Zion! Everyone keeps asking me about it, so here is the whole shebang.
This past weekend was fall break at USU, which meant a three-day weekend. Wooooo!
My friend Erica and I decided to utilize this time properly by heading to southern Utah for some exploration. Because we’re both leaving Utah next year (she’s in the same lab), the pressure is on to take advantage of the incredible, and incredibly close, natural beauty of this state.
By some miracle, we hauled our sleep-deprived and hungover selves out of bed Friday morning to hit the road. Zion is about 6 hours away from Logan.
It was so completely uneventful that I don’t remember anything about the drive. We rolled up to Springdale, UT, the main town just south of the park, and parked the car at Majestic Lodge. To prevent having an outrageous number of cars on the roads in the area, they’ve implemented a great shuttle system; one part is a shuttle that runs continuously through Springdale to the visitor center, and a second that goes up into Zion Canyon from the visitor center.
We took the shuttle from Majestic Lodge to the visitor center, where a park ranger kindly informed us that our plans were fucked because all of the backcountry campsites on the West Rim trail were booked for the weekend. After probing the rangers for some info and chatting amongst ourselves, we came up with an alternative. These new plans may have been somewhat hastily conceived because it was already 5 pm, but we threw caution to the wind like proper dirtbag hippies.
After paying for the backcountry permit, we turned right around and hopped on the shuttle we just got off to head back to the car. This backtracking continued to the southwestern corner of Zion, and the Coalpits Wash trailhead. This area seems somewhat neglected by tourists, though you’ll see this is not warranted.
You can see a beautiful representation of our weekend jaunt through this area below. Notice the lines. Different colors correspond to different days.
And we were off!
We hiked about four miles up to backcountry site #5 that first evening (see blue line). The first half of this was a hard-packed sandy trail in an open desert landscape.
Once we actually entered Coalpits Wash, there was no trail to speak of. Though you’d have to be a dumbass to get lost. There was really nowhere else to go but along the wash. This was quite a bit more strenuous, with plenty of loose beach sand (though no beach in sight) and large boulders to scramble over.
And scramble we did, as it was getting dark. But we managed to find our campsite, set up camp, eat dinner, and pass the fuck out at an unreasonably early hour.
You should be familiar by now with my penchant for not waking up early while backpacking. I rolled out of my sleeping bag at the ass crack of 9 am, and that only because it was getting mighty toasty in my tent. It’s pretty awesome get up and see an awesome landscape that had been cloaked in darkness the night before.
We grabbed some water from the tiny spring near the campsite, the last water source of the trip, and stepped onto Chinle trail. We spent the rest of the day traversing this trail, all the way to its end and then back to backcountry site #1 (green line). One might say we were ambling; we had no particular place to be and were resigned to spend some time backtracking Chinle instead of setting up camp woefully early.
It was a beautiful blur of colors and textures. My mind was blown over and over again. I’m gonna let a bunch of pictures do the talking, because my words aren’t so good.
There were so many washes, from tiny to massive. The force of floods that had ripped through recently was apparent and frightening.
We also noticed some peculiar rocks early on that day. Erica insisted from the get-go that it was petrified wood while I was the asshole skeptic hesitating to agree. The rocks did look alarmingly like wood and they were everywhere. Turns out we were in a PETRIFIED FOREST. I didn’t even know such things existed.
LOOK AT IT. Ugh.
The campsite that night was the best. It was out on a sort of peninsula of land, so we were pretty much surrounded by canyons and washes.
Unfortunately, we had to wake up horridly early the next morning. It was still cold.
And then all that was left was “just” the hike out (see purple line, yo). Haha, just. It was still miraculously beautiful, and our first cloudless blue skies of the trip.
We backtracked on the Chinle trail again, though just a baby bit, to the Scoggins trail. This led straight down to the bottom of the deep Scoggins wash. We had very brief moments of real sun while hiking down to the wash.
The trail met up with the aforehiked Coalpits Wash trail.
Then, BAM we were back at the car. The southwestern part of Zion is great, very desolate and glorious. There aren’t a lot of trail miles, but it was just enough to explore basically the entire area in a weekend. And if you want isolation, this is your place. We saw four people the entire time and they were all day hikers.
And that was that.
Hell no! Do you think I would leave Zion without doing Angel’s Landing? We drove back to the Majestic, took two shuttles, and paid $24 to get to the Grotto trailhead, cause we ain’t playin.
The hike up to the top of Angel’s Landing is pretty steep. And the last half mile is basically a rock scramble that isn’t highly recommended for those who get queasy being in high places (sorry Erica). So so so worth it though. Even with a shit ton of tourists milling about.
Guys, I think I like the desert. Who am I?!