I have a National Parks bucket list, and hiking The Narrows and Angels Landing at Zion National Park have been near the top of said list for at least as long as there’s been an Instagram. We concluded our tour of the Utah National Parks with visiting my most anticipated of the 5: Zion.
We arrived in the evening and parked by a deer-filled lawn before checking into the Zion National Park Lodge, where I recommend staying at any time, but during Covid-19, I highly recommend it, as the road leading to either of the 2 hikes I so badly wanted to do was blocked to cars about 9 miles from the lodge–unless you’re a guest at the lodge and have its code for the crossing gate.
We saw families on bikes or on foot, walking or pedaling in 100-degree-heat before they could start the strenuous hikes with the best views in the park. These people did not look happy. There’s a shuttle, but getting seats is nearly impossible during social distancing–we tried the minute said passes were released and failed to get passes. So, we figured we’d get bikes for getting from the lodge to the hikes instead.
Our first morning at Zion, we arose just after 7, got coffee, and walked up to the area where bike rentals would begin at 830; we walked to the door at 745. Had we not done that, we would have failed in getting 5 bikes for our family to pedal the 9 miles from the lodge to where The Narrows hike began. They could not be reserved in advance, so my 2nd recommendation for going to Zion during Covid-19 is get to the bike rental (in the gift shop by the lodge check-in area) early. Privately owned vehicles aren’t allowed on the road leading to the Narrows past the lodge; only very-hard-to-get-seats-on park shuttles go there. Or bikes.
The bike ride to the Narrows was very pleasant…not too hilly or hot yet, as it was still morning. We locked our bikes at the Temple of Sinawava and began the dry part of the hike, which is just over a mile, and then the remainder of the hike is, to use the words of our server at Zion Pizza & Noodle Co. restaurant afterward, “like walking across a field of wet bowling balls.”
We waded into the Virgin River nearly knee deep and continued hiking in this fashion (though it sometimes got waist–or even armpit–deep) for miles and miles. Hiking poles and sturdy water shoes are essential.
I loved it. A hot day isn’t uncomfortable when walking through cool water. It was crowded, though…even during a pandemic.
We went another mile past “Wall Street,” where the canyon is 20′ wide but 2000′ deep. The water got deep enough that the children would need to swim, and a large boulder blocked the path (which we could have crawled over had we wanted to continue), so we turned back to hike it again in reverse. In total, we covered 7 miles in water and 2 on land before biking the 9 miles back to the lodge, where we had a late lunch before spending some time lying in the grass and drying in the sunshine.
The next morning, we walked from our room at the lodge, down a sidewalk, across the street, and onto the Angels Landing trail before the sun came up over the mountain, which meant we had shade for the walk up.
This hike isn’t nearly as long as the Narrows one, but it’s quite steep and very hot (i.e., parts of it are in full sun). The children slowed down after a mile or so, but I wanted to challenge myself physically and pressed on through the switchbacks and up to the end of the trail, where one must hold chains to scale the rock to the very top of the mountain, but sadly, this section was closed by Covid.
On the way down, we paused a few times for photos and tried to enjoy the walk, as opposed to enduring it.
Once we were finished, we drove into Springdale to the Zion Canyon Brew Pub for refreshments, walked around the village a bit, and had dinner at the Zion Pizza & Noodle Co. again (requesting our server and seat from the previous night), and had lots of delicious (and nutritious!) kombucha.
We talked to our server some before the restaurant opened (we’d told him the night before that we’d return) while browsing the sale rack at the outdoor equipment store next door. He was obviously friends with the person behind the register, and when I asked him about it, he said they both had an appreciation for life, as both were in nearly fatal accidents–she was in a bad motor vehicle accident near Chattanooga; he had a severe fall while scrambling at Zion. They both had infectious personalities that made us love being around them while shopping or eating.
The next morning, we drove to Las Vegas, stopping to see Lake Mead from an overlook (after we hit a roadblock prohibiting access to Hoover Dam or the Pat Tillman bridge), the Mob Museum, and the Neon Museum.
We stayed at the Marriott Grand Chateau and flew home the following morning.
I am so glad we were able to complete this trip as planned. I’m glad we got to experience natural beauty and push through difficult physical challenges. I’m glad we were able to cross more national parks off our family’s framed list in our kitchen. I’m glad one thing we looked forward to during 2020 actually came to fruition.
I recommend mimicking our trek from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas to anyone, pandemic or not.