Air temperatures 20-30ºF below normal. Wind. Rain part of every day. A sprinkling of snow. Rivers running 6 times normal. Waterfalls in ephemeral watercourses. Oregon? No, Zion National Parks last week! The last time we were in Zion in May the air temperature was 108ºF. Who knew? But the weather turned out to be a blessing in that it kept the crowds – Zion gets 3 million visitors a year – to a minimum. Here’s a brief summary of our adventures.
One of the most iconic hikes in Zion and usually one of the most crowded but, thanks to the weather, it wasn’t. The trail starts on the valley floor, then climbs steeply up switchbacks,
to a narrow ridge. This is looking back down the ridge we just came up,
and this is looking up the ridge toward the top of the landing.
Fortunately, the Park Service provides chains as handrails for the really exposed sections,
which is good, because the exposure is really extreme along here.
After some really fun scrambling along this ridge, we arrived at Angels Landing, a small platform with a view almost straight down 1,400 feet to the valley floor.
Despite the less than good weather, flowers were starting to emerge,
and even a few cacti were flowering.
East Rim Trail
A big rain storm sent us on a road trip to visit Pipe Spring National Monument for a day. It was clear (sorta) the next day, so we tried an out-and-back hike to Stave Spring on the east side of Zion. This let us visit the forested plateau that sits 2000+ feet above the valley floor.
One feature of this hike is Jolly Creek, which has carved a narrow,
and very deep,
waterfall through the rimrock. We made it to Stave Spring and a little beyond despite long stretches of mud that managed to be very slippery and highly adnesive at the same time.
Prying mud off our boots got to be too much, so we turned around at the spring. This got us back to the trailhead just as it started raining again – which it did for the rest of the day. Later that evening we took a short hike to see all of the ephemeral waterfalls in the main canyon – by morning they were gone.
An improving forecast encouraged us to do this other iconic hike in Zion – one that provides truly big views of the entire valley. The trail switchbacks steeply up to the narrow entrance of Echo Canyon,
works its way through the narrows,
then continues a steep climb to the rimrock. It’s amazing how much work must have gone into hewing this wide path into a near vertical cliff!
As we were going up, it wasn’t obvious how big the drop-off was on the outside of the trail. Once we got out to the Point, we could look back and see the trail etched in the cliff face,
and we also got the big views of the river in the valley 2,000 feet below.
Although our escape to the desert didn’t turn out to be a particularly dry or warm one, we still managed four great hikes in five days, with minimal crowds. Except for the exposure at Angels Landing, none of these hikes are as hard as many hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. The one difference is that here they all start at around 4,000 feet and climb to 6,000 feet, so some acclimatization time is helpful. There are other, longer (14+ miles) hikes in the Zion backcountry which we may try next time we make it out here.