Zion, Bryce and Red Rock Canyons: A Southwest Sampler
*Zion Canyon, which we visited in March of 2013, is one of BecauseItzThere’s Best Places to hike in North America. We think it’s the best of the Southwestern US National Parks, excepting only Grand Canyon NP. Bryce Canyon and Red Rock Canyon aren’t chopped liver either.
**Zion Canyon contains a pair of shorter hikes that make up one of BecauseItzThere’s Bucketlist Adventures…The Narrows and Angels Landing. They are STILL on our to-do bucket. Which means…We’ll Be Back!!! Meanwhile…join us for our adventures in the Red Rock Country
One of my favorite places to hike is the American Southwest, also known as the Colorado Plateau…that amazing land of red sandstone rock and arid, twisted canyons. Since first visiting in 2001, I have returned as often as I could, doing volunteer service in Arches National Park, and then again in the Big Bend, and eventually hiking a full North-South Traverse of the Grand Canyon.
My first reaction at seeing the weird desert landscape was that it looked dead. But that’s an easterners reaction…we east-coasters expect living landscapes to be lush and green. The Southwest is every bit as alive and vibrant as any eastern forest. The first Europeans who visited compared it to the pastoral landscapes of home and had the same reaction…they dismissed it as a wasteland. But that’s far from true. It’s a strange, magical place of broad complex vistas and hidden little corners that has grown on me. I will return again and again to experience the fascination, for as long as I can.
In 2013, after considering and ruling out a number of vacation options, Sylvia and I finally decided to make a spring run at Zion Canyon National Park. We had limited time and budget for this trip; it became a sort of week-long Southwest Sampler, without any particular goal. We would fly into Las Vegas, travel by rented car to Zion and spend a few days hiking there, with one day slotted to visit nearby (as distances in the west go) Bryce Canyon. On the back swing we would stop in Vegas for a couple of nights, hike Red Rock Canyon, and engage in the typical Vegas happenings that typically, you know, stay in Vegas.
This is the second time we had done a Southwest trip…in March 2009 and then single Sylvia and I celebrated my Birthday (and I officially proposed to Sylvia) on the rim of the Grand Canyon. I remember it being cold and crowded plus I was getting over a long spate of sickness and a back injury; we didn’t do much hiking. I had also been to Zion by way of Vegas once before myself, en route to doing the Grand Canyon traverse in 2003. But I had only stopped for a short while, no real hiking.
Zion Canyon is famous for a pair of hikes that are on our Bucket List…The Narrows and Angels Landing. There was no particular itinerary to this trip other than to enjoy the magical southwest. We had ruled out the narrows this trip (for that early in the season you need to come prepared with a dry suit) but if I was open to an attempt at Angel’s Landing if the opportunity arose.
Zion Canyon is one of five National Parks in Utah, and by far the most heavily visited. This is mostly because it is about three hours north of Las Vegas…you actually have to drive through a corner of Arizona to reach it. One look at it and you’ll understand why it’s so popular.
Our flight to Vegas was somewhat problematic and getting hold of the rental car proved more so. We therefore got a late start, drove through the wilds of Utah and Arizona late into the night, and arrived in the tiny gateway town of Springdale after midnight…everything was closed, and we practically had to wake up the staff at our hotel to get into our room. This was one trip where I was gad we’d decided NOT to camp out.
A tough day getting there but…we were THERE, and now, to do some real canyon hiking.
Next…Day 1 Zion…A Canyon of Biblical Proportions