Finding Your Zen in Zion

  • 8:00am – Flight from Oakland to Vegas, get rental car from Payless ($100 for three days) and make the two in a half hour drive to Zion National Park.
  • 12:00pm – Check into Holiday Inn Express (yes, does not sound luxurious… BUT, the location of this hotel is ideal, located in Springdale next to shuttle stop 5, approximately a 5 minute drive from the main park entrance, and next to the majority of the food options in Zion. Grab sandwiches and lunch for hiking at Sol Foods Supermarket, literally the perfect place for picking up virtually everything you’ll need for your stay from organic cheeses, produce, made-to-order sandwiches, etc.
  • 2:00pm – Take the Springdale shuttle from your hotel to the Zion visitor center, which is essentially the gateway to the Zion bus / shuttle service.

Quick Tip: The Zion bus / shuttle is a 40 minute, 9-stop shuttle service that starts at the visitor center and makes a complete loop of scenic drive, stopping at every major hike trailhead in the park. During the summer months, cars are actually prohibited from entering, so you’ll need to use the shuttle to access all hikes. The system is quite efficient by any standard, you’ll never have to wait for more than 10 minutes for a bus, but if you head here on a holiday weekend (as we went on Labor Day weekend), the lines for this shuttle can exceed 1 hour in the afternoons. Hence we had to do all the major hikes in the early AM to beat the crowds.


  • 3:00pm – Take the shuttle from the visitor center to stop #5, Zion Lodge, and walk across the road to begin the Emerald Pools Trail. There is an upper pool trailhead (3 miles and moderate difficulty) and a lower pool trail (1.1 mile round trip) for a relatively simple hike with nice waterfall and valley views.

  • 5:00pm – Head back to the visitor center in Zion and be sure to rent your gear from Zion Outdoor gear for hiking The Narrows.

Quick Tip: Equipment rental for the following day usually takes place between 4pm – 8pm. Aim to get there early before everything gets rented out. For the Narrows hike, you will absolutely need water boots, a walking stick (to check how deep the river is when you are wandering through it to avoid falling in). Cost is approximately $23 for the day and a necessity!

  • 7:00pm – Dinner at 9 East. Nice modern vibe with sheek outdoor seating and a menu that is probably priced slightly higher than most restaurants. However, the presentation does not disappoint and they have a Pana Cotte desert worth mentioning!
  • 6:00am – Drive your rental car to the visitor center and take the first bus to Shuffle Stop #9 for the Narrows entrance. You’ll walk for approximately a mile along the river walk trail before essentially wading directly into the river with your boots and walking stick. From here, you can walk about 4-5 miles up-river through a steep, mostly in waist-deep water through an elongated, narrow chasm of canyons with beautiful, red-tinted vertical rock formations to your right and left sides.

Quick Tip: We ended up doing the full 10-mile round trip hike and were exhausted. Physical exertion is not intense, but the larger issue is tripping over rocks underneath the river that could potentially lead to making a few wrong steps (e.g. rolling an ankle) that can send you splashing into the water. Nothing on the trail is marked, so I’d say once you hit the second canyon, or “narrows” about 3.5 miles in, there probably isn’t much need to go further as the canyon simple opens up and there are no more “narrows” (eg: less scenery). We were lucky enough to go early and do this hike virtually alone, for a much more pleasant experience. The way back (3-hours later) felt like walking through zombies when the massive crowds of people began to show up! Watching your footwork and looking out for people is miserable. Can’t recommend going early enough.


  • 3:00pm – Make the hour drive from Zion to famous Lava Point, which many consider to be one of the best overlook views of Zion. The drive across this wilderness landscape to get there is breathtaking. Rural cow grazing area, canyon views, steep overlooks, and open pastures encompass what you’ll be able to see along the way, and is worth an hour of your time!


  • 7:00pm – After a relaxing sauna and hot tub, head to King’s Landing Restaurant (new-American restaurant situated in the Driftwood Lodge) for dinner. Be sure to snag a table outside and enjoy the view of the horses running in the hotel’s outdoor pasture and a view of the sun setting on the magnificent canyon rock backdrop of Springdale.


  • 6:00am – Take the shuttle to stop #6 for entrance to Angels Landing. Perhaps the most popular hike, Angels landing features a steep, 1.5-2 mile switchback climb (all paved) to the most exhilarating part, a 0.75 mile vertical chain rope climb that ascends you to the “landing” with 1,000 foot canyon drops to either side of you. Not for people scared of heights, and definitely involves a few moments where you are better off not looking down. The view from the top is a breathtaking, panoramic view of the valley that so many travelers come for.

Quick Tip: Again, you want to do this as early as possible, as if there is only one chain to climb to the top of the landing. Criss-Crossing with other hikers on the part is both not fun and I’ll admit it, a bit dangerous. You can finish this top to bottom in about 2.5 hours.


  • 9:00am – Take your car from the visitor center to the canyon overlook trail. This is a 3.6 mile drive through the tunnel and the trailhead is on your left immediately as you exit. Parking is limited, but you should be okay as there is further parking on the turn-outs on the road ahead. The hike is a nice, 1-mile round trip modestly challenging adventure, beginning with a steep staircase. You will be able to hear people canyoneering below you. The view at the top looks as follows:


  • 12:00pm – Lunch at MeMe’s followed by a 2 hour drive back to direction of Vegas making a recommended stop / drive through Valley of  Fire. This state park is home to beautiful red rod formations that drives through the badlands of Vegas with some great climbing / bouldering opportunities. Even if you are over hiking and want to just drive through it (30 minutes and on your way to Vegas) it is certainly worth your while!


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