A quick survey, upon your arrival to Zion National Park shows you just how grandiose the parks expanse truly is. Looking upon a list of the parks natural formations: West Temple, Tower of the Virgins, Temple of Sacrifice, Cathedral Mountain, etc. you begin to instantly associate this spectacular corner of Utah with something….otherworldly. Just as it is now, the 229 miles that encapsulate Zion, where the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and Mojave Desert meet, echo the struggles of the past, and the hope for a future.
Nearly 12,000 years ago, Zion welcomed its first peoples, trackers of mammoth, camel and giant sloth, who now are nearly invisible on the Native landscape. Eventual climate change and over hunting had caused these first witness’ of nature’s cathedral extinct. 2,600 years ago life in human form had returned to this confluence of nature; learning from the mistakes of their predicessors, these new peoples focused on a farming tradition known as Virgin Anasazi. These pioneer farmers, and Zion’s own geology, allowed them to to take advantage of the wide, “level places to grow food, a river to water it, and an adequate growing season.” Located on the Colorado Plateau the elevations of Zion, ranging from 3,666 to 8,726 made the conditions near perfect to begin an agricultural lifestyle.
Euro-American settlement of Southern Utah doesn’t begin until the late 1700s. As is typical with southwestern ladscapes, initial explorers were traders following the Old Spanish Trail. The first time the land was “officially” surveyed was in 1872 by John Wesley Powell as a part of western surveys that were put together by the U.S. Geological Survey. Eventually, the early pack trails that traders had blazed had become significant and well used roads that eventually connected the California coast to Santa Fe and other parts of New Mexico. The most notable of all western exploreres to have made their way through the valleys and canyons were the followers of Brigham Young and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1847. Followers were encouraged to mark out their own homesteads along the Virgin River and by the 1860s the area of the Zion Canyon was bustling with pioneers following their dreams West.
As the 20th century inched closer and closer, the people of the United States had begun yearning for ways to save these precious spaces and “the scenic qualities of southern Utah, and Zion Canyon in particular, had been recognized as a potential destination for tourism. In 1919 Zion National Park was offically signed into law; with the quality of infrastructure improving Zion has become one of the most user friendly parks in the system and one of the most easily accesible. Surrounding the quaint community that is Springdale, Utah, Zion is only 2.5 hours from Vegas, 4 hours from Salt Lake City and 9 hours from our shop door! If you are traveling through Colorado you can set yourself up for a once and a lifetime road trip through some of Colorado’s most beautiful and iconic spaces on your way to the crown jewel of Utah. Our Passenger Vans as well as SUV rentals give you 150 miles per day (free!) which is something that you are not likely to find at any other rental company….the good news for you is that if you are planning on being on the road for a week or more all your mileage would all be included within those free miles that we include in your rental! Are you planning on indulging in Canyoneering? Off Roading? Climbing? Or are you an expert level paddler? Then Zion National Park is definitely a place that you want on your list….skip the tent camping afterwards, you will want to reward your tired body with the relaxation and comfort of spending your trip in a pop up tent camper or in one of our travel trailers. A combination rental would be an ideal way to experience the amazing camping, sightseeing, canyoneering and adventure that you could ever want!
“Gotta See It”–These are a few of the best spots to snap a photo, our favorite hikes, the best drives to take and things that you just…gotta see! And remember, we at Adventure Camper Rentals would love to hear about your trip and see your photos posted to our Facebook page!
–The Narrows constituting the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, standing nearly a thousand feet tall and the river being only 20-30 feet wide this is by far the most popular area of the park. There is a paved river walk about a mile from the Temple of Sinawava as well as the opportunity to wade upstream in the Virgin River. There are two ways to hike the Narrows…from the Bottom Up, which does not require a permit, takes you through some of the most beautiful and spectacular parts of the canyon. You can hike all the way up to Big Spring if you are prepared for a 10-mile round trip, all day adventure. You can also start from the Top Down beginning at Chamberlain’s Ranch. You will need a permit to hike this route which is 16 miles downstream on a 1-2 day trip (depending on how motivated you are!) You will also need to set up transportation that takes you to Chamberlain’s Ranch in order to begin your journey. Keep in mind though, if you are wanting to hike through the narrows it will be a WET one! The majority of the hike you are wading through the Virgin River herself, make sure to pack waterproof shoes (Keens, Chacos, etc.) as well as quick drying fabrics (stay AWAY from cotton if you can!) You will always want to be aware of river conditions as the spring and summer tend to see flash floods in the areas. There is no trail to follow…just let the river be your guide!
–The Subway, one of the most iconic spots in Zion National Park, is a great way to experience the slot canyons that the park has to offer. Much like there Narrows there are two options for hiking this gem: From the Bottom Up and from the Top Down. If you are starting from the bottom up, be prepared for a strenuous 9-mile round trip hike that includes adventures from route navigation, creek crossings and a scramble here and there over some boulders. Your hike will begin and end at the Left Fork Trailhead. If you are doing it the opposite way (from the top down) then you are in for a strenuous 9.5 mile hike that will test your skills in terms of cold pool swimming, rappelling and backcountry navigation. These hikes are only recommended if you are an experienced hiker (and know survival skills). The National Park service reccommends only doing this trip with an experienced Subway hiker as well as a detailed route description.
–Angels Landing known throughout the park system as one of the “must see hikes” Angel’s landing runs along a narrow upcropping of rocks with spectacular views down the canyon walls below. After your roughly 5 mile trek you are rewarded with “the view”…the one that entices rock climbers to scale the large rock face, hikers with the help of a chained walkway and anyone who enjoys breathing in the beauty of the natural world. Being one of the most recognizeable landmarks in the Southwest, Angel’s Landing is far from dissapppinting to whoever takes on the challenge. Although the hike is strenuous and predominantly uphill, the trail itself is well maintained if you have the motivation to heave your self up it. Starting you off realitively slowly on a paved and maintained trail the first 2 miles will trick you into thinking that this hike will be a walk in the park…most of the trail is sunny (except when traveling through Refridgerator Canyon….weird the name doesn’t make it sound like it would be chilly right??) and then finishing off with a ½ mile trek up the narrow sandstone ridge.
A full list of Hiking Trails in Zion can be found here
There are two main campgrounds within the Zion boundaries: South and Watchman. Because of the park’s popularity, campgrounds are often full by noon on weekdays and early in the morning on weekends, so if you have a spot in mind, make sure that you hit the road early to claim a spot. If you are camping in either the South or Watchman lots, there is a free shuttle available from April-November that will bring you back and forth from the Park to Springdale. Another unique little gem about these sites? They allow pets! Pets are not only allowed in the campsites but are also allowed on the Pa’rus Trail. Keep in mind, check out time is 11am!
South Campground: Located near the south entrance (Springdale, UT) this campground is located in the desert portion of the park. While there are a few trees scattered throughout the campground itself, keep in mind that this will be desert camping. While there isn’t much repose from the heat, there are a few (but very popular!) spots located along the Virgin River. There are 127 campsites which are first-come, first served. This is a hookup free campsite, so make sure to bring PLENTY of water. Our pop-ups can easily find a spot to call home in this campsite, having a dump station available as well as the ability to use generators between 8am-10am as well as 6pm to 8pm. There are “comfort stations” that provide flush toilets (oh the luxury!), cold running drinkable water as well as trash containers….BUT there are NO electrical outlets or showers. These campsites are $16/night but a unique facet of this campground is that each site allows a max of 6 people, two large tents, or a camper and a tent.
Watchman Campground: Located only a ¼ mile from the South entrance of the park, this campground features both tent and electric campsites, that are available year round. Named for the rocky peaks that rise above it, you are surrounded by sandstone cliffs (that are just magical at sunrise and sunset). From this site, you will have direct access to the Watchman Trail, the Archeology Trail, and the Pa’rus Trail. There are 176 regular sites. This campground is a reservation/first-come, first-served spot. You can make reservations from March through November and can be made as early as 6 months in advance. Generators are not permitted at this campground, however 95 of the sites do have electrical hookups. There are no full hook up sites here, so again, please make sure to pack in plenty of water (there is still access to the comfort stations as well, but please, be prepared!) Electric campsites are $18/night/site; Riverside electric campsites are $20/night/site. From April-November max stay is 14 days; November-March campers may stay up to 30 days (a 30 day vacation! Could you imagine?!?) This is a very popular campsite, so please make your reservations early!
If you choose Zion as your next destination, then we cannot be MORE excited for you! Have you already had a Zion experience and we missed something that you just “gotta see”? Please, send us an email with your story and recommendations so we can add them to our blog to help others plan their affordable vacations…one memory at a time.