edge, looking over.
As I was walking back up, the sun was starting to hit the, I’m going to call it, cotton grass, and it lit the hillside up. It looked almost like a light layer of snow.
Turning around, I could see that the sun was hitting the canyon wall, turning it a dark, golden color.
I walked around taking pictures for a while and then went back up and took in the sunset over Laverkin.
Everything I had seen today had been unique and beautiful, and new to my eyes and I was grateful.
Shortly after that, the sun was down and I saw headlights coming up the hill. The officer asked what I was doing and where I was from, and I told him. He agreed this was a great place to see the stars and wished me luck getting some cool pictures. On his way out, he let me know this wasn’t a designated camping site and said good bye.
I hung out until after midnight, but it was too windy to get long exposure shots with the tripod I had…I’m guessing it would have been difficult with any tripod in that wind. I thought I’d outsmart Mother Nature and set the tripod up inside the truck with the camera pointing out of the open sun roof…but she just blew the truck around instead. Lol
I conceded defeat and headed back down the hill, I also did not want to push the friendly warning the officer had given me about camping. All of the campgrounds in the vicinity were full, but I had seen a sign for $45 hotel rooms earlier and headed there.
I added Angel’s Landing and The Emerald Pools to my list of things to do when I return to Zion. This will be a fun place to explore and I’m looking forward to returning for a more extended stay, but for now, gotta say good-bye!