Our trip to Zion marked 4 weeks in Utah and 8 in the desert. We were nearing our limit in the land without water, especially with the prospect of California beaches on the horizon. Despite our dwindling interest in this arid landscape, we were immediately captivated with Zion’s unique beauty.
The night we pulled in, the campground was full, so we boondocked in an empty parking lot nearby. The next morning – at 6AM to be exact – Rick drove the camper around to get in line for a campsite. I stayed in the rig to make sure the kids didn’t fall out of their bunks, since we didn’t bother to wake them up. Our eagerness paid off, and by 9am we were settled in our campsite with The Watchman towering above us and the Virgin River a short stroll away for afternoon dips.
Zion’s appearance differed from previous Utah parks we had visited – Arches and Canyonlands. The red rocks were there, but craggier and mountain-like than what we’d seen. And while still arid desert, there were more trees and plants to provide contrasting colors to the tall cliffs.
Zion was the busiest park we had visited so far. Luckily, since we were camping, we didn’t have to deal with the parking situation within the park, but we quickly learned that the shuttle buses that ferried visitors throughout the park filled up fast.
We filled our week with hikes on the numerous trails around the park. One of our favorites was Canyon Overlook trail where we saw bighorn sheep and breathtaking views of the valley. I will say, if you aren’t a fan of heights, this Zion may not be for you. I was constantly on edge (literally and figuratively) worrying one of the kids would tumble off the edge of the trail.
An additional highlight to our time in Zion was meeting up with our friends Michelle and John, whom we met at Guadalupe Mountains. Michelle treated us to another round of her world-class strawberry margaritas and (on a separate occasion) minded the kids for a morning so Rick and I could enjoy a more strenuous hike on our own. Of course Rick picked the most dangerous and hair raising hike, Angel’s Landing. I hiked about 90% and let him finish the peak by himself while I white knuckled a nearby juniper tree and tried not to look down.
We spent multiple evenings at Michelle and John’s campsite and were grateful for their fellowship and hospitality. Being on the road full-time we often miss our friends and family back home, they made us feel a little less homesick.
In addition to the vertigo inducing hikes, we enjoyed the Virgin River which has helped shape and bring life to the canyon. We swam in it daily and even hiked part-way into the Narrows with the kids (for those that don’t know about the Narrows, this is another famous Zion hike in which the trail IS the river bed). Without the river so close by to provide easy entertainment for the kids and cool us off, I’m not sure we would have enjoyed the park as much as we did.