Failed The first time we went to Zion National Park — during our Four Corners trip — we failed the park. Assana hadn't done enough research and as a consequence we missed two of the most iconic hikes in all of the national parks: The Narrows & Angels Landing. We even made fun of The Narrows and folks who "cross the frigid water"… amateurs… that's what we were.
Joke Well, the joke is on us. Years later, we are back to do exactly that: hike the two hikes we skipped the last time. These two hikes could not be more different than each other: The Narrows is, well, narrow and shady; Angels Landing is wide open and completely exposed to the elements (except for early in the morning when it is shaded by the mountain). The Narrows is long and winding; Angels Landing is short and to the point. The Narrow is flat; Angels Landing gains 1500' in elevation. The Narrows could give you hypothermia; Angels Landing could give you heat stroke.
What they do have in common is the crowds, and that they are both unique and memorable.
Chains & Cliffs We do Angels Landing first. We are smart enough to be on the trail before 9:00am and not only beat the crowds, but beat the sun up to Scout's Landing (where the chains start), which is a godsent since the high temps reach the high 90s in the afternoon. Turns out we do run into the super early crowd — folks who probably made it up for sunrise — on the chain section, but it is nowhere as crowded as when we are the ones retuning. The chain section has disconcerting sections, and the ridges with alleged 1000' drop, do really have a massive drops on both side. But the views are spectacular, and the experience one of a kind.
Narrow For The Narrows, we heed everyone's advice and rent walking sticks. Once we do the hike we realize that there is no way we could have done it without sticks. The sticks not only help you balance and not slip on the slipper rocks, they help you gauge how deep your next step will be. Thanks Zion Adventure Company for the rentals! Us and another thousand people: everyone seems to have the same rental sticks!
Wet The hike meanders thru a deep canyon and is more than 90% in knee-high water, and probably more during wetter season. It is quite a bit more crowded than Angels Landing — probably because it is flat — but as with any hike you lose the riffraff shortly past the one-mile point. In this case there are still quite a few people on the river but we still have the opportunity to take many uncrowded photos. As with Angels Landing, we get a early start. At first it doesn't appear as though we beat any crowds, but boy was it apparent on our way back! We do the hike on a 90° day when the shade of the canyon and the 60° water temperature is just perfect — we not once felt cold. But turns out the hike is not as comfortable during cooler air and/or water temperature. Once again, we feel super lucky.
Car Pass A note about our lodging: Zion has one lodge inside the park -- Zion Lodge -- and no camping or RV lots. The park is closed to driving traffic most of the year, unless you are staying that lodge, which we are. The empty park roads, and the fact that the lodge emptied of day visitors in the evening add so much to our enjoyment. This is another Xanterra-operated lodge, and we are also pleased to see that the food is actually pretty good. Not the typical over-promised, under-delivered experienced we have had with other Xanterra restaurants. Zion Lodge has a beautiful patio off the main dining room. For some odd reason it is not being used... a shame, especially during these beautiful warm evenings. We decide that we are not going to let the opportunity pass us: we eat dinner outside every night and flummox the staff every time! Oh well.
All in all, what a great trip, even if it is a repeat park!