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Zion National Park for the beginner/intermediate outdoor enthusiast

If you want to feel like you've left planet Earth... head to Utah. After a recent visit, I can say, I get the hype. Zion National Park is a popular bucket list location, and for good reason.


The thing is, it's known for its more intense hikes and landscape, which, gotta be honest, isn't really my thing.


But I did want to see it and I'm so glad I did! I knew there would be plenty of things to enjoy that didn't involve taking my life into my own hands 😅


If you want to enjoy the beauty of Zion and the surrounding area without 1. feeling scared for your life or 2. making yourself so sore you can't get out of bed the next day, then keep reading!


How to get there:

Fly into Las Vegas McCarron International Airport and rent a car. It's an easy drive roughly 2 hours north on Highway 15 toward Zion National Park.


Where to stay:

I was really happy with my stay in the town of Virgin, Utah which is approx. 20 minutes outside of the park's main entrance. This location puts you in a great place to access the park and bordering town of Springdale, as well as the Northwestern and less visited (though priceless!) part of the park.


Our AirBnb was clean, fully stocked, and offered us plenty of space to spread out and decompress after a long day of hiking. I'd highly recommend this cozy spot!


Springdale offers plenty of accommodations, and since the town sits right next to the main entrance, you'll most likely be able to walk into the park.

How to enjoy the park:

Zion is well known for its dare-devil geared hikes like Angel's Landing, and its long, extreme treks like The Subway and The Narrows (one where you are hiking in water anywhere from ankle deep to chest deep).


My feeling about that?


NO THANKS.


If you're like me and you enjoy seeing grand sights of nature and have an adventurous spirit, but don't enjoy feeling like you're on the cast of Survivor on your vacation, then here's what I'd recommend:


Parking:

Get to the park early in the morning in order to park at the visitor's center, or park down the street in the town of Springdale that borders the park.


Getting around the park:

For the majority of the year, you can't drive a private vehicle throughout the park, but Zion has a robust shuttle system so you'll hardly be waiting for long at any given stop. Of course, once inside the park it's a scenic drive, so it becomes a nice bonus part of your visit to sit back and take in the sights while the driver offers tidbits and info.


The thing we learned about Utah is that an easy hike there is a moderate hike anywhere else. Because the landscape can be so extreme, even the 'easiest' hike might still require some uphill climbing.


Day 1:

For a relatively 'easy' hike, a beautiful view, and some good payoff, start the day with the Lower Emerald Pools Trail. It leads to a cool rock formation with a waterfall- not something you see too often in the desert! (It connects to the trails for the Middle and Upper Emerald Pools, but be warned, you will be climbing, and it's not necessarily any more exciting in my opinion)





Head to The Narrows next. It's is a well-known hike that requires you to be in water for the majority of the time--I know-- doesn't sound appealing to me either-- BUT, you can walk the beginning portion of the hike that takes you alongside the river and provides lovely views! You can also stop and hang out and enjoy the landing section where the paved path ends and the river portion begins. It's a great spot to take a break, have a snack and take some pictures.


Take a break from walking, grab your car, and hit the road for a scenic drive through the main gate of Zion. You'll wind around and up the side of the canyon walls and have multiple opportunities to pull off and take in the epic views. This is a fun activity in itself!


Day 2.

Kolob Canyon is a lesser visited section of the park that isn't attached to the main entrance or the shuttle line, but this wound up being our favorite spot!! We drove about 25 minutes in the opposite direction of the main entrance to a small visitor center where the guide recommended his favorite hike in all of Zion, Taylor Creek Trail. We took his advice and we were so glad we did!! This hike is AMAZING for someone who loves the outdoors but doesn't love overexerting themselves. There is a long set of stairs at the start of the hike that leads you down into the canyon, so be aware you will have to walk up them at the end to get back to your car, but other than that, the trail is relatively level and takes about an hour or so each way, depending on your speed.


This hike is a welcome break from the typical orange desert aesthetic because it's filled with trees and a small creek that you cross back and forth over a total of 50 times. Not only is the trail itself so much fun with its roots and twists and turns, it lands you inside a huge rock cave carving!




Do this section of the park on its own day and couple it with the cool college town of Cedar City, about 20 minutes away. Stroll the shops, grab coffee at The Grind Coffeehouse, and share a huge salad and brick oven pizza at Centro Pizzeria.


If you love the beauty of the outdoors but you also like to keep it balanced, I think this is the best way to enjoy what Zion and the surrounding area have to offer!


Be well, and travel safely!

xxRachel



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