Adventures in Utah Part One: Zion and Bryce Canyon

The Virgin River carving through Zion Canyon.

From Brookings, Oregon, we started the trek south to make it back to Texas in time for the holidays with our families. On the way south we boondocked at Mud Lake Trail head in Hat Creek, California at a great site. Then spent a few days in Lake Tahoe.  Unfortunately, we both had to spend the majority of our time working and didn’t get to explore much. From Lake Tahoe, we continued south. We found another great boondocking site in Tonopah, Nevada and caught a magnificent sunset and sunrise before heading out for Zion National Park.  After lots and lots of driving, we finally made it.

Amazing sunset in Tonopah, Nevada

Hurricane, Utah

There are tons of great boondocking about twenty five minutes away from Zion National Park and just ten minutes from the town of Hurricane. Hurricane offers a small grocery store, library, post office, coffee shop and several restaurants and other things making it a great site for us. It’s also fairly close to the town of St. George which has everything you could possibly need. We originally planned to stay in one area but had to relocate due to an event happening there.

Sunset view at our boondocking site in Hurricane.

The site we ended up in was amazing. It felt like we had the place entirely to ourselves even though there were quite a few other campers. The sunrises and sunsets from this site were out of this world! And the stars were unreal.  

Sunrise at our boondocking site in Hurricane.

Zion National Park

We found Zion to be one of the most breathtaking beautiful places we’ve been yet.  Driving into the park really makes you realize just how small you are in this world.  The colors of the rocks against the blue skies are so striking and it really is just unbelievably beautiful. The park also offers many amazing hiking opportunities.  We were lucky enough to check out The Narrows, Observation Point, Angel’s Landing, and Many Pools.

The town outside of Zion looked really cute. Lots of hotels, shops, and restaurants. We didn’t really explore the town of Springdale too much but it looked fun. There is a shuttle that runs from town into the park which is nice for people staying in hotels or for really busy times when you might have to park outside of the park.  The shuttle also runs through the park and you cannot drive private vehicles on the scenic route when the shuttle is running.

The Narrows

Wow! If you’re up for a challenging and unique hike you have to hike The Narrows. It involves trekking upstream through water but is totally worth the effort and energy.  This hike takes you through a winding maze of sandstone canyons snaking through Zion National Park.  It’s super important to check the weather before embarking on this journey because if there is any chance of rain or the area has had a lot of rain, it becomes dangerous and sometimes is closed for safety reasons.  If you visit anytime from September through April or May, you’ll most likely need to rent gear to make yourself comfortable. We got ours at Zion Outfitter since we were there in November.  

The water is pretty cold and when you’re spending several hours hiking through it it’s important that you’re comfortable and warm. When you rent your gear you get a walking stick to help you navigate and feel sturdy in the water, neoprene socks, waterproof pants (like completely waterproof, our legs stayed 100% dry the whole time!), and shoes that keep your ankles safe and allow you to walk on rocks easier.  

Your feet do get wet but they stay warm. We would HIGHLY recommend packing a spare pair of shoes for when you finish the hike. It was super uncomfortable hiking back to the bus with wet feet after the hike and since it’s the furthest stop on the route, the bus ride back takes a little while. You don’t wanna be stuck with wet soggy feet. Trust us! But, The Narrows was an absolutely beautiful, fun, and unique hike.  It’s a must see if you’re in Zion!

Observation Point

Observation Point is another popular hike in the park and was highly recommended to us from some friends.  Meaghan did this hike alone because Matt was super busy with work. This is another must do if you visit Zion (as long as you’re okay with lots of steep switchbacks and do not have any height sensitivities).  The hike starts with lots of steep switchbacks. Meaghan took lots of breaks, but it wasn’t too bad in November because it wasn’t hot. The hike leads you to a viewpoint where you can see Angel’s Landing. It provides amazing views of almost the whole park.

If you have to choose between Angel’s Landing and Observation Point and are scared of heights, then you should definitely opt for Observation Point.  You get the same, if not better, views of the park and although there were some scary parts, it is much less scary than Angel’s Landing. This is a longer hike (8 mile round trip) so we’d suggest getting started earlier in the morning. The hike offered lots of different terrain and views and was so fun and beautiful.

Angel’s Landing

As the National Park Service says, “Hikers know they have earned that view when they reach the top” and we agree. This is probably one of Zion’s most popular hikes.  This hike starts out with lots of switchbacks that lead you up to a beautiful view point 1,488 feet above the trailhead. We thought we had reached the end of the hike and were taking in the beautiful views when we noticed that we had definitely not finished the hike and had quite a ways more to get to Angel’s Landing.  The second half of the “hike” includes making your way up slick rock using chains and foot holes to climb to the top.

This hike was exhilarating and terrifying at the same. There is a sign posted before beginning this section that shows how many people have died attempting the hike which was a sobering reminder that one wrong step could be our last.  We made it to the top and the view was incredible! Meaghan also got to see Observation Point from below which was pretty cool.

Megzi using the chains to climb.

We were surprised that Zion doesn’t require permits for this hike. If you are at all scared of heights you should still do the hike, but just stop before you hit the chains and rock scrambling section. Neither one of us are really scared of heights but this hike was scary. It was also totally worth the fear and we really felt like we had accomplished something when we reached the top.  

Atop Angel’s Landing!

Many Pools

One of our first days in the park we didn’t have much time but wanted to do a little exploring. We decided to drive through the tunnel to get to the east side of the park to check out Many Pools. If you are planning to drive through the tunnel with your rig, be prepared to pay fifteen dollars each way.  Luckily, we were detached anytime we went through it so we didn’t have to pay.

Many Pools was a relatively easy hike, especially in comparison to the other ones we did in Zion, but it was really beautiful.  The hike leads you through several pools of water that have been carved into the sandstone. There wasn’t a ton of water when we visited, but it was still really nice. If you have enough time in Zion to do all the other hikes we talked about and still have days to fill, go check this one out.

Zion was an unbelievable park. It was breathtaking and we can’t wait to get back!

Bryce Canyon

We headed to Bryce Canyon from Zion National Park.  The temperature quickly dropped as we approached Bryce and would continue to drop as the day went on.  We stayed at a great boondocking site five minutes away from the park and near a town close by.  Bryce Canyon makes you feel like you have been transported to another planet.  

Meaghan was happy to celebrate her 30th birthday exploring the hoo doos and rock formations in the canyons.  We took the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop trail and loved it.  The trails were relatively easy and allow you to see lots of beautiful rock formations.  The rocks here are so vibrantly orange they don’t even look real. We were fortunate enough to catch a sunset near Thor’s Hammer and it was truly unbelievable even though we were freezing cold.

The temperature continued to drop and we realized it was going to be nine degrees with a real feel of three! We had experienced a few below freezing temps, but nothing like this! To make things worse, it wasn’t going to rise above freezing until after twelve or one the next afternoon.  We made the decision to wrap our pipes under the rig with towels and reflectix in hopes of preventing freezing.

We stayed nice and cozy in the trailer and kept our fingers crossed we wouldn’t be dealing with a broken pipe or cracked tank the next day. Although we did wake up with frost on the windows inside the trailer, the tanks and pipes were fine!  This was a huge relief. Matt woke up super early and decided to head into the park to check out the sunrise. It was too cold for Meaghan and Giz so they didn’t make the journey. It was so beautiful to see the sun bringing the canyon to life with light.

We had to make the decision to leave earlier than expected because temperatures were going to continue to be that low over the next few days and we weren’t really prepared for that.  We’re going to try to go back another time because we want to explore the park more than we did.

Utah is such a beautiful place with so much to offer.  We loved exploring Zion and Bryce and would eventually make it to Capitol Reef and Arches and Canyonlands in the next few days.

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