Friday, December 21, 2018
Tackling five trails at Zion National Park
Zion National Park, the middle step in the 525-million-year-old “Grand Staircase” of sedimentary rocks connecting Bryce Canyon at the top and the Grand Canyon at the bottom, offers hiking trails suitable for a variety of fitness levels and height tolerances.
My time was limited at the 99-year-old southwestern Utah park, so I chose to go with five easy and moderate trails while beginning and ending at Zion Lodge. The first was the 1.9-kilometre Lower Emerald Pools Trail that climbs 20 metres to a small water pool and three tepid waterfalls.
That was followed by the steeper and rockier 1.6-kilometre climb to Upper Emerald Pool, which was larger but hardly emerald. The most notable thing about the pool was the abundance of voracious squirrels, some of which I observed chewing through backpacks left on rocks to try and get at food inside.
After coming back the same way, I veered off on to the Kayenta Trail, which connected with The Grotto after 3.2 kilometres of fine views of mountains above and the Virgin River below.
A free shuttle connects various points of interest within the park, and I took one a short distance to the Weeping Rock Trail. This 0.6-kilometre paved trail is a little bit steep as it ascends 30 metres and ends at a rock alcove where you can walk under the slowly dripping springs that give the trail its name.
After the walk back down and another short shuttle ride back to The Grotto, I got out and walked along a flat path that roughly followed the nearby road and river. After 135 minutes, I was back at Zion Lodge for lunch.
Given more time, I would have liked to have attempted Zion’s best known and most challenging trail, an 8.7-kilometre, 453-metre ascent to Angels Landing that features long drop-offs and a steep and narrow ledge where climbers are advised to hang on to chains fastened to the rocks to avoid falling. Eight people have fallen to their deaths on the trail. Surprisingly, seven have done the same on the much gentler Emerald Pools trails.
My Cosmos tour bus left the park in the early afternoon and headed further south, with the the Vermillion mountain range on my right and the Grand Staircase range on my left, with Monument Valley further off in the distance. We continued on to Lake Powell for a brief stop and, although there was a sandy beach and the water was reasonably warm, I was surprised to see nobody in it.
We drove over the Glen Canyon Dam in the Colorado River and into Page, Ariz., where the Quality Inn would be my resting spot for the night and my embarkation point for the next day’s visit to the last two canyons of my two-week trip.