Even though I have lived in Utah for pretty much my whole life, I have visited very few of the state and national parks. We have so many here and I decided it was about time to start taking advantage of them, so Joe and I planed a 3 day trip to Zion National Park and went this last weekend. I have to say I was not disappointed in any way. The vivid color of the mountains and the peace of being in nature there was just amazing and I loved every minute (well…almost).
We left after Joe got off work on Thursday and drove down to Cedar City to spend the night. I have to say that I don’t know what parents did before portable DVD players, because our kids would have been a nightmare. As it was it took them like an hour to fall asleep after we got to the hotel, even though it was late because they were just wired. (Side Note – I have to give a quick shout out to the Best Western Town & Country in Cedar City – it was VERY nice and a we got a great price. The room was clean and new looking and they had a full breakfast included in the price. If you ever have to stay in Cedar City I would highly recommend it.)
On Friday morning we drove east out of Cedar City and took the scenic route to come into Zion through the East Entrance. This gave us the chance to see some of the unique features of that side of the park. The colors are so rich and it was just a wonderful ride. We drove all the way through the park and checked in at our hotel in Hurricane (which I will not give a shout out to…) and then had to go swimming because that’s pretty much the only thing Brad wanted to do on the whole trip. We discovered Lucy has basically no fear of water, which is not really a good thing. Then we went out for pizza and let Lucy open her presents because it was also her birthday! It was even more impossible to get the kids to bed that night. They are both so used to being put to bed in their room with the lights off and the door shut that being in a room with everyone else was just too much. They did eventually fall asleep about 9:30 and I think Joe and I were asleep right after that.
On Saturday morning we had signed up for a 2 hour guided bus tour of Zion Canyon with one of the park rangers. It was a great way to get our first look at the canyon because the ranger, Rosalie, told us all kinds of interesting facts and stories that we would not have heard on our own. The ride was a little long for the kids and by the end Lucy was saying “No stay with the group!” but Joe and I were both really glad we did it.
From April through October no cars are allowed into Zion Canyon – you have to take one of the shuttle busses that are run by the park. Before we went I was a little worried about that, but once we got there I understood why. The canyon is only about 8 miles long and it’s very narrow – just one lane of traffic each way. Apparently before they started the shuttles there were cars and RV’s everywhere and you couldn’t even get through. Now there are just the busses running every 8 minutes or so and it’s very efficient and peaceful. I honestly can’t imagine it any other way.
After lunch of PB & J’s on Saturday we started out on a hike to the “Emerald Pools” which are 3 different pools you can get to in just under 3 miles round trip. Joe carried Lucy in the backpack and Brad managed to hike the whole way (not that he didn’t complain, because believe me, he did. We just kept telling him how tough he was and that not may 4 year olds can do a 3 mile hike and that kept him going). The hike to the first pool was pretty quick and easy but to get to the middle and upper pools you have to hike up what amounts to irregular stone stairs. It was fairly steep but the scenery was so beautiful and when we got to the upper pool it was totally worth it. The colors there were just amazing – really like nothing else I’ve every seen. Because there is a lot of snow run-off right now we saw 4 or 5 different waterfalls and were able to hike through their spray. Such a great hike!
That afternoon we had to go swimming at the hotel again (ask Brad and he’ll tell you that was his favorite part) and then Joe had the idea to have a cook out at one of the local parks. We picked up some hot-dogs and chips and some marshmallows for roasting and hit the park where the kids played while we cooked. It was a great evening and a low cost way of doing dinner on the go. The kids also tired themselves out and went to bed much better that night.
Sunday morning we got up early again and hit the park by about 8:15 to ride our bikes up the canyon. Because only the busses are allowed on the road it makes a great place to bike. The first 3 miles or so were pretty difficult because of the incline, and at one point I made Joe stop so I could just catch my breath, but after that it leveled out a little and the rest of the canyon was great. It was 7.8 miles from the visitors center to the end of the road at what’s called the Temple of Sinawava (the whole canyon circles around two columns which represent the alter to Sinawava) and it took us a little more than an hour. Not very fast, but we were pulling the kids uphill! We took a break and went on a little walk along the river there and then headed back and I can say that I really enjoyed the ride down the canyon more than the ride up. It was an incredible place to be able to ride. It was so peaceful and the grandeur of those mountains is just breathtaking. We were out early in the morning in the crisp cool air, and it was perfect. I wish I was more poetic because I just can’t do it justice. It truly makes you think about God’s love for us in providing such a beautiful world for us to live in.
Anyway, we drove home Sunday afternoon and stopped in at Joe’s parents house for a little break before hitting the last 60 miles into Salt Lake. It’s wonderful to live so close to places like Zion so that we can do it in a weekend. I’m really looking forward to more of these quick trips now that the kids are getting older. I guess as long as the hotel has a swimming pool the kids will enjoy them too!
Here are a couple of my favorite pictures, but I posted the rest of them on Facebook. You can view the album here.