Marching to Zion (Experiencing life in Zion and Bryce National Parks)

Then let our songs abound,
And every tear be dry;
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground
To fairer worlds on high.

We’re marching to Zion,
Beautiful, beautiful Zion;
We’re marching upward to Zion,
The beautiful city of God. 

(Robert Lowery)

Carolyn and I have yet to figure out who is responsible for our saying: “it is one thing to see a place but it is another thing to experience the place”. We chose to experience Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks this month.  Many times we have headed to the Grand Canyon and had great experiences but for some reason, we had never been to Zion or Bryce and this year we decided to go for it. Once again we were able to use my Hilton benefits for places to stay on our excursion. (Thank you Hilton!)

After work on a Tuesday night, we loaded up the rental car and headed to Flagstaff to get a jump on our six hour trip to Zion. Stayed at the Doubletree (Hilton Property), got up not so early and ate our free gold member breakfast and headed down Highway 89  through Page, Konab, and on to Springdale, UT.

Once arriving in Springdale, we checked into the Hampton Inn, (Hilton property) jumped on the buses and headed out to Angels Landing. I won’t bore you with details but that hike is not for the faint of heart and it is amazing to me that people have fallen to their untimely deaths. Reasons include people wearing street shoes, normal running shoes that provide little traction, and sheer numbers that hike up and out on the landing. We saw young children and some stunning hiking footwear. At my age, holding on to chains is no longer an appeal to me. Scary stuff. So far this year two have fallen the 1400 feet down and it sure does make you think. The hike itself is quite a climb and the best time to do it is towards evening since the crowds are less and shuttle buses are not so full. After the hike we headed over to the Zion Canyon Brew Pub. Zion Brewery brews their beer offsite and

I highly recommend this place. The Juicy IPA is fantastic. As an added bonus the food is pretty good. (loved the meatloaf) The pub is literally at the front entrance of the park and the views from the patio are fantastic. We learned about Utah liquor laws: to order a drink you have to have food with some exceptions. I suppose that isn’t such a bad idea.

Thursday morning, we headed over to Bryce Canyon National Park. It was a beautiful drive through Zion and up Highway 89. The road out of Zion takes you through the 1.1 mile tunnel which during the day is used in alternating one way directions. Once we arrived in Bryce we found parking fairly easy and were ready for a whole new experience. Our daughter Jordyn has been there and she  recommended the Fairyland Loop Trail which takes you into the Canyon. What a great recommendation. We added some mileage on to the hike by walking on the rim trail.

 

Our hike ended up being about 10 miles and over 2300 feet in elevation gains. As you know you may go down but you have to go back up. Not the most difficult but still quite strenuous. It was very warm inside the canyon walls. (90+) Inside the canyon, we encountered very few hikers which was a great bonus for us. It was magical, breathtaking and probably my favorite hike of all time. The scenery is indescribable and not just to see it but to experience it was something I will always treasure. While taking a short side trail to the Tower Bridge, I encountered my first rattlesnake of the year, the Great Basin Rattlesnake.

Interestingly it never rattled and I was thankful that I spotted it in the rocks. Let’s just say that for the remainder of my hike I was aware of my surroundings. On the trail, the hoodoos are something to behold and are ever-changing. From red to white the rock formations are spectacular. Met some nice people who took our picture at the end of our journey which tends to end with a craft beer from Huss Brewing in Tempe.

We headed back to our home base in Springdale and cleaned up and went to eat at Zion Pizza & Noodle Co. The white pizza (The White Sun) was great and they had a good selection of Utah craft beers on tap. Learned some more about Utah liquor laws. Did you know that all beers on tap can not exceed 4.0 alcohol content. Maybe not such a bad idea. It sure doesn’t distract from the taste.

After two days of some strenuous hiking, I went to bed not knowing how and if I would hike on Friday. Friday morning came and I just had to get up and go with Carolyn. Once again we got on the buses and headed to the Grotto Trailhead and went up the Angels Landing Trail to connect with the West Rim Trail.

 

Once we got away from the Landing Trail we were pretty much on our own.  This hike is considered strenuous for a reason. Elevation gains are constant as you go up and down. We hiked about 12 miles rt which meant we went 6 miles up getting up on top of the rim. The trail one way is about 17 miles long and something we would like to do.  Our elevation gains were over 4500 feet and we did all this in about 5.5 hours. It was also very warm outside. By the time we got back to Grotto, I was beat down. The hike was amazing but I was feeling all that elevation gain and loss. Being out in the wilderness with no humans around is not always easy to do but we were rewarded with a grand hiking adventure. We were on sides of cliffs where the trail was only three feet wide with straight down drops of 400 feet or so. The views of Zion are incredible.

After a rest and clean up at the Hampton, we headed back to Zion Brewery, for some more craft beer to end the evening.

Saturday, we headed off for breakfast and a quiet day of taking the bus and going up to other spots on the bus route. We went to the Narrows area which is closed due to high running water and the Hidden Canyon and Observation Point trailheads closed due to rock fall. We walked along the Virgin River, hung out at the lodge and overall had a relaxing time.

Headed back to the Brewery to listen to some live music from Tom Bennett. He was really good and hopefully I will run into him down the road. He reminded me of a musician friend of mine, a younger John Carpino. In other words, great musicians, storytellers, that are warm, charming, and charismatic. After getting cleaned up we went out on a dinner at the Spotted Dog. The meatloaf was a fantastic mixture of elk, bison, and beef. All grass-fed and the service was awesome. Highly recommend.

Sunday came and we decided to take a different route home by going through Hurricane, Colorado City, Jacob’s Lake, on over to 89 and back down to Phoenix. Ended Father’s Day with a cookout with our daughters.

Road Trip Takeaways.

  • Working for Hilton is a great retirement job. Think low room rates for travel.
  • Springdale, Utah is a fantastic, beautiful, fun small town. Never knew.
  • Route 89 is a tough drive. Lots of single lanes and very trafficked and of course crazy drivers. Be safe!
  • Southern Utah reminds me of many places in Arizona. Loved the diversity of the land. We will return.
  • Bryce Canyon is incredible. Very unique and mind blowing.
  • Public Transportation in the National Parks is a great idea and beneficial.
  • Craft beer is alive and well in Utah.
  • Support local musicians. They add to life experiences.
  • Find yourself someone to adventure with. Love traveling with my life partner, Carolyn. Doubles the fun.
  • Remember seeing something and experiencing something are different. Go experience life!

Great road trip and we will return as there are more places left to March into Zion, Bryce, Escalante, and on and on. I leave you with a taste of Tom Bennett from Zion Canyon Brew Pub covering She Talks to Angels. Since Angels Landing is just around the corner, I thought it to be appropriate.

 

About timfruth

Longtime public educator who recently retired from public education. Messed around in politics as a town councilor and vice mayor. I am a father and a husband who drives a shuttle van for the retirement gig. Love the outdoors and rapidly adjusting to a new me.
This entry was posted in Craft Breweries, Hiking, National Parks, Road Trip, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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