Trip Length: 10 Days
Activities: Canyoneering, Backpacking, Rock Climbing
Highlights: The Narrows, Angels Landing, The Subway, West Rim, Emerald Pools, Observation Point, Red Rocks
Day 1 - Flight to Las Vegas, NV
We flew direct to Las Vegas since it's so close to Zion and offers cheapest fares. After landing, we grabbed our rental car and jetted up to Zion National Park to camp at Watchman Campground. If you are going to Zion during the warm months (we went September and it was hot) be sure to reserve a campsite that has big trees with shade. You can view the spots via google maps. The trees were a life saver during the day. Be sure to reserve ahead of time as this campground is perfect location for a home base and is usually always booked. Showers are located in the neighboring shopping area and are $3 for 5 min.
Day 2 - Hike to Observation Point
Rating: Fairly Strenuous
Distance: 8 miles out and back
Access: Weeping Rock Trailhead - 7th stop on shuttle
Observation Point is a great warm up day hike to get the legs nice and loose. This hike passes through many amazing landscapes and ends with a beautiful view of the valley and Angels Landing. The beginning of the hike is mostly in the shade in the morning, but be sure to bring plenty of water as the last half has no relief from the sun. Beautiful hike and one of my favorite views of the canyon. On the way back you can do a short out and back down hidden canyon.
Day 3 - 4 - West Rim Backpacking and Angels Landing
Distance: 19 miles through hike (16 for West Rim and 3 for Angels Landing)
Elevation: Mostly descent
Access: Lava Point
We hiked the west rim trail over two days which allowed time to take in the amazing views, and witness a lunar eclipse at the top of Zion Canyon. To start this hike we drove to Lava Point which is the highest point in Zion. The vehicle can be left at this trailhead but be sure to get an overnight permit to stay camp at one of the designated camping spots. There are 9 camping spots and a water source a mile or two past the camping (depending on which site you have). There are some amazing views at night from this water source. This is said to be one of the best hikes if broken into two days. You will pass through tall pine trees, golden grassy meadows, and flowy red rock formations. Also an added bonus that you will not see too many other people on this hike.
The trail will spit out at the start of Angels Landing which we linked into this hike. When doing Angels Landing, we suggest getting there early to beat the crowds of tourists hiking up in the afternoon. Angels Landing is somewhat exposed but there are chains to hold on to at all sketchy locations. Don't listen to the worry warts, you can do it, it's very worth it. After completing the hike, we took the shuttle back to the campground and drove an extra car to the trail head to pick up the other car.
Day 5 - 6 The Narrows
Distance: 16 mile through hike
Elevation: 1300 ft descent
Access: Chamberlain's Ranch
The Narrows......is amazing. We hiked the Narrows top down over two days. Permits are required and there are designated camp sites. We rented canyoneering gear from Zion Adventure Company. They have rental packages that include boots, insulated socks, dry pants, and walking sticks. At a minimum, get the boots, socks, and walking stick. Leave the carbon trekking poles at the campsite as you will probably break them. Pants are optional depending on the time of year, but if you get cold easy, we suggest to get them.
To start this hike, we drove to the Chamberlain's Ranch trailhead. We opted to leave the car and pick it up the next day. There is an option to take a shuttle instead. This hike starts out easy along a gravel road. The stream beside you will starts to grow when eventually you enter the canyon and you commit to hiking in the cold water. The walls eventually grow to towering heights of beautiful gold and red, and beautiful waterfalls perfect for a marriage proposal (congrats David and Julie :). Even though the hike is straight forward, care should still be taken. We witnessed a person trip in the river and fall face first on the rocks, cutting a large wound on her skull. Luckily the bleeding stopped and there was no concussion. This can get serious fast as there are no helicopter landing areas in the narrows and you're a full day hike into the canyon.
Once you make it to you campsite, you can filter water from the river (it's a good idea to wait to filter until you're far from the trailhead due to livestock). One thing to note about the campsite is you will have to deal with mice that will chew into packs, even if they are empty and hanging up. These guys are like ninjas...like able to climb fishing line kinda ninjas. Otherwise they are amazingly peaceful with the sound of the river nearby.
The second day is a bit shorter especially if you have one of the last campsites. We woke and make some breakfast, put on our wet canyoneering gear, and made out way down the river. As you near the end, you will gradually start to see more and more tourists. The end of the narrows will spit you out right in the canyon for you to take a shuttle back to the campground.
Day 7 - Rest Day
We decided to have a rest day to explore the town of Springdale, drink some beer, see Emerald Pools, and eat some amazing pizza from the Zion Pizza and Noodle. This was much needed to rest the legs for the next hike. Emerald Pools is an easy 2 mile loop hike from the 5th shuttle stop. The water may not be running if it has not rained in some time, but is beautiful regardless.
Day 8 - The Subway!
Distance: 9.5 miles
Elevation: 2000ft descent, 400ft ascent
Access: Wildcat Canyon trailhead
The Subway is the more technical hike we did on this trip. The subway involves some rappelling, jumping into freezing cold water, and a long steep finish to the end of the hike. This hike can be summarized as three sections, the initial hike, descent down Russel Gulch, and Left Fork slot canyon. Each of these areas are very different, unique, and beautiful. Permit is required.
Since this slot canyon does not end in the valley, we dropped off a car at the end of the trail before heading to the trail head the next morning. Start the hike at Wildcat Canyon trailhead. You will hike for ~ 1.5 miles before hitting Russel Gulch. Russel Gulch will take you ~ 2 miles through slick rock features and turn into a steep and loose rock section that descends into the canyon. Once at the bottom of Russel Gulch, you will enter the Left Fork slot canyon. Soon you will begin a short rappel down a large boulder. Continuing through the canyon will lead you through pools that you cannot avoid and more rappelling (some through falling water). You will most likely be cold at many points through the hike as there is no sun penetrating to the canyon floor. Watching you friends jump in the freezing water becomes quite entertaining :) . Once through the clot canyon, it will open up to a wider meandering river. Don't miss the dinosaur footprints in large rocks on the hike out. Before reaching the finish, you will have to ascend 400ft out of the canyon. The views are great at the ending trailhead.
Day 9 - Rock Climbing Red Rocks
The next day we woke early and drove to Red Rocks in Nevada for some rock climbing. We stuck to the Calico Basin which has a wide range of sport climbing including a super fun multipitch climb called Big Bad Wolf. After a good day of climbing we made our way to Las Vegas to grab out hotel and check out the strip.
Day 10 - Flight Home
Title says it all....Fly home!
Some of the photo credit goes to David Milstid and Joshua Williams.
Links contained in this article:
Permits - https://zionpermits.nps.gov/index.cfm
Road Construction Notices: http://www.nps.gov/zion/learn/news/kt-road-schedule.htm
Watchman Camground - https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/watchman-campground.htm
Mountain Project for Big Bad Wolf: https://www.mountainproject.com/v/big-bad-wolf/107339211