We had heard the rumours before arriving: temperatures in Zion would be very high. When we descended the roads from the eastern side, going down the switchbacks towards Springdale. The afternoon heat was giving us a warm welcome - and we realized we had arrived after the real heat. We did not have time for further exploration that afternoon, and I went up to the Canyon Overlook Trail first thing next morning. Walking the dead-end trail proved to be very easy and fast, and I arrived too early for sunrise. After the crowds we had experienced earlier in Bryce, it was surprising not to see anyone around. Even more surprisingly, I would only see one woman from a distance during the entire two hours I spent walking up and down the edge of these high cliffs, offering a perfect view over the mountain range to the West. Once it started removing the darkness from the enormous rock faces, the sunlight offered a warm, superb view of the mountains, among which I saw the Altar of Sacrifice.
After coming back to Springdale, and after a quick breakfast, we headed up towards Zion Canyon, taking one of the compulsory shuttle buses to the Grotto. From here, we started hiking: after crossing Virgin River, we had a pleasant hike towards the Middle Emerald Pool. The deep green of the plants in the water indeed gave this pool an emerald look - even though the water itself seemed extremely clear. It was all too easy to spot animals in this pool, and the longer we looked, the more we saw. Dragon-flies, frogs, tadpoles, butterflies, and even a snake were some of the animals we saw in a short time span. After spending some very pleasant time here, we continued our hike up to Upper Emerald Pool, and it was during this hike that we felt the true heat of the day burning on our backs - and it was still quite early in the morning! We spent a very relaxing time at the Upper Emerald Pool, floating on some of the tree trunks in the water - and at one point had to run to save our food from very quick squirrels. No matter how much we liked it, we had to head down towards Virgin River again - visiting the Lower Emerald Pool which unfortunately was partly closed for reconstruction, and took a bus down to Springdale. Even though the temperature was over 110F/42C, it was dry heat which I thought was still bearable. The next morning we made sure to be on the very first bus, and headed towards Angels Landing. This spectacular rock stands high above the canyon floor - up to 1200 feet higher. After a quite level start, the path soon turned pretty steep, and when we reached Refrigerator Canyon, we were sweaty even though the sun was still well hidden. The Refrigerator Canyon did not delude us: the temperature inside is remarkable lower than in the surrounding areas. At the end of the canyon, the trail turned right, and there they were: the twenty-one switchbacks taking the hiker quickly up to the saddle between the mountains of Angels Landing and the West Rim Trail. Once we arrived at the Scout Lookout, the landscape around us opened up, and we had a good view over the Virgin River meandering through the canyon below.
From here, it was mostly climbing over rocks - if needed, with the use of chains. This is easily the most spectacular part, as the trail at times is narrow and you have unobstructed views down the steep rocky cliffs on either side of the rim. When we reached the summit, we sat down to soak in the spectacular sight on all sides. The sunlight was now finding its way into the canyons around us, and we realized that this must be one of the best places in Zion National Park to get a good idea of the park. Some of the enormous rocky mountains can be seen from here, like the Great White Throne just opposite the canyon. The summit of Angels Landing is full of chipmunks, and despite all the warnings not to do so, unfortunately many others were giving food to these impertinent, but cute, animals. On our way down, we came across a guy obviously having a big problem with fear of heights - taking very small steps and working his way up. We were very glad for having climbed in the very early morning - the temperature was rising fast now. That afternoon, we went to Temple of Sinawava - the religious connotations of the names of the mountains and formations obviously were inspired by the Mormons - where we started hiking up the Narrows, a stretch of the Virgin River which is much narrower than the one downstream. Quite soon, we entered the water, and were happy with our special shoes and stick. We worked our way up the canyon which made for a truly exciting hike through cold water. Even with the high temperatures, the narrow canyon and its cold water cooled us down so much as to feel at ease. We followed the course of the river until we just had to go back for reasons of time - and reluctantly turned around: we would have loved to venture further into this amazing canyon with its many turns. Walking down proved to be much easier than walking upstream - and before we knew it, we were on our way down to Springdale, out of Zion National Park.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Zion National Park (U.S.A.). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Zion National Park.
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