Ah, Zion. Land of the beginning, my first backpacking trip. Whenever I look back it just seems so perfect, almost no crowds, accessible trails, picturesque desert/canyon scenery. You seriously can not go wrong with this place, or at least that’s what I thought when I made it my first real stop.
On the way to Utah I drove by the Eastern Sierra which left me feeling a little weird. I drove almost the entire length of the mountains that took me a month to hike through in a handful of hours. What is this strange new life? It was amazing though, seeing a new perspective on it. And of course, it was still just incredibly beautiful. Then onward through Nevada where I felt was really the kind of ideal desert I craved, but it really wasn’t in my “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing” plans.
Pulling up to the gateway to Zion National Park was a bit of a shock. When I came here as a kid, there was like no one around at all. The town just outside of it didn’t really have much. Now it mirrors what Yosemite Valley is: Easy access tourist trap. You could drive through the park, pull off the road, get your instagram pictures, then move on with your life. No work for the rewards at all. It’s cool if that’s what people enjoy, but I hate it. Still, it’s absolutely beautiful either way.
Due to the crowds, the only camping available was on private land on the other side of the park. The campsites were somewhat difficult to get to, meaning it was totally vacant, meaning complete silence sans the sounds of sedans in their natural environment on the highway nearby. A trail nearby offered views of a modest slot canyon which was a nice chance to stretch the legs after being stuck in a car for so long.
I was dismayed by what’s happened to Zion and didn’t feel like sticking around for long, but had to check out The Narrows, a hike through a slot canyon with a river running through it. Can’t go wrong there! I put my phobia of crowds behind me for a while and went for it, and it was incredible. Walking through water the whole way was a great workout and a great way to stay cool in the desert heat, there’s even an obstacle course provided by all the dudebros with their selfie sticks. No but really, I loved it but eventually got a little anxious standing in a long line of people walking half the speed of a normal person and turned around to get back where I practically sprinted through the water. Maybe I’m not ready for crowds just yet.
Zion has a mandatory shuttle system during the summer to their most popular trails, and finding a parking spot is a bit of a nightmare to be near shuttle access. To further complicate things, the park doesn’t allow people to walk along the roads. It was an infuriating challenge just to get from one point to another in the area and I just resorted to saying “Fuck it” and walked along the road anyways, which I’m glad I did because it brought back old feelings of detours along the PCT and gave me a better chance to absorb the scenery around me. I love the national park service and they do what they can to keep things under control, but the infrastructure around Zion is pretty damn horrible in the height of the season, there’s just too many people going to the same places and it overloads all the services in the area.
In short, Zion is a beautiful mess much like Yosemite. The main attractions are a complete madhouse, but if you want a more solitary experience then you’re better off going to the northern area of the park. But the scenery in the main area still can’t be denied and are worth a day trip at least. Just not a backpacking experience. Though I couldn’t help but notice all the trails in the area are interconnected… Maybe a short thru-hike is in order some day.
The truck was packed up the following day with targets set on Goblin Valley, a much lesser known park in Utah that would hopefully be a bit more quiet.