There’s so much to see in Zion National Park it’s overwhelming. I had already visited Zion Canyon, Kolb Canyons, and hiked the Virgin River Narrows, but I wasn’t done yet. The final activity I had planned was an overnight hike on the West Rim Trail. It’s possible to do this in one long day, but I like to be able to take my time. And staying overnight leads to the best photographic opportunities.

This hike required a little advance preparation. I had to apply for a backcountry permit three months ahead of time. I used the park website to apply on the first day they became available, but even then I didn’t get the campsite I wanted. The other bit of legwork was to book a shuttle to the trailhead the day before my hike, as it begins and ends in different places. Thankfully this was much less expensive that the taxi in Grand Teton National Park.

The ride to the trailhead took a long time. The way went into the park via a remote route that you would only take to a trailhead, so it was deserted. I didn’t get to the start until after 11 and was worried this wouldn’t be enough time to make it to my campsite, which was ten miles way. I set out at a rapid pace.

There were some interesting canyons on the first day.
There were some interesting canyons on the first day.

The first portion of the West Rim Trail was unremarkable, through scraggly forest and plains. Much of the forrest is burnt. About five miles in it starts going by dramatic canyons, then gaining elevation. I walked so far I started to worry I had missed my campsite. I was also carrying way too much water, seven liters, because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to refill it at the spring.

I got to the campsite in plenty of time, 4 pm. It was nice, up on a hill on the rim, overlooking a canyon. The spring was fine, and I ended up dumping out a bunch of water. For dinner I had brought one of those freeze dried meals they sell in outdoor stores, but I forgot my camp stove. I learned that all you have to do is add water to these and they taste fine.

The next day I had a short hike, since my campsite was so far down the trail. This part of the trail was quite incredible. It went down the rim along the canyon walls and into an area reminiscent of Alaska Basin near Grand Teton National Park. The rock formations became quite unique and dramatic. This area was incredibly silent, save for the obnoxious couple hiking behind me, who insisted on shouting at each other rather than talking in normal voices. I stopped to let them pass and told them they were loud, but they didn’t get the hint. Some people don’t understand that some of us visit national parks to get away from people and enjoy the silence.

Sunset from my campsite.
Sunset from my campsite.

Over some slickrock the trail climbed over Zion Canyon, the main part of the park. I was actually looking down on Angel’s Landing. This is another of the many must-see attractions in the park, but getting to it normally requires a long, steep hike up. I was able to leisurely walk down to it! Like the Virgin River Narrows, it’s worth getting the Angel’s Landing as early as possible to avoid the crowds. Since I had hiking for several hours this morning, it was already packed with people.

Angel’s Landing is infamous for how scary the final portion is. It requires hikers to hang onto a chain while walking over a narrow path only a couple feet wide, whith sheer thousand foot dropoffs on each side. Before reaching that the trail goes over the slickrock cliff. In some places you have to hang on to a chain. This portion was crowded and I had to wait a long time for an opening in the crowds to get by. Once it was less crowded it wasn’t too bad, and I made it to the narrow ledge. At this point I got unnerved because my camera holster was between me and the cliff, and it was forcing me to be closer to the thousand foot dropoff than I preferred. I turned back at this point. I think I could do this without my camera, but I had nowhere to stow it among the hordes of people. Children were doing it, so there’s really nothing to worry about, as long as your are careful. After my partial Angel’s Landing adventure, I only had to walk down the Angel’s Landing trail to get back to Zion Canyon. This trail was so steep I was glad to have avoided the climb up!

Looking up at the rim.
Looking up at the rim.

My time in Zion was over, but I didn’t feel like I was done with this incredible place. I’d like to come back some day to do the Trans Zion Hike, as well as try again at Angel’s Landing. I don’t think I could ever run out of things to do here!

The trail got pretty interesting towards the end.
The trail got pretty interesting towards the end.
On the West Rim Trail.
On the West Rim Trail.
Looking down on Angel's Landing
Looking down on Angel’s Landing
Looking up at Angel's Landing.
Looking up at Angel’s Landing.
Terry
I'm Terry, former cubicle-dweller, and now traveler, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur. I quit my job in 2014 to travel to US national parks, then to South East Asia. I write about independent, flexible, long-term, budget travel. Sign up to my newsletter to get the latest news on what I'm up to. I hope you join me on my trek around the world.

2 comments

  1. Thanks Richard! It’s not really a dream though, because I didn’t win the lottery. I had to do a lot of work to make this possible: quit my job, sell my stuff, take the leap of faith, etc. We can all make our dreams happen through hard work.

Like what you read? Have a question?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge