Adventuring at Zion National Park

After 3.5 years of working without taking more than 1 day off at a time, I decided it was time for a vacation. And, what would a vacation be without an adventure? I eagerly scoped out places of interest when I stumbled upon Zion National Park. Let’s just say it was love at first sight! I found a great website¬†that had every bit of information I would need to make my trip a success. After meticulously planning for months, the day finally came!

We started at Zion National Park on a beautiful, brisk morning. When we drove in the previous night, it was dark and we had no clue that we were tucked in a valley of immense beauty. We ate a large breakfast bright and early then traveled into the park. In fact, when we entered the park, we were confused because there wasn’t anyone at the booth to take our money (we came back later for the sunset and happily paid our $30). As the sun came up, we looked around in awe at what we were about to hike, Angel’s Landing.

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Starting on our way up to Angels’ Landing

Angel’s Landing, appropriately named, is a 5 mile round trip hike that features a 1,500 foot elevation change. It’s not for the faint of heart. As we begun to climb on the trail, we couldn’t help but stop every 5 minutes to take a picture of the beautiful scenery. We remarked how quiet and serene it was. It was nice to pause and hear the flow of the Virgin River in the background. It reminded me of listening to one of those relaxation tapes, so calm and peaceful. As we ascended on the initial switchbacks, I think we both realized that we had our work cut out for us. We kept glancing ahead not knowing exactly where the trail would go. That made it even more exhilarating as we climbed upwards into the unknown.

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The serene Virgin River in the canyon floor

The trail flattened out some after a series of switchbacks and we dived into the mountainside only to find more switchbacks! These switchbacks are known as Walter’s Wiggles and feature a 250 feet elevation gain over 21 switchbacks. They definitely got the heart pumping and the calves firing! Once we reached the top, we were thinking that we were at the top of Angel’s Landing. However, this point, known as Scouts Lookout, was just the beginning of the hardest part of the ascent, the last 500 feet.

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Walter’s Wiggles switchbacks, great workout!

Intimidating. That’s the word I would describe the trail from Scouts Lookout to the top of Angel’s Landing. Make a false move and it’s a 1000+ foot plunge (I googled this before the trip and found out this has happened on 5 occasions in the past, yikes!). Thankfully they have a chain for you to help pull yourself up as you climb up the adverse and steep terrain. We caught up to a group and quickly became friends. It’s amazing how friendly people are when climbing! We stopped several times on the final ascent, one to take pictures and two to catch our breath as it was anything but easy.

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Intimidating to say the least, the last stretch of Angel’s Landing!

Finally after a long and treacherous hike, we reached the top of Angel’s Landing. I don’t think I can properly describe the beauty in mere words. Hopefully my pictures will do it partial justice. Surprisingly at the top, I looked at my phone and it had cell phone service after not having service all day. So, I sat on the edge of Angel’s Landing basking in the beauty and called my mother. I know it meant the world to her and I’m glad I got to call her. We relaxed for awhile at the top and soaked it all in. It was just unbelievable!

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The views on top of Angel’s Landing were out of this world!

Hard to believe but that was our first of 4 hikes for the day! After a short break to recharge after our descent, we went on to tackle the Emerald Pools Trail. The Emerald Pools are basically pools surrounded by some of the world’s greatest scenery. The trail was a lot less strenuous, especially in terms of elevation changes, which helped our tired legs. There’s an upper, middle and lower pool and all are distinct and uniquely beautiful. My favorite was the middle Emerald Pool because it featured awesome waterfalls! The trail was a little slick because of the water so you had to watch your footing. But, I would say the pools would be a relatively easy hike for anyone who visits Zion.

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Emerald Pool’s

When we were on top of Angel’s Landing. Our group of friends we had made told us that we had to check out the Weeping Rock. We recharged a little bit and headed that way next. We were expecting something really awesome but perhaps we were just spoiled by the beauty from earlier. When we reached Weeping Rock, we weren’t blown away like we were at the previous two destinations. Don’t get me wrong, it was still beautiful! Weeping Rock was essentially a free shower by nature where a flowing stream travels over an area of rock that is cut out like a bowl. It made for a cool picture!

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Weeping Rock

After that, it was time for our last hike of Zion National Park, the Canyon Overlook Trail. This short hike led to one of the best views at Zion, especially with the sun setting. There was a large group of people out here all trying to do the same thing we were trying to do; get some beautiful shots of the setting sun casting light on the canyon! I got a little adventurous here and went off the trail. However, I came scampering back to the trail area after a couple of swift canyon gusts made me chilled to the bone. It was really awesome and a little bit scary at the same time to hear the wind swirling through the canyon. The wind sounded like it was out of a movie! As the sunset, I reflected on my magical day at Zion National Park and was full of gratitude for the opportunity life presented to me.

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Canyon Overlook Trail, what an awesome place to sit and enjoy!

I truly hope that this post inspires you to live out your adventurous side. We have become so wrapped up in our technologically advanced world that we forget, reading this blog and looking at these pictures, is nothing compared to the real thing. Nature was made to be admired. Whatever it is you aspire to do, do it, don’t wait or the opportunity may be lost. I can’t wait till my next adventure! Any ideas?

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-Dr. Brian Damhoff DC MS