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This week, I’m bringing you a little travel to Zion National Park! Lately, we haven’t had much of a chance to switch gears and go into “vacation” mode, so this was a welcome trip! My family had a small family reunion in Las Vegas, after which M. Cheesemonger and I skipped on over to Utah, stopping at the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada along the way. Here’s the break down!
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
At only an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, M. Cheesemonger and I were eager to explore the landscape. I haven’t been to Las Vegas since I was an adolescent, and never got to explore the area beyond the glittering Strip. It was an infernal 110°F (about 43°C) and around high noon when we arrived at the Valley of Fire State Park, so we didn’t linger long outdoors. The array of colors and unusual rock formations we did see was still stunning! There was even petrified wood and stones covered in petroglyphs. This is Nevada’s largest and oldest state park, and is well worth a visit, especially if you are looking for a change of pace from the gambling tables. We explored for about two hours before moving on to Hurricane, Utah, home base for our Zion excursion.
Zion National Park, Utah
M. Cheesemonger and I were pleasantly surprised to learn it was cooler in Zion National Park than Las Vegas! We stayed at this charming Hurricane, Utah, Airbnb, a historic site only about a 20 minute drive from the park.
Our first day in the park, we went directly to the Narrows, the park’s most popular hike (pro tip: bring a walking stick). We arrived in time to park and catch a park shuttle before 7am, which I would highly recommend if you want to avoid crowds. I didn’t bring my camera because the water can get shoulder-deep, and I didn’t want to drop it. Without the camera, I was free to just experience the trail. Ochre and tawny walls of stone rose up on either side of us as we stepped along the rounded stones of the Virgin River. Tiny, discarded dragonfly carapaces lined the rocks along either side, and as we moved deeper into the gorge, we saw natural hanging gardens along the stone, and small mossy waterfalls. We were in the water for about 5 hours, but you can make it an all-day hike.
On our second day in Zion, we made sure be in the park by 7am again. Neither of us are very big fans of scrambling at great heights, so we skipped Angels Landing to visit other corners of the park: the gorgeous Emerald Pools trail where we could watch a host of sparrows zooming around the rock face; the Court of the Patriarchs—not a trail, really, but just a view of three tall peaks named for patriarchs in the Bible; the Pa’rus Trail—a stroll through the park that showed off Zion’s towering rock formations, Weeping Rock—an alcove where water can escape the rock and nourish the hanging gardens. We were out of the park by noon.
Escaping the midday sun, we returned a few hours before sunset, this time to the Kolob Canyon area up north. There were no crowds, which was a welcome change from the main park area. We went on the Taylor Creek Trail, a 5-mile hike that took us along the creek bed, past two 1930s-era cabins, and along the base of 1,700 foot rock walls to terminate at the glorious Double Arch Alcove. By the time we doubled back, it was early evening, and I was careful to avoid the hunting spiders along the creek bed. Luckily, we saw far more swallowtail butterflies than spiders. We beat the sunset to capture some of my favorite shots of Kolob Canyon.
We missed many trails, given our short park visit—we’ll just have to return one day!
Where We Ate
The food we found around Zion was uncomplicated and delicious. Here’s where we found our vittles:
Lotus of Siam: OK, this is in Las Vegas, but there’s a chance you’ll have to come to Zion through Vegas if you’re flying in! Just go here, and order the khao soi with duck and the garlic prawns. You will not regret a thing! 953 E Sahara Ave A5, Nevada, NV 89104
Main Street Café: We stopped in for salads and sandwiches, but you can get breakfast, burgers, and entrees. They have a spacious yard space and outdoor seating. 138 Main St, Hurricane, UT 84737
Muddy Bees Bakery: They certainly have plenty of fluffy breads and sweets to offer, as well as local honey for sale. I bought one of their loaves of tomato basil bread, and we got to taste a bit of the Kolob Canyon trail mix before losing 90% of it to a car turn spill (Alas, it happens to the best of us.). Bonus: they open at 6am! 525 State St #7, Hurricane, UT 84737
Whiptail Grill: Their spaghetti squash enchiladas after a morning of hiking was just what I needed, and M. Cheesemonger loved his burrito. We went at 3pm, so there was no wait, but I have heard it can be long. 445 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT 84767
Oscar’s Café: I liked my spicy chicken sandwich with roasted jalapeño peppers, but I should have ordered a burger. M. Cheesemonger’s avocado chip burger topped with corn chips was gorgeous. Plus, a network of misting tubes keeps you cool on the outdoor patio. 948 Zion – Mount Carmel Hwy, Springdale, UT 84767
If you’re planning your Zion National Park trip, remember to hydrate well and have fun!
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