I’m having a lot of trouble jumping back into regular life after having such a spectacular summer. So let’s keep summer on the brain for a bit longer and I’ll tell you about a spectacular destination you need to visit if you haven’t already. It’s never too early to start planning your next summer vacation, right?
Zion National Park should be on your bucket list of domestic summer vacation destinations. To be perfectly honest, I chose it after admiring a girlfriend’s Instagram pictures. It turns out it was every bit as breathtaking as her pictures portrayed (if not more). Between Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Yosemite National Parks it might just be my favorite. And it definitely contains my favorite hike of all: the Narrows. You could easily spend a full week soaking up all that Zion has to offer. Zion is well known for it’s red rock cliff and canyon terrain. If you like hiking and rock climbing — it is paradise.
Where To Stay
I chose our accommodations based on my girlfriend’s recommendations. I was late in booking and seemingly everyone’s preferred accommodation in Zion, the Desert Pearl Inn, was already booked. So I opted for the Cable Mountain Lodge instead. I thought it was fabulous and couldn’t have been happier with the choice. For one, the location is literally right next to the park entrance where you can pick up the shuttle to take you into Springdale (the little town just outside Zion National Park that houses restaurants, grocery stores, and a couple of retail outlets) and into the park where you can get dropped off at the trailheads. For another, the balcony of our hotel room looked out on one of the iconic Zion mountains (don’t ask me to name which one because I could never match the names to the peaks). There’s also a very nice pool and grassy area that runs along the Virgin River where kids can unwind and play at the end of the day.
Where To Play
Zion National Park has become one of the premier destinations in the U.S. for canyoneering. Our first full day in the park also happened to be my son’s thirteenth birthday and I wanted to make the day memorable. I pre-arranged a half day canyoneering excursion with Zion Adventure Company. It did not disappoint. Canyoneering basically involves hiking, scrambling, and repelling down gorges or sliding through slot canyons. I was first exposed to rock climbing and repelling in college so I was comfortable with that aspect of our adventure. Sliding through crevices between rock faces was a completely new experience for me. Our guide led us on a path through a slot canyon and gave us the basics on how to safely rappel down a rock wall. They can tailor the adventure to your family’s ages (my youngest is seven) and skill level. It was an exhilarating adventure we won’t soon forget.
Zion is a hiker’s paradise. The Narrows is the most popular hike and one of the world’s best slot canyon hikes. It is a challenging trail through the Virgin River. At the time of our hike the water level was at ankle level or dry and sandy in some spots. In other areas the water was waist deep. At other times of the year you might have to swim to get through it.
The narrows is accessed from the last shuttle stop in the park: the Temple of Sinawava. From there you walk a mile along the paved Riverside Walk. At the trail’s end you enter the Virgin River and the adventure begins! The Virgin River has a strong current that a hiker has to fight while traversing across large stones on the river bottom. I highly recommend renting neoprene socks and boots and a walking stick to help you navigate the river bottom and current as you make your way through. We got ours from Zion Adventure Company for $25/person.
The nice thing about this hike is that you can decide how far you go and when you want to turn around. It can essentially be tailored to any activity or ability level. We saw plenty of people who came out with the sole intention to cool off and wade in the water. We were unsure how far our youngest would want to go but we got much farther then I ever expected. For us it was a five mile hike roundtrip. We spent about four hours total in the river. It was so refreshing on a 100 degree summer day.
During our visit, another popular hike, Angel’s Landing, was closed because of a rock slide that covered the trail earlier in the summer so we did not get to experience it. I am told it is a challenging trail with over twenty switchbacks. The last quarter mile of the trail is extremely steep with chains that you can use to pull yourself up. There’s also only room for one hiker to pass along the steep verticals.
If you are up for an adventurous vacation destination, Zion is the place to be!
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