Day 5: Rexburg, Idaho to Leeds, Utah
After a leisurely start to the day, we finally hit the road around 10:15 a.m. We had pre-booked a camp site in Kanarraville, Utah, but the lady said just to pay when we arrived. The drive time was estimated to be about 7 1/2 hours and we were excited at the prospect of setting up camp in a park that had laundry, drinking water, flush toilets, showers and wi-fi. When we arrived, we were disappointed to learn that she planned to have us pitch our tent on the front lawn in front of the office. Tim was less than impressed as this was obviously not a designated site as there was no picnic table, parking space or fire ring, but rather a small patch of grass between her flower beds! Perhaps if this had been explained when I pre-registered we would have just “passed” on this option. The Red Ledge Campground looked like a nice enough campground, but we found it a bit misleading with regards to the tent site. Had she offered us a discounted price for the patch of grass, we may have been less perturbed, but no such luck. Since we had not paid yet, we politely declined and moved on. This made us a bit apprehensive because we were in a very touristy area and knew that finding another spot may not be that easy. Luckily, we had picked-up some brochures at a Visitor’s Center and found something comparable in Leeds, Utah.
The Zion West RV Park offered all of the same amenities, but we did end up paying more. The site was $20 + $2 for electrical + an extra $5 each for the kids. So at $32 American dollars for a tent site, it wasn’t cheap, but certainly allowed us to get some laundry done and enjoy a nice warm shower. The facilities were super clean and well maintained. The campground is sitting right at the base of the mountains in a dessert-like environment, but there are plenty of trees for shade. I would highly recommend it.
Day 6: Zion National Park
Tim and I did a very similar route on a road trip we took back in 1996, so although we were both very excited to do this trip again with the kids, I must say visiting Zion National Park for the first time was probably one of the attractions I was most excited about. I happened to find Zion last summer when I was researching “the narrows” for my Manitoba Stay-cation theme. I was completely captivated by the images I found and it peaked my curiousity enough to follow the links and find out the source of the beautiful pictures. As soon as I discovered that “The Narrows” was a popular hike in Zion National Park, it quickly got added to my bucket list of places to visit. Being a national park, there is a park entry fee of $30 per vehicle which seems super reasonable based on the amazing day we had. The pass is good for 7 days, which makes it an even better deal if you are staying in the area longer.
The Virgin River is a seemingly small river that flows through the park. Despite its size, the river has eroded the most incredible canyons through the red rock of the mountains. Zion truly has some of the most incredible and mesmerizing scenery I’ve seen. It is breathtaking and leaves you almost saddened by the knowledge that there is no possible way a picture will capture the true impact of this geological marvel. The combination of red rock, high plateaus, maze of deep canyons inside “the narrows” and striking rock formations are beyond explanation. You really must see it to believe it.
Despite the 39 (103) degree temperature, we all agreed the conditions were perfect for our visit. I was feeling a little nervous about hiking “the narrows”, but knew we had to at least attempt it and just go as far as we were comfortable. After getting off at the last stop on the shuttle route, at Temple of Sinawava, you take the 1.1 mile Riverside Walk to where “The Narrows” begin. (The shuttles are free with a park pass.) Hiking “the narrows” involves hiking up the canyon in the river, against the current. It is really important to check the conditions prior to embarking on this as there is a risk of flash floods. Luckily, there was only a 5% chance of rain and very low chance of flooding on the day of our visit. The flow of the river was only 30 cubic feet per second which is relatively slow and easy to navigate. The narrows remain open as long as flow is below 150 CFS, so we really lucked out. On top of that, the intense heat made the river hike incredibly refreshing as opposed to the “hypothermic” affect it can have when temperatures are cooler. Much of the hike is in the shade of the canyon walls, so wading in the cold water without the sun to warm you up could definitely be cold. The river bed is completely covered with rocks, so it is really important to plan ahead and wear proper foot wear. Some people wore their runners in, while others tried to make passage in their bare feet. Yikes! We brought water socks and for the conditions, they were fine. There are shops inside and outside the park where you can rent shoes for hiking of “the narrows”. A walking stick is highly recommended and we rented them from one of the outfitters for $7 each and were really thankful that we did. Although we didn’t find the hike too difficult, it was strenuous and you really need to watch your footing. The walking sticks made this much easier. Our kids (11 and 13) also found the hike very manageable. The entire hike is 16 miles and you need a permit to do the last part. You can walk up-stream as far as you want and then turn around and come back. We made it as far as Orderville Canyon and then decided to veer off from “the narrows” and hike the smaller slot canyon. We hiked about 25 minutes into Orderville Canyon before turning back. This was our favourite part of the hike as the passage was quite narrow and required a bit more skill at some points. Shay loved this and was eager to be first to test the depths and footing. For a majority of the hike of The Narrows, we were in water about knee to mid-thigh deep. In Orderville Canyon it got as deep as our chest in some areas. Because of the intense heat, at no time were we cold. The water felt great. Although we personally did not encounter any wildlife in “the narrows” a fellow hiker was carrying a small water snake he’d picked up in the canyon. After only a small panic attack, I overcame my fear and trekked on, but admittedly somewhat less relaxed than before. We ended up hiking up the canyons (Narrows and Orderville) a total of 3 hours before turning back. We expected it to take a little less time going back, as we knew we would not be stopping to take pictures along the way. We also managed to pick-up our pace as we were more confident…in fact, a little too confident I guess, as I slipped on a wet rock and banged my knee in an attempt to save the camera. Although my knee got quite scraped up there were no cuts or broken bones and the camera miraculously escaped injury as well. (I was pretty nervous about taking our good camera on the hike, so insisted that I carry it the whole time so that I’d only have myself to blame if there was an accident.) It only took us an hour and a half to hike back to the beginning, so it was a 4 1/2 hike plus the 1.1 mile hike back to the shuttle. Needless to say our feet were sore. Some girls on the bus said they did not enter Orderville, but hiked to the end of “The Narrows” and back in 7 hours. According to them, the water was deeper the further in you went. The hiking shoes that you can rent probably have more padding/support on the bottoms and would help prevent sore feet. If we were to do the entire hike, we would rent the shoes next time, but our water socks were fine for what we did, but all of us did have sore feet by the end.
After hiking for about 5 1/2 hours, we didn’t have much steam left, but did decide to take the shuttle back to Zion Lodge and do the one hour hike to the Emerald Pools. Although this was also beautiful, not much could top the views in “the narrows.” One of the highlights was the two baby deer that crossed the walking path no more than 4 feet in front of us.
If you plan to visit Zion, make sure to do your homework and plan ahead. You don’t want to be bogged down carrying a heavy backpack, but you do want to make sure you take along some snacks and lots of water. There are filling stations at various locations throughout the park, but you still need to be prepared for the conditions and a long day.
We enjoyed our time in Zion so much, that we ended up staying much longer than anticipated. We didn’t end up leaving the park until around 6:30 p.m. By this time, we were all hungry and tired. We did the unspeakable and stopped at McDonald’s for dinner. We picked up some food and hit the road, as we still had a 4 1/2 drive through the mountains to Grand Canyon National Park. As we left the park, we were lucky enough to spot several more deer on the road side and a family of mountain goats just a few feet from the van.
We arrived at our pre-booked site at 12:45 a.m. and proceeded to set-up the tent in the middle of the desert by nothing more than the beam from our flashlight. Luckily, we’ve had lots of practice and can now set-up our tent and make the beds in less than 15 minutes. The night air was cool and refreshing which made for a good night’s sleep. (I didn’t sleep as well as the others, but I think it is just my age. After the big hike in Zion the day before, my body felt like every inch was in pain. It was hard to find a comfortable position and I spent most of the night tossing and turning….in very slow motion.) Despite the aches and pains, it was a fantastic experience and a day to remember!