Last week we were lucky enough to be in Zion National Park for two days! (Read about our first day of adventures here.) Our first day included a 20 mile run that was great, but took up a large portion of the day. Elevation, heat, and lots of photo-taking were all contributors to our slowness. I have absolutely no regrets about our run, however, it didn’t really allow us time to explore any of the other smaller trails or more “tourist-y” spots in the park.
Since we only had one more day, we decided to divide and conquer in the morning, and meet up later for other hiking. Admittedly, I may have “broken the boy” with that 20 mile run, so ever the man of moderation, Adam opted for a more relaxed second day. He decided to explore the Riverside Walk, Weeping Rock, and Hidden Canyon while I ran on the West Rim Trail for a rough total of 12 miles. We chose a time to meet back at the Visitor Center, and off I went on my solo run!
The West Rim Trail begins at the Grottos Trailhead, and is the way up to Angel’s Landing. I didn’t go up to Angel’s Landing because of my time constraint, and because we already got a great view of the canyon from Observation Point the day before. However, because of the popularity of Angel’s Landing, the trail was busier than I would have expected at 8:20am. I wasn’t able to run much of it because of the inherent steepness, but I pushed hard when I could. I got some remarks of, “You go girl!” and “Get after it!” Always nice to have encouragement on the way! This section of the trail is basically two main sections of switchbacks that go up, and up, and UP.
After less than 40 minutes, I was at Scout Lookout where the Angel’s Landing trail continues on a very narrow fin of rock and the West Rim Trail splits off in the opposite direction. One group inadvertently followed me (they turned around after asking how to get to Angel’s Landing), but beyond that, no one was headed the my way. Later I encountered a few backpackers on the way back out, and a trio of trailrunners (possibly doing the full Zion Traverse?) I was looking forward to recapturing some of the solitude we had experienced the day before. Just me and nature, you know?
At this point, the trail still wasn’t terribly runnable, but I enjoyed the super blue sky and early morning light on the unique rock formations.
Here the trail became slightly more runnable in sections as I went back down into a canyon. It also was roughly paved, not unlike the Observation Point trail from the day before. I looked this up later and it turns out that the trails are “paved” to prevent erosion. Kudos to those folks for the effort! (More information on how this was done can be found in this FAQ.) The views at this point were fantastic. It was very quiet, but the beauty of the canyon walls and rock formations was simply stunning.
The weather was sunny and in the 70s, yet look what I found in the shade…snow! And, sadly, no human targets for snowballs in the immediate vicinity (it does look odd to throw one at your own face, I suppose.)
After a few switchbacks in the shadow of the canyon, I realized that I was headed up onto the very beautiful canyon wall I had noted earlier. In all honesty, the trail really wasn’t too narrow, but with a sheer dropoff on one side, it FELT narrow. (Yes, I do feel a bit wobbly with heights.) I may have started cheering myself on at this point: “You can do this. Just focus on the trail, and don’t look down. Just look at the trail.”
After a few more of these hair-raising switchbacks, I finally made it to the flatter, runnable part! I was very excited about this, and was bummed that I would have to turn around soon. As the time ticked down to my self-chosen turnaround spot, I came upon another fantastic view. There was nobody here but me and the view. LOVE IT.
After a snack and reapplication of sunscreen, I got to enjoy running down all of those inclines I worked so hard getting up. I still stopped now and then to snap a photo of some of the lovely flora amongst all the rock.
Once past Angel’s Landing, it was an absolute zoo of people. I already missed the solitude I found earlier on the trail! I hustled to the shuttle, and got swept up in the wave of tourist-y humanity heading back to the Visitor Center.
I met Adam in the Visitor Center parking lot, and we shared lunch and quick synopses of our adventures. Now that we had planned on this time to hike together, what should we do?? The Narrows weren’t an option as it was closed, so we settled on starting with the Canyon Overlook Trail. It was a short trail outside of the main canyon, but gave some great views with fewer crowds. It’s just east of the mile-long tunnel, and basically above the Great Arch. It was an interesting little trail, and one I’d definitely recommend.
After that, we learned from a ranger that you can hike off-trail, if you’re comfortable with it. It was an interesting option for us as there weren’t any more established trails nearby. Adam became intrigued by an area down a ravine from the parking lot. I wasn’t too keen on the steepness of this non-trail, and it didn’t look that interesting to me, so I opted to stay in the car while he took 10 minutes to explore. After a few minutes he was back. “You’ve got to see this.” I thought he was joking, but he showed me photos of a little slot canyon that piqued my curiosity. So down we went! (I later learned this place is called Pine Creek Slot Canyon.)
There were all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies that were fun to photograph (while ignoring the traffic noise from directly above, lol.) We didn’t get too far because after wading through the first pool, we came to an area where it became clear you’d need climbing gear to go further due to the belay points in the rock. (Okay, I had to wade through the first pool, but Adam’s long legs served him well and he stayed dry.)
After this, our day was complete, and we drove back to Kanab full of sunshine and gratitude for our adventures.
Our second and final day in Zion National Park was FANTASTIC. Overall, we had an absolutely wonderful runcation, and this just reminded me how much I enjoy the unique beauty of the national parks in southern Utah. There’s so much more I want to explore there! It is definitely on our to-do list for the future. So, if you have the opportunity, go there and run! (Or hike, whatever is your jam.) Enjoy it!