Adventures in Utah: Zion National Park

It’s been over two weeks since I wrote a blog mostly because I haven’t had the inspiration to sit down and write too much. But I do want to share my experiences in Utah so I set a deadline for myself (two weeks ago) and here I am sitting down to write this 7 hours before my deadline is up.

John and I headed to Las Vegas/ Utah on February 17th for a quick getaway. Here is how we ended up here haha.

  1. I had off from work on President’s Day (2/20) so we decided we should get away for 3 days.
  2. We drank a six pack of beer after a rough day of work for both of us
  3. We looked up every direct flight leaving from Philadelphia on 2/17 that went further than the east coast.
  4. Ta-da! Las Vegas ended up being the cheapest flight so we booked it right then and there.

It was quite spontaneous and I enjoy trips like this because I don’t have to overthink exactly what we will do all day and I don’t have to wait too long for my next vacation.

So we decided on Las Vegas, but we both knew we wouldn’t like Vegas too much. We both opt for the outdoors and more low key options when we can and really don’t enjoy gambling, clubs, etc too much. Zion National Park is located about a two hour drive from Vegas so we settled on spending a little time in Vegas and the rest of our time in Utah.

We flew Spirit Airlines (which I totally suggest if you live in one of their hub cities). They are super cheap usually, have awesome deals, and if you are a light traveler there aren’t too many fees. Our flights were around $400 due to the holiday weekend and we opted to pay for a bag knowing that our hiking gear would take up a lot of space. On Friday night after work we boarded the plane and landed in Vegas around 11pm. After getting the rental car and making our way to a Vegas hotel for the night, we passed out with our alarms set for 5:00 am.

At 5:00 am we (slowly) got up, packed up again and made our way to Utah! We stopped at a grocery store (highly encouraged) and got snacks as well as sandwiches. On long road trips I like to make sure we plan our food ahead because it’s not always reliable to hope you see a restaurant when you get hungry (and John can get a little hangry lol). Especially for this drive to Utah, there really wasn’t too much on the way, so plan ahead. The drive is about two and a half hours but don’t forget you cross time zones so you actually lose an hour going there.

We drove straight to Zion, parked the car, and jumped on the first bus to Angels Landing because we wanted to get that done first. BE ADVISED: the hike to Angels Landing starts right at the trail head once you cross the little bridge, GO RIGHT. We missed the first sign and went left (I didn’t even notice there was a trail to the right and just followed the group in front of us) and hiked 45 minutes in the wrong direction. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful and we got to see a little bit of the Emerald Pools but if you are on a time constraint definitely make that first right. It felt like such a rookie mistake to miss the first sign, but I definitely learned my lesson!

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The view just starting out on the Angels Landing Hike

Angels Landing is the most popular hike in Zion (for good reason) but also the most dangerous. It’s actually listed as one of the 20 most dangerous hikes in the world and that really freaked me out. I read a ton of reviews on TripAdvisor before going so I could understand what I was getting myself into and if I could really do it. Here’s the truth, if you’re afraid of heights- don’t go. If you have a knee injury or really any type of injury that makes it tough for you to bend down, hike up steep hills, or pull yourself up- don’t go. If you have small children- please for the love of god, don’t go. I read on TripAdvisor about someone asking if they could bring their 5 year old child, and someone said it would be fine if they are good. I can’t disagree more, this hike has thousand feet drop offs on either side and it goes for about a full mile(.5 miles there and .5 back) of strenuous and dangerous hiking. I don’t care how mature your child is, for the safety of everyone I think you should probably wait until they are a little older (I would say no younger than 12). However, reading that gave me the courage to do the hike (if a 5 year old can do it, I can definitely do it!) and I was right. As an able-bodied adult, I think the hike isn’t really too bad. I don’t have a big fear of heights so that didn’t bother me too much, I was mostly nervous about slipping on the rocks since it was raining a bit. Overall, it was a little strenuous and definitely scary when you had to get out of the way for those coming back down but it was really worth it. We spent about an hour and a half at the top because it was just so damn breathtaking.

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The climb up is very vertical and you should hold on to the chain whenever possible!

Some things I would definitely recommend bringing on this hike: good hiking boots ( I bought these and they didn’t cause any blisters), snacks, a great camera, gloves, and definitely lots of water. Before getting to the strenuous part, you have to walk up Walter’s Wiggles which is a series of 21 really steep switchbacks that leave you out of breath. I had to stop multiple times for a break because it was a struggle. Honestly, this part was worse for me than the last part of the hike. After the wiggles you come to Scout’s Lookout which is a great place for the whole family. It’s a gorgeous lookout with definitely steep drop offs but not too much danger. This is an alternative for if you have kids or just have one person stay behind at the lookout with the kids.

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This is the beginning of the Angel’s Landing part of the hike, you have to climb all the way up and over the hump and then some more!

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The view at the top is so worth it!

After the hike my body was in a sad state, I needed some serious Advil and a good night’s sleep. Remember not to push yourself too hard on vacation so that you are ready for the next day. We decided to head to our hotel, The Pioneer Lodge, which ended up being super comfy, clean, and had cute decor. For the $70 we paid, I was very pleased with this place and would definitely suggest it if you are going to Zion. It is only maybe a mile outside of the Zion gates and there are a few restaurants, shops, and other hotels around as well. For dinner we went to Casa De Amigos, and it was delicious! It was affordable, quick service and the food was really amazing. The portions were huge and very welcomed after a long day of hiking. Definitely check it out if you are in Springdale looking for a restaurant!

We decided to take an early night and woke up bright and early to get some more hiking in. Our original plan was to go to the Narrows but it was closed due to flooding. We headed first to Weeping Rock which is a quick little hike up to this alcove in the mountain that you can walk under. While we were there, a waterfall had formed and was falling over it. It was a really cool experience to be basically under the waterfall and this hike took about 20 min at most.

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Weeping Rock + waterfall!

Then we got in the car and drove to the Canyon Overlook Trail. This one you cannot take the bus to but it ended up being a really fun hike and one you can do with your whole family. You have to drive up Route 9 pretty far and right after the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel there will be a parking lot on your right. If that one is full there is another one on your left right after. Another lesson learned: DO NOT MISS THESE PARKING LOTS. John had seen a spot but I told him that there was one in the closer lot so we decided to turn around and go back to the first lot. Unfortunately, when heading into the tunnel there are no turns so we couldn’t turn back into the first lot on the way back. We ended up having to go back through the tunnel, turn around again, and then go back through the tunnel a third time. It was annoying to say the least and added about 20 minutes on to our journey to get there.

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The drop off at Canyon Overlook is very steep & high!

The Canyon Overlook Trail is a lot less dangerous because it has railings and the walkways aren’t as skinny. It still has very steep drop-offs and the top is definitely vertigo-inducing. The views are really beautiful at the top and there are some fun places you can climb to for a good picture. When we went it was super cold and foggy but right as we were about to leave, the fog cleared up and we saw the really deep valley below (and how high up we were!) The hike took about 45 minutes each way but we also stopped a lot for photos.

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The climbing here is a lot of fun!

After getting our fill of climbing around and exploring the top, we headed back down so we could go to lunch. This time, we stopped at the Zion Canyon Brewing Company. We had a flight of all of their beers and some Bratwursts (which were amazing!) If you are of-age, definitely check them out because their beers were super tasty and it was a great experience to end our time in Zion.

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I tried to get a shot of the Bratwurst but no matter what way I shot it, it wasn’t looking very yummy (but it was!)

After that, we decided to head back to Vegas to see what fun we could find there. While the drive is full of a lot of open boringness, definitely have your camera out while you go through the Virgin River Gorge. On the way there it is cool, but the way back is where the impressive shots are!

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The views are gorgeous on the drive back to Vegas! I only had my iPhone ready for photos but they still turned out great!

When we made it back to Vegas (don’t forget we gained an hour too) we checked in at our hotel (Bally’s) and headed outside to enjoy the lights and see where we could eat. It was about 7pm so honestly, everywhere was packed. We originally were going to try to eat at Gordon Ramsay’s place BURGR but the line was literally through the whole casino. So we decided

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Although it took FOREVER-it was delicious!

to have Chicago Deep Dish pizza at Giordano’s because I had never tried it before. It was really delicious, but if you only have one night in Vegas I do not suggest it because it takes FOREVER. We waited an hour for a table, then when we finally sit the waitress let us know that each pizza would take at least 45 minutes to make. This literally ate up our entire night and by the time we were done we were so stuffed and falling asleep. I guess this isn’t how most people enjoy Vegas but in a different situation we may have tried harder. We did head over to the Bellagio after for the fountain show but then just found ourselves walking around a bit and heading back to the room. It was really uneventful and a little too over the top for me.

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The next day, we did make it to the Welcome to the Fabulous Las Vegas sign right before heading to the airport. That was fun, despite the creepy Elvis look-a-like that wouldn’t leave anyone alone. Oh, and we also stopped for some Croissant Donuts at Al’s Donuts which were so amazing. It was a bit out of our way but worth it in the end to indulge in the deliciousness.

One thing I did notice with Vegas

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AL’s Donuts did not disappoint! Cookie Dough on the left & Boston Cream on the right.

is if you miss a turn or a stop, it literally takes forever to get back to where you are going. We missed the Las Vegas sign (thanks, GPS) and it took us a half hour just to turn around and make it back. Also, although Al’s Donuts was geographically close to the airport, it still took us about 25 minutes to make it to the rental car return. Budget your time wisely (but always make time for donuts)

Check out John’s vlog of our weekend & subscribe to follow for more!

Overall, the weekend was full of great views and experiences. We learned a lot about hiking and traveling that we will take with us on all of our future trips. I know I truly enjoyed Zion National Park a lot and if you are an outdoorsy type, it definitely is a trip you want to make! As always, if you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or shoot me an email 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Adventures in Utah: Zion National Park

  1. minnesotayogini says:

    Awesome! One of my favorite parks! Loved your photos and stories, brought back a lot of memories from my own trip! Also, that’s crazy people talk about bringing kids to Angels Landing! Wowza!

    Like

  2. Ayesha says:

    I’ve pinned this to have a proper read later – looks like you guys got up to all sorts of adventures! We need to come back to the States and do some hiking!

    Like

  3. Stephthepinkbackpack says:

    I love spontaneous trips like this! This has been on my bucket list for a long time so I’m happy I came across this post and now know how long to budget for it time wise and the details of the hiking. I am swooning over your pics!!

    Like

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