Stunning Beauty at Zion National Park

Although the sun hadn’t risen yet, it was no longer pitch dark in the tent. As I breathed in the crisp cold air, I was reminded of the inclement weather the day before.  With each exhale, I could see my breath.  Yeah, it was cold.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Yesterday was a mixed bag of interesting weather at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.

I glanced over to my left.  Ashton was totally cocooned in her sleeping bag and still sound asleep. How we managed to fall asleep with the tent whipping about in the severe wind while being pelted with sleet and snow remains a mystery to me.  But we slept great.

Tenting in snowI quietly grabbed my toiletry bag, a towel, change of clothes, and quickly walked down the road to the restroom.

The moment I stepped into the building I breathed a sigh of relief …. heat, glorious heat …. a reprieve from the below freezing temperature. The restroom was heated and offered warm water.  Aaaaahhhhh!

I slowly got ready for the day, and when I returned to the tent Ashton was awake. Now it was her turn to get ready, and while she did that, I headed back over to the dunes with the camera.

Coral Pink Sand dunes

“Come on mom. We gotta get going!”

I could’ve spent hours with the camera exploring the sand dunes, but we both knew we needed to hurry and get to Zion National Park as soon as possible.  We didn’t have a campsite reservation and were keeping our fingers crossed that we’d be able to snag a first come, first serve campsite at the South Campground.  It was imperative we join the line as soon as we could.  The earlier, the better!

Zion National Park

We entered Zion National Park via the east entrance

Zion National Park

Waiting patiently for a campsite at the first come, first serve South Campground. We waited in line for over 2 hours, which wasn’t bad from what we hear 😲

We arrived at the South Campground in Zion National Park about 8:30 a.m. to a long line of cars and small RV’s all waiting for a campsite.  Yeah, we realized we were already late to the game. It wasn’t looking good for us. Check out time was 11:00 which meant it’d be just a matter of time before we’d find out if we were one of the lucky ones to get a site.  As soon as a campsite was vacated, the camp hosts quickly assigned the site to the next camper in line. It was sheer craziness!

Right about 11:00, we were given a site. Yippee! Our new friends in the small Class C motorhome behind us also managed to get a site.  We were some of the last ones to snag sites and felt incredibly lucky.

South Campground Zion National Park

Our campsite in Zion National Park

Ashton and I quickly set up camp and started fixing lunch. Remember, we’d been planning this trip for several weeks which also included meal planning and prepping. No going out to eat for these gals!Coleman Camp StoveGrilled chicken

With tummies full, we were ready to explore Zion National Park. From our campsite, we walked over to the visitor center and caught the shuttle. The shuttle system here is awesome, and at this time of the year, it’s the only option to enter the national park.

We stayed on the shuttle until it reached the end of the line at the end of the canyon; Temple of Sinawava stop. The half hour drive allowed us to get an overview of the national park so we could prioritize what we wanted to explore.

Shuttle in Zion National Park

Ashton admiring the views from the comfort of the shuttle. Great shuttle system in Zion National Park.

The end of the canyon or rather stop #9 Temple of Sinawava is the gateway to the famous Narrows hiking trail, which isn’t a trail per se as much as it is a hike through water.  The ‘trail’ was actually closed during our visit due to high fast waters from snow melt. It wasn’t a hike of Riverside Walk Zion National Parkinterest to Ashton and me anyway, but we did have a curiosity and therefore decided to hike the Riverside Walk trail which leads to the beginning of The Narrows.

The paved Riverside Walk is rated as easy and according to the park info is 2.2 miles round trip (3.5 km) and should take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.

This is a great hike for anyone including families with small children, elderly, and most of the trail is handicap accessible.

We were pleasantly surprised as to how much we enjoyed this hike. It was the perfect first trail easing us into the stunning beauty of Zion … not that we needed any easing!

The Narrows Zion National Park

Ashton views the start of The Narrows trail – yes the trail is THROUGH the water!

hanging garden Zion National Park

Ashton photographing the hanging garden.

We were fascinated by the ‘hanging gardens’ … a sight we’ve never seen or even heard of before. Water seeping out of the rock sandstone creates a wonderfully lush garden filled with ferns, wildflowers, and mosses. Water was slowly cascading in small streams, sometimes dribbles, and occasionally it looked like miniature waterfalls … all on the the side of a huge rock wall.

hanging garden Zion National Park

Ashton admiring the hanging garden – Zion National Park – Riverside Walk

hanging garden Zion National Park

Unbeknownst to us, Zion National Park is famous for these weeping walls and hanging gardens. Unfortunately, our photographic images did not capture the dripping water. Suffice it to say, we found the steady streams of water and lush vegetation intriguing and beautiful. It captivated our attention and kept our cameras working. No wonder they say the hike can take one to two hours.

Riverside Walk Zion

The Riverside Walk offered plenty of entertainment and stimulation

After admiring the hanging garden and trying our best to capture its essence, it was time to stroll over to the bank of the Virgin River.  All that looking up was putting a crimp in our necks 😄

Virgin River Zion

Ashton photographing me, photographing her along the Virgin River

As we meandered back to the shuttle stop, we couldn’t help stopping several more times just to take in our surroundings. We were in awe! We were hiking in a gorge with Navajo sandstone rock rising skyward. On one side of the trail we were kept amused by the weeping, vegetated rock and on the other side we were admiring the rushing Virgin River.Zion National Park

Our senses were on overload and this was just the beginning. Time to stop at the Zion Lodge for a cup of coffee and then we’re off to hike the Emerald Pools…..

Coleman Camp Propane Grill/Stove

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60 thoughts on “Stunning Beauty at Zion National Park

  1. Pingback: A Popular Trail in Zion | Live Laugh RV

  2. First, I’m so glad you woke up to a warm, sunny morning. Second, wow… that is a long wait for a camping spot you don’t know you will get! That would take the fun out of it for us, but I assume you cannot reserve sites in Zion? Happy you snatched a spot and could rest assured to have a place to sleep in this amazing park. Third: I have never been to this National Park and it is high on the list! It truly looks like a fun and exciting destination to do with your daughter! Looking forward to seeing and reading about the next hike!

    • The first come, first serve campground was crazy. I did try to get a res at the other campground but it was already booked. Thus, I knew we’d run into a problem. As my daughter and I were reviewing photos over the weekend, we both acknowledged we can’t wait to go back to Zion. There’s so much more we want to explore. You must go!

  3. What an amazing mother daughter trip. I know you are enjoying it greatly. I would never thought one would have to wait 2 and a half hours to see if you would get a site at the first come first serve. We haven’t been to Zion yet but it is on our bucket list. Thanks for the pics and the share.

    • It shocked me about the campground. The camp host told me campers started lining up at two in the morning. Crazy! We had such a fabulous trip that we can’t wait to do it all over again 😊

  4. Happy to see that you had a nice time with your daughter. Words cannot describe Zion NP. So thank goodness for photography. I haven’t seen anyone resisting taking photos of the amazing beauty of the place. It’s easy to see why. I can’t wait to go back.

    • My daughter and I are already trying to figure out a time when we can return. Next time, I’d like to focus on photography. This trip was all about girl time and enjoying our surroundings while taking lots of snap shots 🙂

  5. I love these “intro to an area” posts. It really helps with trip planning! I guess no permit is needed to hike the Narrows? I thought there was a canyon/water hike that needed a permit, but I wonder if I am confusing Zion and Yellowstone. Beautiful visit (and I *want* that delish-looking salad) — thank you for sharing!

    • No, there’s no permit to hike the narrows but they do close it off to hiking if the water is too high/ fast or a severe storm is approaching. The salad was super easy – Asian Slaw. Everything we needed was in the package. Just mix it up and good to go… yum!

  6. Definitely a beautiful place! Loved doing the Narrows back to the smaller off-shoots. Would be tough to bring a camera on it though. What a fun trip with your daughter.

    • I actually would be interested in hiking The Narrows but probably in August or September. We’ll see if I can schedule a trip back there. It was an amazingly fun trip with incredible scenery.

  7. Glad you made it to Zion. I was there in the summer heat back in ’14. That explains the aptly named title of my blog post about Zion “You just aint gonna pee!” LOL. (http://wp.me/p4exdl-6f)

    I managaged to hike up The Narrows where there were so many people it was like ants on a sugar cube. I also climbed up to Angel’s Landing. Quite a vew, vertigo, no extra charge! Hahah.

    • I just read your post and boy you pegged that right. We didn’t hike Angel’s Landing due to daughters fear of heights but did hike Observation Point which still caused her heart to race. We were actually looking down on Angel’s Landing. Hike took us 6 hours and even after drinking our 2 liter camelbak dry, still didn’t need to pee. Gorgeous country that I can’t wait to return to.

  8. I like your campsite – I think my last tent camping was in the late 70’s. The area looks very pretty and as always you get fine shots.

    • I’d love to return and focus predominantly on photography. This trip was all about the experience, bonding, and filled with lots of snap shots.

  9. So glad you were able to snag one of the campsites. You and your daughter are really seeing some amazing places. I just love Zion! It was my favorite of the Utah parks. Maybe because we camped beside the Virgin River in the Watchman Campground with a spectacular view of the Watchman. I loved the hanging gardens, too..Thanks for bringing back such good memories.

    • I tried repeatedly for a res at Watchman CG to no avail. It seems reservations need to be made the day the site opens. I can’t think that far down the road 😆 Such a stunning park that will require a return visit and hopefully in the not too distant future.

      • If I remember correctly I made the reservation several months in advance. We timed our trip around the reservation. When we left Zion we towed the fifth wheel through the tunnel. Cars on either side had to wait while we went right down the middle of the tunnel. That was quite an experience!

  10. Zion is one of our favorite national parks. Such beauty and so many hikes. We have been there several times in November when the crowds we minimal. Sounds like it is crazy this time of year!

    • I’ve thought about returning in November and I wouldn’t even mind a dusting of snow for photographic contrast. Gorgeous place. I can see why it’s one of your favorite parks. It’s at the top of my list!

  11. Gorgeous photos! Brings back memories; we have a photo right where you were by the entrance to the narrows…the year we went it was closed as well as there was too much water. Love your photos of the flower and hanging garden. Can’t wait to see the photos from Emerald Pools…

    • Beautiful place, isn’t it? The thought of hiking the Narrows never appealed to me, but after our visit, it would be something I’d consider …. perhaps in August when it’s hot 😉

      • Great idea! I think next time I will aim to go during hotter weather too. Something about the Narrows intrigues me…wherever I go I search for it. I think it’s imagining the forces of nature creating a secret tunnel over time…but it can be pretty dangerous of course too!

  12. Looks like a beautiful time. I can’t even believe it’s that busy there now. Use to be able to go whenever, and do whatever. The outdoors lures everyone I guess.

    • It seems like everywhere these days is insanely busy. Not sure there’s an ‘off season’ anymore. A little frustrating but glad we made it work. I’d like to go back and focus on photography. Stunning scenery.

  13. Love to see the perspective of a fellow traveler. We just did the Riverwalk two evenings ago. We loved it. The water is still too high to hike the Narrows, but like you, we hadn’t planned on doing this anyway. We’ve already done the Emerald Pools, both upper and lower. You will enjoy every hike in this beautiful park.

    • I have to say, that Riverside Walk was one of my favorites. Could be because it was our first. We enjoyed the Emerald Pools but found the upper to be a tad too crowded and I’m used to hiking popular trails. I’m enjoying your posts on the area.

    • It was an amazing trip. I was pretty proud of myself for tackling a “John and Pam” hike (Observation Point). Still working on those photos for an upcoming post 😉

  14. We’ve been to ZIon 6 or 7 times, and we feel that same awe each and every time we go.
    The Narrows is a fun hike in the fall when the water is low. Rent the overalls and boots and you will stay warm and dry. You would love photographing in that canyon!

    • I’ve already been talking to daughter about a September visit and possibly hiking The Narrows. That’s when I’ll use my waterproof camera 😉 I can see why you’ve returned so many times. I am hoping to do the same!

  15. Thanks, Ingrid, for taking me with you on that toer! Now I’m even more interested in going there than I was before. Oh my, so many items on the bucket list and so little time! 😉 😦
    Have a wonderful weekend,
    Pit

    • Yes, amazing how the more we travel, the longer the bucket list seems to get. I would highly recommend a visit to Zion and stay at the Zion Lodge…. take your bike. The trail along the river or even the road is perfect for riding.

  16. What a fun trip. I’ve never been to Zion, have heard about the popularity, and can see why. Your photos are beautiful, Ingrid. Your savvy plan for arriving early paid off, and what a wonderful adventure through this exquisite canyon. Thanks for taking us along.

    • Ah, with all the places you’ve traveled, you’ve never been to Zion? A must, especially since it’s not too terribly far from your home. I promise, it won’t disappoint 😊

  17. I love Zion. It’s so much more crowded than when I grew up and we’d just head up for a picnic at lunch and always find a spot. No lines back in the day. Still, it’s beautiful. I love all the colors of the rocks in Zion. I did the Narrows trail (from the top down) before I got married and it was a low water year so it was awesome. My husband’s done it many times, and several of those times he had to swim across the river to continue on because the water was up to their chests. Those weren’t his favorite years because it really tires you out. You captured the park so well. Can’t wait to see Emerald Pools pics.

    • Unfortunately with RV travel at an all time high, that means crowds everywhere especially in popular national parks. Even with all the other people, it was so worth seeing and exploring. I know I’ll want to go back for a longer stay and get in some more hiking trails. We barely touched the surface!

  18. What a fabulous mother daughter getaway. I was shivering on yoru behalf at the description of the morning chill. Brrr. The hanging gardens look amazing with the green against that beautiful orange red rock.

    • Any mother/daughter trip is special (as you well know) but add in some amazing scenery and fun adventure and it just can’t get much better. Well, maybe the weather could’ve been a tad warmer, but I still can’t complain about the overall experience. A very fun time!

    • Thanks. Camping trips are always a ton of fun and offer unique experiences that just can’t be had in a hotel. Daughter and I are ready to go again!

  19. Love Zion and all of the Utah National Parks! How nice to spend time with your daughter in such a fabulous place! I’ve been trying to get the hubby to tent camp with me with out much success! Not having amenities (electricity, etc.) brings a family closer together and connect. You have lots of time to talk, hike, play cards, etc. I brought my girls up camping in a tent and we hold some of the best memories! Enjoy your time with your daughter!

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