This past December and January, Andrew, his mom, and I took a road trip out to Utah to explore 3 of the state's best National Parks: Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. I've already written blog posts about our adventures at Arches (read HERE) and Bryce Canyon (read HERE), so this post is going to be dedicated all to Zion.
This was our first time visiting Zion, and we had heard it was one of the best parks in the national park system. Zion truly did not disappoint, and we are really looking forward to going back and exploring more of this phenomenal park. If you've never been, Zion is definitely a bucket list trip you MUST take. The views are unreal, and there is so much beauty to behold all over the park. We went in the middle of winter which has its pros and cons. A huge pro: the park is way less busy than during summer. You can actually drive the main road instead of taking a shuttle. During peak season that's not possible, and I've heard you may be waiting on buses for a long time. However that said, there are a few cons. Snow and ice are big ones. Some of the trails were impassible because of ice and snow. However, on our last day we kind of threw caution to the wind on that... but more on that later. Below I'm going to take you through what we did specifically during our trip there, and tips for you if you're planning your own Zion adventure in the near future!
Our first day was only a half day, since we were driving there from Bryce Canyon. The first thing we did upon entering Zion was head to the Visitor Center. We do this first at every National Park we go to because we like talking to the rangers about what they recommend most. I mean, the people who live and work there every day know much more than we do, so we value their opinion! The only thing we did that afternoon was the Riverside Walk hike.
- Riverside Walk Hike - Easy - 2.2 miles roundtrip - This is a super easy, paved, flat trail that goes along the Narrows river. If you are active and able to take on more difficult hikes, I would honestly only do this if you're hiking it to get to the Narrows (which is a hike through the river found at the end of this trail.) We did it the first day because we were pretty tired, and just looking for something low key. This hike is wonderful for people a bit older and less able to do more strenuous hiking. It offers you some really incredible Zion views.
That's the only hike we did on Day 1. We really just wanted to get a sense of Zion first, and create a plan of action on how to plan our remaining days.
Our second day in Zion was probably my favorite. We had decided the day before that we were going to tackle The Narrows. Even though a lot of people don't try this hike in the winter, we were determined to make it work while we were there, and I'm SOOOO glad we did. Holy moly, this hike is amazing.
- The Narrows - Difficult - 9.4 miles roundtrip - We almost didn't do this hike because of the time of year we were visiting Zion: winter. However, after doing our research on Day 1, we realized the weather on Day 2 was perfect, and if you rent the correct equipment it's very doable. If you don't know, the Narrows is a long, strenuous hike through a slot canyon filled with water. First off, if you're thinking about doing this hike, please watch the weather before attempting it. Flash floods can occur very quickly, and put you in a dangerous situation. If there is no rain in the forecast, you should be safe. Secondly, if you're hiking this in the winter, do yourself a HUGE favor and rent a dry suit before going. There are multiple places in Springdale (the town right outside of Zion) that have dry suits available for rent to hike the Narrows. I rented mine (shown in the photo above) from Zion Outfitter located literally right outside the entrance of the park in Springdale. I got the Dry Bib Package for $45 that comes with a dry suit, neoprene socks, canyoneering shoes, a walking stick, and a dry bag to keep things in so they don't get wet. Andrew on the other hand, got extremely lucky and found a fisherman wader outfit at a thrift store in Moab, and used that. If you're going in winter, I 100% recommend renting a dry bib suit. I wasn't cold at all, and the gear made the hike extremely fun. If you only do one hike in Zion I would highly recommend this one. Just please do your research on weather and equip yourself properly before you go!
Believe it or not, after we hiked the Narrows, we did another hike with Andrew's mom, Alice, that same day. We go hard ya'll. We wanted something semi easy so Alice could do it, but something that provided KILLER views. So we chose the Canyon Overlook Trail.
- Canyon Overlook Trail - Moderate - 1 mile roundtrip - This hike is on the east side of the park, and it's a pretty easy trail that has an incredibly rewarding view when you get to the lookout. There are some steep parts, but overall, a very doable hike! After hiking the Narrows, which offers very specific slot canyon views, seeing the view at the end of this hike was super rewarding. It's exactly what I was expecting from what I had heard about "Zion Views." It's incredible. The photos below are from the viewpoint on this hike.
It rained a ton on Day 3 for us, so we did as much hiking as we were able, which turned into 2 small hikes.
- Weeping Rock Trail - Easy - 0.4 miles roundtrip - This is a super easy, short hike. I probably wouldn't go back, but that's just because I'm more of an intense hike kind of girl. Weeping rock is a little mini waterfall that flows over some rocks. You can walk behind the water and watch the droplets come down. If you want something short and sweet, this hike is for you!
- Upper Emerald Pools - Moderate - 3.2 miles roundtrip from Kayenta and ending at Zion Lodge - This hike offers a bunch of views of some incredible waterfalls. However, since we went when it was raining, it enhanced the waterfalls a lot. Good for waterfall views, bad for actually getting up to the Upper Emerald Pool. So unfortunately we were only able to go to the Middle Emerald Pool. Regardless, this hike is really fun, and easy!
Remember when I say we go hard? Well, this was our last day in Zion, and we were pretty hell bent on hiking one of the most iconic hikes in the entire National Park system: Angels Landing. The only kicker was that it had snowed and iced pretty heavily the night before. So in all honestly this probably wasn't the smartest decision, but we really wanted to make the most out of our trip. So on our last day in Zion... we hiked Angels Landing to the very top in the ice and snow. I 100% recommend hiking Angels Landing if you visit Zion; however, I can't in good conscious recommend doing it the way we did. It was pretty dangerous; and though I do not regret it at all, it was pretty terrifying.
- Angels Landing - Difficult - 5.4 miles roundtrip - There's a reason this is one of the best hikes in the country. It's insanely beautiful the entire way up. Alice went with us up until we got to Scout's Lookout. For most people afraid of heights, that is a great place to stop. However, for the adventure seekers, the remainder of the hike up to the very top of Angel’s Landing is another 0.7 miles on a finn rock with huge drop offs on both sides. The trail is roughly 4.5-5 feet wide with plenty of chains, guard-rails, and carved steps to help you hike. Angel's Landing is probably pretty nerve-wracking in perfect weather, but when there is ice and snow on the ground, you better believe I was holding those chains for dear life. If you think we are crazy, we probably are. However, we weren't the only crazy people going up to the top that day. We at least had enough sense to wear chains on our feet to help grip the ice and snow. Enjoy some photos below of my petrified self trying to make it to the top...
Nervously laughing to calm my fears... probably. ;)
Ultimately, I'm glad we hiked it. Because once we got to the top, we were met with this view (below). We even made a few friends at the top. However, if you hike Angel's Landing, please do it in better weather. Save yo'self the stress.
That, my friends, ends my winter Utah road trip blog series! I hope reading about our travels encouraged you to get out and visit some of Utah's amazing National Parks yourself! Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Zion have some incredible sights unlike no other. I cannot recommend these three parks enough!
If you have any questions about any of the hikes we did in Zion, or any of those three parks, feel free to leave me a comment below and I'll answer them!! Happy traveling!
Lindsey Roman is an adventurous, destination wedding and elopement photographer based out of Oahu, Hawaii and available worldwide. She lives for outdoor adventures, intimate moments, and candid images. Her style is raw, passionate, and authentic. She believes in chasing sunsets, laughing too hard, and most importantly: capturing genuine moments that evoke feeling over perfectly posed photographs.