Utah, Where We've Been

Zion National Park & Surrounding Areas

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Zion National Park & Surrounding Areas

We went to Zion National Park early in the morning to be able to see the sunrise. We came in through the east entrance, passing through a couple small tunnels that the RV would never have fit through, and down the mountain road to reach the valley. Ben dropped me off at the Canyon Junction Bridge. This is a famous spot for taking photos of the Virgin River and the mountains. He and the kids drove on to Zion Village to be able to get a parking space before the lot filled up for the day.

The view from the bridge was gorgeous. The sun was just rising and shining the first beams of light on the tops of the mountains. I was able to take a few shots before being kicked off the bridge by a passing ranger. Since it was dark when we arrived, I had missed the sign that indicated that you’re not allowed to stop, walk, run, jump, bunny hop, sneeze on, or cross the bridge on foot in any way. I’m being sarcastic, but it was thorough and missed due to the darkness of the morning.

It proved to be a good thing though as I walked down to the river and set up there instead. The view from the river’s edge turned out to be arguably better.

There was supposed to be a shuttle pick up point at the bridge, but signs indicated it was closed, so I hiked about 2 miles back to the village to meet up with Ben and the kids. More stunning views appeared turn after turn along the trail. Needless to say it took me longer than expected to get to the village and meet up with everyone. 

It didn’t seem to be too much of a wait though as they spent their time walking around the visitor’s center area and grabbing some hot chocolate to warm them up on a chilly morning. 

By the time I got there, the parking lot was full. Cars were circling the lot like predators waiting to leap if you make any gesture in the direction of your car. Apparently parking is at a premium in Zion due to limited space and high demand. Accessing the northern areas of the park can only be done by shuttle, so if parking space isn’t found in the Zion village area, you must park in Springdale, a nearby town outside of Zion and take the shuttle in.  

Fortunately we had arrived early enough that Ben had found a spot by the visitor’s center. Now we had to get on a shuttle to see the sites north of the bridge where vehicular traffic is restricted. The line for the shuttle was backed up beyond the zigzagging line control dividers. Although it moved quickly, it took us nearly 40 minutes to get on and get moving to the next area of the park. 

Several stops along the route were closed, which only left the Patriarchs, Emerald Pools (which this being October, the water would not have been flowing very much), or the last stop that led to the Narrows. We had decided to do the Narrows another day, so we got off at stop 4 to see the Patriarchs. These mountains are named after the 3 patriarchs in the Bible: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was the wrong time of day for a good shot of them, but the Patriarchs still stood out as distinct features of the landscape.

All over the nation, fall lends itself to beautiful hues of yellow, red, and purple. The leaves and flowers of Zion turned into a beautiful shade of yellow, cream, and gold.

Zion has not been our favorite park so far. Yes, there are beautiful spots in the scenery, but finding parking, getting around, and navigating the crowds, took away from the enjoyment of what a national park is supposed to be. We decided to skip the hike to the Narrows because of the hassle involved. Instead, we ventured east of the park and explored slot canyons, washes, and caves.

Red Hollow Slot Canyon

Slot canyons are so cool but also very dangerous! You will definitely want to check the weather for rain and flash flood warnings before going out into them. They are carved out by rushing water that can swell to immense heights as it pushes through the canyon. 

Some are only wide enough at their base for a single shoe, while others can be several feet wide. 

The Red Hollow Slot Canyon was a relatively easy hike and fun to explore. It isn’t very long, but long enough for kids to climb through and enjoy the maze of switchbacks. 

The trail to get there is only about 1/2 mile. It’s not marked though. Following the road to the point listed on Google Maps will get you to the parking lot. Then follow the sandy opening through the shrubbery back to another sandy trail. Take the trail to the left and follow it until you arrive at the slot canyon. 


The Belly of the Dragon

The Belly of the Dragon is a short wash that was carved out of a mountain to allow water to flow through. When dry, it makes a great hike for kids. It really does look like you’re walking down into the belly of a dragon when you enter. The further away from the entrance, the darker it becomes. We pulled out our phones to turn on the flashlight app to be able to not stumble over the rocks along the floor of the wash.

The walls of the wash are sandstone which makes them very easy for people to carve. Seems to be a right of passage to leave your mark as people hike through.

It’s not very long and the parking lot is close to the entrance. Perfect hike and adventure for kids.

Sand Caves

Sand Caves is an off the beaten path hike up and across a sloped wall to get to the entrance. It’s not a friendly hike for young kids or older folks. Even some of the adults had trouble getting over and across the sloped wall to access the caves. However, once there, it was very neat to explore inside.

The caves have several window holes that open up to allow light to flow through and brighten the cave. There is a small doorway type hole that the kids liked to play around and a dark dead-end tunnel in the back of the caves. 

They had fun imagining that the caves were their home and they partitioned up the inside to be bedrooms and bathrooms.

Boondocking Near Zion National Park, UT

We boondocked near Zion off of Hwy 9 & K-1620. The road was pitted and rough so we took it very slow, but even then the short distance took us about 10 minutes to get through. Once we were up by the turnoff, the road became much better. We were able to find a spot to park the RV in a little niche between some shrubbery. It was a beautiful location.

We chatted with the neighbors for a while. The kids played hide and seek and soccer outside as there were many spots to hide.

Starlink was again zooming fast here. Verizon was also very good.

Besides the road, it was a good location.