2 Days in Zion National Park

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Zion National Park is probably the most popular national park in Utah

with the number of visitors reaching around 4 million each year. While

not my favorite national park in Utah or even my favorite national park

of all time I still think this park is one that everyone needs to visit at least once. There

is so much to do, amazing views you will not want to miss, and it is a

great place for a much needed getaway. Read about my two days in Zion below!

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DAY 1:

My first day in the park I missed my shuttle boarding time

(COVID precautions were still in place so you had to buy timed shuttle tickets)

so, after being one of the lucky ones to get a coveted visitor center parking

spot, I decided instead to do a couple hikes around the visitor center.

(I got there around 3ish and the signs at the park entrance gate said the visitor

center parking lot was full. I ignored the signs and instead headed to the parking

lot and snagged a spot so if you are feeling lucky I say give it a go!) 

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My first hike was the relaxing Pa’rus Trail. This trail is an easy, paved (wheel-chair accessible)

stroll along the Virgin River with beautiful scenes of the red rocks, river, and

bridges. This is also the only trail in the park that is open

to both bikes and pets and there are places along the trail you can go down

to the river for a closer look, to stick your feet in, or even have a little

picnic by the water. The trail starts in the South Campground and follows

the river to Canyon Junction which happens to be one of the shuttle stops within

the park. Unfortunately, when I was there the Canyon Junction shuttle stop was

not in operation (I’m guessing due to COVID), but when it is open again I highly

recommend, when riding the shuttle back to the visitor center, getting off at

Canyon Junction and walking the Pa’rus Trail back especially if it is nearing sunset. 

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TRAIL INFORMATION
RatingRound Trip LengthAverage Time to AllotElevation Change
EASY3.5 miles1-2 hoursLittle; ~50ft

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I also saw some wildlife on this trail! 🙂 

So cute!

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After I finished the Pa’rus Trail I decided to hike the Watchman Trail.

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TRAIL INFORMATION – Watchman Trail
RatingRound Trip LengthAverage Time to AllotElevation Change
MODERATE3.3 miles1-2 hours~368ft

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This hike was definitely a bit longer and more strenuous than I was

anticipating, but it had some great views. (This is also a family

friendly hike! I actually met quite a few families out hiking while I was there.)

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Saw another lizard!
And a bird. Lol

Once I reached the end of the Watchman trail I took some time to

sit and enjoy the view, write in my travel journal, and have a little snack.

There is a small 0.3 mile loop that was added on to the trail that provides

more views to the south, but I opted to not do the loop because I felt

like I could see everything well enough from where I was sitting. 

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The trail between the trees down below is the loop.
I ran into this on my way back to the visitor center. Come to find out this is actually a tent caterpillar nest and
not spiders, buuut I still was not about to walk under that. Lol

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And that completed day one in Zion. After the Watchman Trail I

went back to the truck and then had dinner at Stagecoach Grille in

La Verkin, Utah. I ordered the 16oz ribeye with baked potato and

veggies. It was definitely a very expensive meal coming in at around

$50 and to be honest I didn’t think it was worth that, but it filled me

up so I guess that’s all that matters. Lol 

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DAY 2:

With shuttle tickets secured for 10am I arrived at the park about

9am. Even though it was a Wednesday the park was still soooo busy

and this time the visitor center parking lot was actually FULL. However, unwilling

to give up so easily I drove around the parking lot until I spotted a couple

walking to their vehicle. Like the excellent car shark I became on this trip

(insert JAWS theme song here) I followed them and was able to

commandeer their spot when they finally left. Seriously a shark week

highlight. Lol After parking I boarded the shuttle and rode out to

the #6 shuttle spot, The Grotto. Departing the shuttle I headed out onto

the popular Angel’s Landing trail. 

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TRAIL INFORMATION – Angel’s Landing
RatingRound Trip LengthAverage Time to AllotElevation Change
STRENUOUS5.4 miles4-5 hours~1500ft

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Angels Landing Topo Map

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You know I have always heard people say how scary this hike is, however

what everyone neglects to say is how difficult it is. Seriously. Never once

was I scared while doing this hike, but there were times where I wasn’t

sure if my legs were going to make it. There was an intense elevation

gain and an unnecessary amount of switchbacks that just demolished

my knees and calves. However, I would go back and do it again and

again. It was so worth all the pain and suffering for the views!

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Switchback set #1
Switchback set #2
This is the part in the hike where I saw a lot of people take one look
and decide they weren’t going any further (yes you hike up that). Now
I know that it does look very intimidating, but I promise you that it
really isn’t bad. There is more room than you think, coming down is
easier than going up, and the views at the end of the trail are worth
any potential panic attacks you may have along the way.

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If you are scared of heights I can definitely see why Angel’s Landing

might be a tough hike for you as it has a lot of cliffs to traverse

and narrow sections where you will meet people coming up and going

down. When you do run into other hikers be courteous and if you have

room get over and let them pass. Honestly I think the longest part of

this hike is waiting for other hikers to get through sections since the

trail itself is really only a “one-way” trail. 

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After Angel’s Landing I decided to put my body through another long

hike and hiked out to the Emerald Pools.

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TRAIL INFORMATION – Lower Emerald Pools (from stop #5)
RatingRound Trip LengthAverage Time to AllotElevation Change
Easy 1.2 miles1-2 hours69 feet
TRAIL INFORMATION – Middle Emerald Pools (from stop #5)
RatingRound Trip LengthAverage Time to AllotElevation Change
Moderate2.2 miles1.5-2.5 hours150 feet
TRAIL INFORMATION – Upper Emerald Pools (from stop #5)
RatingRound Trip LengthAverage Time to AllotElevation Change
Moderate1.0 mile1 hour200 feet

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Emerald Pools Trail Topo Map
As you can see from this map you can get to the Emerald Pools trail from The Grotto (which is where I got off for Angel’s Landing) via the Kayenta Trail. The hike to Emerald Pools will be a little longer if you leave from The Grotto.

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This trail started exactly how I wanted it to after the strenuous

Angel’s Landing trail, uphill. My legs and knees hated me soooo

much. Lol Eventually I made it to the lower and middle pools and, I’m

going to be honest with y’all, I was not all that impressed. 

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I couldn’t believe I hiked uphill for that, but I continued on the rest

of the trail anyway hoping that the upper pool would make up for

them, and boy did it. The upper pool was so much bigger than

either the lower or middle pool and the scenery around it was

also so much better. It felt like I was in a natural amphitheater. 

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After spending a little time at the Upper Emerald Pool I finished

out the rest of the trail and found myself at the Zion Lodge (shuttle stop #5). I stood

in line (for about an hour) for the shuttle to take me back to the visitor’s

center and then started on my drive to Tropic, Utah. 

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Before I left the visitor center I had to snap a pic of this four legged park visitor.

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 On my drive out of the park I made sure to go through the infamous

Mount Carmel tunnels via the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and, to be

honest, I didn’t think the tunnels themselves were as impressive as

I was expecting, but the red rocks and views around

the tunnels were very pretty. 

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Notes on the Mount Carmel Tunnel:

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If you are driving an oversized vehicle (which is any vehicle that is

11 feet 4 inches high or higher and 7 feet 10 inches wide or wider)

you will have to pay a $15 fee to go through the tunnel and require

one-way traffic assistance. If your vehicle is 13 feet 1 inch high or

higher you cannot go through the tunnel at all.

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If your vehicle is under the oversized limits you can pass through the

tunnel free of charge. Drive slowly and pay close

attention to where you are going. There are no pilot cars leading the way.

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The tunnel itself is 1.1 miles long and it is definitely dark inside.

Be prepared to turn on your headlights and I recommend (if possible)

making sure your windshield is clean because the headlights of oncoming

traffic can make it difficult to see if you have a dirty windshield

(as I found out the hard way). Lol 

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More information on the tunnel can be found here.

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After the tunnels I headed to Tropic via Highway 12 and it is so easy to see why it is a scenic byway.

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Amy’s Zion Tips: 

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Be prepared for the heat

If you are planning on going to Zion in the summer you need to take

in consideration the temperature which can reach 90 degrees and

higher in the summer months. So to prepare yourself for those temps you can:

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Start your hikes early in the morning

Bring LOTS of water and take frequent water breaks

Wear sunscreen

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Know your limits

There are a lot of strenuous trails in this park from Angel’s Landing

to The Narrows and it is important that you know your body’s limits

and are prepared when you go on any hikes. 

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Get to the park early

If you are wanting to get one of the coveted parking spots at the

visitor’s center I recommend you get to the park early in the

morning (like around 6-7am). As you read above on my second day

in the park I arrived at the lot at 9am and really struggled with finding a spot. 

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Know how the shuttle system works before going

In Zion if you want to get around you will be riding the

shuttle (unless you have a bike or want to make super long treks

throughout the park on foot) so it’s important to know how the shuttle works before you go. 

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There are two shuttle loops in Zion; the Zion Canyon Shuttle and the

Springdale Shuttle. The Zion Canyon shuttle will take you into the canyon

and the Springdale Shuttle will take you into town and to the south entrance.

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The shuttles are free to ride.

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The shuttle leaves the visitor center every 6-10 minutes starting at 6am

and ending at 5pm. The final shuttle back to the visitor center is at 8:15pm.

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For more shuttle information you can use this link here.

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And that was how I spent my time in Zion! Unfortunately, while I was in the

park there was a cyanobacteria warning so I wasn’t able to hike The

Narrows, but that just means I have another great reason to go back!

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Have you been to Zion before? If so, what did you do while you were there?

If not, what is the first thing you want to do when you go?

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