Visiting Zion National Park
If you come along the main south entrance to Zion national park, you’ll start to get lots of amazing views about 30 minutes out. This one above is on the main road near Zion lodge, which is where I spent the entire weekend. I had visited Zion in mid November when most of the trees were still green, but some were nice shades of yellow like these below.
There’s only a single place to eat in Zion, so unless you’re bringing your own food you’ll likely visit the town of Springdale a few times. Springdale is a small town but has several good cafes and restaurants to choose from and some interesting places to visit. I never quite found out the purpose of this place above because it was closed, but they definitely had some weird attractions here. The main building which isn’t pictured above is a large fort and on the sides you have these silly remake of a wild west town. Then in the middle of all that were a few crazy llamas.
This rock and gem store was open. There are countless things you can buy here, from small trinkets and polished stones to giant gems that weigh more than 50lbs!
Here are some of my favorite stones they had for sale. I didn’t buy any since I usually don’t pick up souvenirs, and these guys would be especially hard to put back in an airplane. I loved the different colors in the gems below, and the deep blue in the gems above speaks for itself.
Zion seems to have more mule deer than any place I’ve ever visited. When you’re close to the Zion Lodge or park entrance, you seriously can’t drive more than five minutes without coming across half a dozen of these guys. Most of them aren’t shy either, and you can get relatively close to them for photography purposes without them taking off. I’ve seen mule deer my entire life, but the name never caught on to me until this trip. I was looking at them and thinking how their fur looked like that of a donkey, and then the obvious hit me why they are called mule deer.
Other wildlife I saw in Zion was a ring tailed cat, which I almost ran over at night. It looked like a cat with a raccoon tail and ran off before I could get a photo of it. I took this shot above in nearly total darkness. I thought it was another ring tailed cat, but ended up being a red fox! Bears and mountain lions are other mammals that live here, but not as common.
One of the most popular trails in the park is the West Trim trail which goes for miles along the Virgin River. Along the West Rim trail you’ll find lots of other trails that branch off to different scenic areas of the park. This photo was taken further north in the park, but the first trail I started on was a short section to Emerald Pools.
I’ve seen some amazing colorful photos of Emerald Pools before i began the hike, but to be honest they seemed to be lacking any significant color when I visited. They were normal enough that I somehow left without taking any photos of them at all :/! What I enjoyed most along the way was the small waterfalls along the trails. Most of the water is consistent enough to provide a home for moss and ferns that otherwise wouldn’t survive out here.
Above and below are some shots of the rim that lines the main pool. You can kind of see the pool at the bottom of the top photo and see it’s not too impressive. The best part about hiking this area was passing underneath the waterfall below!
Zion is known for it’s desert scenery, and not so much its forests. At the right time of year though, you can get some brilliant fall colors against the desert canyons which makes it one of the most beautiful times of the year to visit. Some of these colors will still changing, but I’d estimate a week or two after my trip everything would be in peak foliage.
At the final pool which was the largest, the giant wall above it got all my attention. Zion would seem to be a rock climbers dream but I don’t hear much about climbing in the area.
This photo was taken just a mile or two north of the Emerald Pools area but still along the West Rim trail. One of the most popular and famous hikes in Zion is to the top of Angel’s Landing. The top of the first full mountain you can see on the left is actually Angel’s Landing, so there is quite a bit of steep terrain and lots of elevation to gain!
The hike to Angel’s Landing is along the West Rim trail for the majority of the time. It’s a bit steep but nothing too significant. When you first begin you can see some hikers in the distance passing through a sort of open tunnel.
After you reach the point in the previous photo, the trail will turn left and level out for a bit. This was one of my favorite parts of the hike, because it was nice and shaded.
The narrowness of the trail helped funnel some nice breezes in these area, which was actually welcomed. Even though it was already November, the sun was strong and I found myself sweating and enjoyed being cooled off. Some of the walls of the canyons here also had some interesting shapes.
The trail will soon after split off the West Rim and then go directly up to Angel’s Landing. This is one of the most famous trails in the national park system because of how dramatic it looks. From a distance, it looks pretty intimidating but in reality it’s more like the bottom photo when you’re actually hiking it. The trail is extremely wide with few exposed areas, and a nice strong chain along any parts some people might be concerned. It’s not to say it isn’t dangerous as some people have actually lost their lives here, but if you consider hundreds of people doing this every single day, you can imagine it takes a near freak accident for something bad to happen.
At the top of Angel’s Landing you’ll find two things. Some of the most amazing views in all of Zion, and a ton of chipmunks! As most people stop here to enjoy the scenery and have a snack, they’ve encouraged a number of chipmunks to take home here and eat the left overs. These guys aren’t shy and have no problem walking a few inches away from you as you sit down and enjoy the scenery.
Two more shots from the top of Angel’s Landing.
And it goes with out saying, Zion is a high altitude desert with many clear nights, where the views of the stars are to die for. I took these two photos above and below with a tripod one evening. I had a star app on my phone that would point out constellations, but because there were so many stars it was impossible for me to recognize them! The only thing that was obvious was the milky way photographed below, probably one of the clearest views I’ve ever seen of it.
Despite all the hikes I did, my favorite places in Zion were actually along the main road right when you enter the park! These last two photos show the Virgin River cutting through some scenic parts of the park. We had visited at great time of year in early November. The weather was reasonably warm during the day, the park wasn’t crowded, and the trees were starting to break out their fall colors.