Zion National Park, Utah
September 22, 2014
We made the two hour trek from Bryce Canyon to Zion after packing up camp. The road in from the east is deceiving, gently winding along in and out of across the top of shallow canyons. That west-moving road belies the massive walls of stone that drop in from nowhere, the monoliths suddenly appearing like quiet sentinels.
The eastern end of the park is incredible enough on its own - big, sloping cliff lines. Then you drive into the Mt. Carmel tunnel, 1.1 miles of dark tunnel, with small slits that give you fleeting glimpses of what lays beyond. Coming out of that tunnel, it takes your breath away. The contrast between emerging out of the darkness and into the valley, with the red rock walls towering above and below... I would say the only way to experience the approach into Zion's main valley is from the east. It is shocking.
We parked at the west end of the park to explore on foot for the day. The day was so hot - even at the end of September - that we opted for a hike in the relative shade and made our way to Emerald Pools trail. It was packed. There was hardly a spare parking space anywhere. Since the main canyon within Zion was closed to standard traffic, to get to any of the trails that branch off from there, you have to take a shuttle up.
The Emerald Pools trail takes an easy approach along the cliff edge. You can take a longer route from the Zion Lodge, which make its way down King's Canyon, increasing in elevation as it meanders through lush green along the stream past three pools. The Upper pool is pretty spectacular; a sandy shore with 300' walls towering above, and a thin waterfall dropping into the pool from Heaps Canyon above.
After the hike, we wandered down to the main creek running through the canyon, to let the kids cool off in the water, and enjoy the late afternoon light.