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Published: August 14th 2014
We left Bryce NP and we were going to travel direct to Zion NP but a few miles down the road we stopped at Red Canyon
located in the heart of the Dixie National Forest.
There are so many different scenic places to stop and this looked like a good one so we booked into a ‘walk in’ campsite and chose a nice spot. The campsite ‘host’ was a chap who lived in his own van with his little dog on site and he was friendly and even insisted on cleaning out our fire pit and barbecue straight away. Red Canyon
Red Canyon is located in an extremely picturesque valley with brilliant red soil contrasted beautifully with the dark green pines. As you enter the area through a tunnel carved through the rocks spectacular red sandstone spires and formations appear around every corner.
We settled in and set off, crossing the road from our campsite and stopped at a small Visitors Centre and read some of the informative dialog about the plants and animal in the canyon. We picked up various leaflets and the Park Ranger
was very informative giving us some useful suggestions for our day in the canyon. Following his advise we decided on several shorter hikes linking these together where they crossed over each other to make a much longer hike. The trails we chose had names like, Hoodoo, Birdseye, Gold Wall
and Pink Ledges
. All were delightful trails, some looping around the edge of red cliffs where you had to stay quite balanced as you hiked as there was quite a lot of loose scree, whilst others crossed open scrublands which was much easier to traverse. We liked a trail called the Photographers Trail
- a longer path across a short side valley before edging along some high slopes which passed various named formations, like the serpent and the camel .... as we tried to make out which one was the serpent you had to keep balanced on the path.............not sure whether we selected the right one..........We found that some better scenery was easily reached by climbing up from the official path, since the views were more wide ranging, and the formations seemed even more impressive when seen from above. We were so glad we decided to stay in Red Canyon and
do some hiking as it was so peaceful and quiet in fact we only met one other couple whilst on all the trails.
We were so glad we decided to stay here and do some hiking as it was so peaceful and quiet in fact we only met one other couple whilst on all the trails - so much less touristy than its neighbour Bryce.
We left Red Canyon
and headed to Zion National Park
following a large river for a while which twisted and meandered across the countryside. It led me to think why does a river not just go in a straight line which it probably would do if the surface was even. Getting into a ‘deep debate' with Paul as we drove along he said that basically the course of the earth is not all flat, the soil has different densities, it can be rocky and obstructions ranging from boulders to bedrock as well as buried trees and roots are everywhere - hence the river finds its quickest course as it did here and did not just go straight alongside the
road we were travelling on. It was only a short journey to Zion NP and we were soon entering the park through its Eastern Gate. Zion National Park
The change in temperature was really noticeable from one national park to the other, Bryce had been warm but Zion was hot - mid 40s hot…….. which we noticed on our first stop at Checkerboard Mesa.
This huge colourful criss crossed mountain towered 900 feet above the highway and looked like a giant checkerboard, hence its name. The unusual erosion pattern is caused by the slowly changing pressure as each layer is buried and exhumed. The horizontal lines are caused by north to south wind directions whilst the vertical stripes are a result of weathering, a cycle of freezing and thawing. Change continues on these massive monoliths and one day all that will be left will be a great pile of sand but I think this is going to take quite a few more years………
We continued our route passing other smaller mesas with some stunning outlooks as the gorge became narrower and closed in around us until the road ran
out of space and we entered a long tunnel carved though the mountain.
The Zion – Mount Carmel Highway
was proposed by the Utah Parks Company as a means to link Zion with other attractions in Arizona. There were several small tunnels cut into the mountains before we hit the big one. This 5613 foot long tunnel
dug through the mountain had large internal open galleries to provide light and ventilation through the canyon wall to the outside air and we had glimpses of the rock faces outside as we passed by. The tunnel's restricted narrow dimensions require that vehicles over 11.33 feet in height or 7.83 feet in width give advance notice so that two-way traffic can be shut down in the tunnel, allowing oversize vehicles to proceed down the middle of the tunnel and any vehicle over 13 feet cannot use the tunnel, bicycles and pedestrians are also prohibited in the tunnel.
We followed directly behind a large RV so there was no vehicles coming the other way which simplified our journey through. On emerging back into the daylight we travelled downhill rapidly following numerous switchbacks with sweeping
views descending to the canyon floor way below us with massive mountains all around us. We continuing on to a small town called Springdale
(just outside the park) where we had booked a couple of nights at the the Riverside Campground.
It was not full as the campsites in the park were and we were able to choose our own site right next to a fast flowing river with boulders and sandy sides. The river was a great ‘tubing’ spot and we often saw people floating down the river below our campsite.
The next morning we caught the free shuttle bus
into the park. Private cars are not allowed in unless the occupants are booked into Zion Lodge - the only accommodation inside the park. It was great using the free shuttle as it gave excellent commentary about the park as well as various hikes. You could hop off at any of the trailheads do the hike and then hop back on again when you were tired or needed to move on.
Zion is Utah's oldest national park renowned for its incredible canyons and spectacular views but was so different to its
neighbour Bryce NP. Instead of hoodoos massive columns of vertical sandstone rock, formed millions of years ago jutted out of the earth. Early pioneers gave biblical names to many of the parks great monoliths. Names like Angels Landing, Great White Throne, Three Patriarchs, Cathedral Mountain, West & East Temples, Altar of Sacrifice and the Temple of Sinawava are all reminders of Zion's early beginnings. In 1918 the existing name of Mukuntuweap National Monument was changed to Zion National Monument and a year later was declared a National Park.
We decided to hike the ‘Narrows
’ which began at the Temple of Sinawava
, then continued along a paved pathway following the river to the beginning of the area where the canyon walls narrow and the path ends and the river takes over. This was the start of the trailhead and the route went on for 16 miles most of the time wading through the river and rapids. So once here your only option, if you wanted to do the walk was to wade into the cold water between the canyon walls.
Oh my goodness what a walk this was as we traversed
as far as our legs would take us - it is not easy walking through a river with huge boulders and lots of loose pebbles under your feet. Lucky I had my hiking stick and at times we just grabbed onto the canyon walls themselves to get a steadier hold. In some parts the water was knee-deep but there was always the chance you would step into a pool that was waste-deep or deeper and about 60%!o(MISSING)f the hike you were wading through the river. In parts it was really fast flowing over huge boulders and then it would even out on to a flat sandy bottom before you had to start wading through the boulders again.
On the lower canyon walls which we used to brace oneself we saw huge clumps of Maidenhair Fern
growing out of the rocks themselves - Franny (my sister) you would have loved a few clumps of this delicate fern which I remember you used to like for your flower arranging.
As you have probably guessed we did not complete all of the 16 miles it was far too difficult walking in the water but
we thoroughly enjoyed the couple of miles that we did before we had to hike back. On our return to dry land our boots, socks and shorts were soaked so we stopped and wrung out our socks and put them back on to walk the mile back to the shuttle bus our boots squelching as we took each tiresome step.
On the way we saw a few birds, a Pronghorn Antelope
and also a little Bat
which was tucked under a wooden fence post - obviously did not make it home that day.
At our campsite we would just sit in the river to keep cool as the temperatures rose to 42 degrees most days. Our small drawer fridge’s battery decided it could not cope any longer with the heat and gave up the ghost…….. A British couple from Gloucester who were next to us put my wine in their freezer but we had to throw everything else away - glad the wine was OK! The couple currently lived in Cyprus and had bought a new campervan in Los Angles which they were going to store in the US and use for
visits around the USA.
We hiked a few walks at Zion including the Emerald Pool Trails,
which was OK but the water was low so not that stunning when you got to the top of the climb. All the hikes here began uphill where as hikes in Bryce all started downhill - we decided it was much better getting the uphill hike over first when you were less tired … … … or maybe not. We did not attempt the Angels Landing
hike though as the end of this was along a steep drop off with chains to hold on to … … …
We met up with Rebecca & Nicole
again in Zion, who we had met at Bryce a few days before. We spent a pleasant evening chatting with them again - a lovely couple - we wish them a pleasant onward journey and many more adventures together in their beloved country.
On our last day I was walking up the river to keep cool when a sudden noise made me turn towards the bank where a Grey Fox
a Mule Deer
- the deer scampered across the river bed then swiftly climbed the cliff face outwitting the fox which I was quite thankful of, the first time I had actually seen a hunt right in front of my eyes.
That night we had supper in a restaurant opposite the campsite as we had to throw all our supplies away. The meal was very good and they served some excellent Californian Sauvignon Blanc, I think it was called Leaping Frog - but the food and wine were very expensive so we are hopeful that our fridge starts working again soon before we become paupers! The next morning we would leave the park behind and head for the Californian Coast
on our journey back to San Francisco - see you there.
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