The wild beauty of Zion National Park

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Vegas shimmered in the rear view mirror, the afternoon heat rising in waves as we drove east.  For Diana this was a bittersweet moment, the joy of a new life in Thailand beckoning but the clutches of a former existence unwilling to let go.

Many tears had been spilled in the 24 hours since I had arrived as history was packed into crates, boxes and the back of the car.  The smell of wet carpet had swept out of the door as it was closed for the final time, a succession of movers and cleaners erasing any sign of life.  I knew this feeling well, and felt the pain as if it were my own.  Leaving sucks.  It always will.

Regardless though we were on our way, her cheeks finally as dry as the desert landscape surrounding us.  It was time to go to Zion.

Zion view

I love the national park system in the US.  Whatever other failings the country may have, the way it manages some of its most pristine areas is amongst the best in the world.  Jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery is accessible without being sanitised or destroyed, education mixed with inspiration from an unfailingly enthusiastic team of rangers in silly hats.

Red rocks emerged from the dusty tundra as we neared the Terrace Brook Lodge in Springdale, an over-priced motel that aspired to mediocrity but didn’t achieve it.  The brief walk to dinner in the crisp evening air had me excited for the following day, the sun setting gloriously over the towering cliffs.  This was going to be something special.

And indeed it was.

After trundling along to the end of the shuttle route the following morning, we walked along the gentle Riverside walk towards the start of the Narrows.  Sensible Diana decided to stay and bask in the sunshine.  Silly Dave and his inappropriate footwear starting wading down the river instead.


At least I had footwear, I guess, even if it was only running shoes.  The guy painfully hopping from rock to rock in bare feet – while trying to stop himself and his two daughters from falling in – seemed to be setting himself up for a spectacularly bad day.

I was having fun, loving both the sunshine and the views of the steep gorge that rose either side of me.  Mind you, there would have been no way of getting out of there if the water level had risen swiftly.  Probably should have checked for any flash flood warnings on the way in…


While my feet were soaked, the ankle-deep water cooled me off perfectly.  I remember thinking that with any luck it wouldn’t get any deeper…


… at which point, of course, I promptly dropped down to my waist.  Now, like most men, there are certain parts of my anatomy that don’t take kindly to sudden immersion in a snow-fed river.  Grimacing and with my voice an octave higher, I exchanged pained glances with the other guys around me and carried on upstream.


Although I eventually turned back well before the end of the gorge (it goes for something like sixteen miles!), I loved the experience of wading up a frigid river between those towering cliffs.  Yes, I may be insane, but the views were totally worth it.

After lunch back at the Zion Lodge, Diana headed back to nap work.  I hadn’t had quite enough sunburn yet though, so it was time to check out the Emerald Pools.

If the Narrows were flat and wet, the trail up to the lakes was the complete opposite.  A two or three hour round trip, the path climbed steeply and dustily from the trailhead.

With views like this.

Emerald Pools view

Suddenly my legs didn’t hurt so much.

There were three different lakes, at different heights along the trail.  Surprisingly they were called the Lower, Middle and Upper Emerald Pools.  Yes, I too was shocked.

The roar of chainsaws did more to put me off visiting the lower pool than the hastily-erected ‘trail closed’ signs, but the other two still lay in wait.  On I climbed, until I finally came across … this.

Emerald Pools

Resting at the top and adding another thousand photos to my collection, I was in no hurry to get moving again.  The lengthening shadows suggested, though, that perhaps it was time to start heading back.

Emerald Pools

Trudging back towards the motel, footsore and glowing red, I grinned like a kid on Christmas Day.  It had been far too long since I had spent a day hiking, and I’d totally forgotten just how much I enjoyed it.

I had to do this again.  Soon.

This would not be the last national park I would visit on this trip…

19 Responses to “The wild beauty of Zion National Park

  • It looks beautiful!! I’m a little bit jealous and secretly wish I had been there too!

    Shame about the cold willy though.

  • I’d initially discounted Zion when looking at National Parks in the US I really wanted to visit, but these photos are amazing! Definitely being added to my list.

    • I loved my couple of nights there – I’d happily go back again and do some of the longer walks, maybe the full length of the Narrows, and Angel Falls. Amazing place!

  • Irvon Corwin
    9 years ago

    Hey Dave,
    This was a very well written post. I almost thought I was reading a novel. You are a gifted writter Keep it up.
    My wife and I have been there, Zion, several times. Each time I seem to find something new to inspire my imagination with.
    The last time we were there was in 2004 or 2005. We walked a short way up the same gorge you did. It had rained the day before, not there, but above the park. Figuered it was not too cool to go to far up, so we only waded about a quarter mile or so.
    We have been to most all the National Parks and Forests. We enjoy them emensly.
    Hope to read more from you soon.
    Bud Corwin

    • Thanks so much Bud, I really appreciate that!

      Yeah I can totally understand why you wouldn’t have wanted to venture up too far after the rains!

  • DAVE!!! I love that you captured my last moments in Las Vegas so well. Although I don’t think I cried THAT much. At least not in front of you. I could not have asked for a better companion to end my time in Vegas and start this next chapter. I’m so glad you enjoyed Zion!! Looking forward to the next post about the Rockies. Miss your angry face.

    • You’re welcome! And it’s ok, Dustin has been seeing a lot of my angry face for the last week 🙂

  • Good to see you hiked up the narrows a bit. We just walked to about knee deep. Too much camera gear. :/ There were a bunch of people with wetsuits on when we were there.

    • I was pretty nervous about my camera too, but somehow it survived unscathed…

  • I love Zion – it always feels so full of adventure. Next time you go make sure you brave ‘Angels Landing’ – it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done but the views are amazing. This was really well written and I felt like I was right there with you – thanks for taking me back there 🙂

    • I totally wanted to do that … sadly it was getting a bit late in the day and I didn’t really have the right gear either … running shoes and limited water didn’t really cut it! And thanks! 🙂

  • It is tough trying to walk up that stream over those rocks. Glad you got to see one of the most beautiful areas of a region filled with incredible natural sites.

    • I’m loving these national parks more and more with each passing day to be honest. Even though I’m currently freezing in Glacier NP!

  • While you do have an interesting read, there are a couple of glaring errors. The first one is the Virgin River that flows through the Narrows isn’t glacier-fed. The closest glacier is at Glacier National Park in northern Montana. The second error is your reference to Emerald Lakes. They are called Emerald Pools.

    I had the good fortune of working at the Zion Lodge for two months two different years. In my off-time, I was always out hiking the trails to include doing the Narrows up to Wall Street.

    • You are quite correct, Ron – thankyou! That’s what I get for not having internet access while writing up a post 😉 I’ve corrected those errors.

      I’d love to go back and hike much further up the Narrows – spending all day doing it. I’d probably pack slightly more sensible clothing though!

  • Love the style and the content, Dave. Super jealous!

  • Thanks for posting the great pics.

    I visited Zion in April and absolutely adored it, but unfortunately our visit coincided with a flash flood warning so we couldn’t hike up the narrows. Sounds like I really missed a treat!

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