Utah!!! If you have read our Yosemite blog post you already know the story behind this destination :). We have been looking forward to this one for quite a while now. And we also got to share our adventures with friends of ours (a fellow couple, equally crazy and super easy to get along with ). Since we were all flying from different places, the planning began way in advance to coordinate meet ups, itineraries etc. The idea was to cover both Zion National Park and Arches National Park on this trip. Here is the itinerary we intended to follow.
||Reach Las Vegas. Stay overnight in LV
- Head out to Zion early (5:30 – 6 AM).
- Breakfast on the way .Canyon Overlook Trail. Weeping Rock Hike. Temple of Sinawava Hike.
- Angel’s Landing(5 miles round tip ~5 hours)
- Drive to Ponderosa and rest for the night
||Park Avenue Hike – ( 1 mile) Delicate arch – Late afternoon – 4 miles
||Devil’s Garden – Full loop (7.2 miles) – Early AM ; Leave for Vegas in the afternoon
||Brunch in Las Vegas. Head home
The 4 of us were supposed to reach Las Vegas around 10:30 PM on Day 1. However, R’s flight schedule got messed up (again!!!!). He ended up reaching Vegas only at 10 AM on Day 2. Thereby killing all of the small hike options :|. I know,I know , not his fault. But yeah, suffice to say we were behind schedule.It was about 1 PM by the time we reached Zion and boy did we under estimate the long weekend rush. Phew!
Day 1: Las Vegas is really not my kind of place to visit. Yeah, not even the strip. Alright, go ahead and judge me but its not for me. So I tried to minimize our stay in LV. Booked a Days Inn that had nice reviews on Booking.com only to realize I didn’t feel very safe driving to the place until our friends arrived. Needless to say I changed our reservations for Day 6 to the Vdara on the strip.
Day 2:We decided that I would pick up R from the airport while Akka & C headed to Zion. We reached Zion at about 2 – 2:30 PM when the fun of visiting a national park on a long weekend hit us. Just so you know, ZNP doesn’t allow personal vehicles to drive through the canyon. Only park shuttles are allowed to go through designated points of interest. A regular 15 min wait for a shuttle turned to be an hour long wait thanks to the holiday rush (oh throw in some parking chaos also). We made it to the trail head of Angel’s Landing only at 4:30 PM and started our first hike of the trip. The peak is at 5785 feet and the elevation gain as you go up is about 1488 ft. Now, friends of ours who have done this hike before had told me, “oh you guys survived Waynapichu, this is easier”. Umm, wrong. Not easier!
Well, the path of the hike up to the first view point is pretty solid no uneven surfaces etc. But the last bit of it to get to the peak is what I wasn’t prepared of in spite of watching numerous videos. It was a cliff faced climb with carved out foot hills and bolted chains for support. Half way to the peak, R and I saw a couple resting on the path and upon coming closer realized the lady was close to passing out and they had been trying to call for help except that there was no cell service. Thankfully R’s phone had service (YAY for Verizon
) and we were able to call 911. But get this, the paramedics had to hike up to where the lady was to be able to help her. Suffice to say, I was questioning my very decision to hike this trail :|. Once we knew help was on the way we proceeded to the top. I was too distracted with doubts about our downward hike until R nudged me to look at view. Whoa! The views are like no other. I say this because from where I stood I could see the entire canyon and that’s rare and also overwhelming!
After spending about an hour on the top, we began our downward hike to catch the last shuttle to the visitor center. Famished, we grabbed dinner at Blondie’s Diner before heading to our wagon at the Ponderosa. While the wagon experience has been really good ,the pain of finding the wagon in the dark while we were battling fatigue was not fun. Exhausted, we crashed onto the mattresses and were soon asleep. Tomorrow was the hike in the narrows but first, rest.
Day 3: It’s rare that S gets up at the crack of dawn, but she is a stickler for schedule so , today she did. The Ponderosa ranch is equipped with shower stalls, a laundromat and a nice little cafe. After chowing down some much needed breakfast we made our way back to the visitor center (30-45 mins drive). Close to the visitor center you have a few stores that sell and rent equipment for the narrows hike. You will be asked to sit through a video that details what to prepare for while hiking in the narrows (precautions, tips, signs etc). Each of us rented a pair of shoes, compression socks and a stick(cost: $25 per person)and we took the shuttle to the narrows. Now, there is a short trail may be 1 – 1.5 miles to get to the trail head of the narrows. Once you get there, you are free to hike through the narrows to your heart’s content ( with caution of course 🙂 ).
Since it was a long weekend, the whole area was buzzing with activity. Slowly we made our way into the water, trying to get a feel of the water bed, the flow and the temperature of the water. Pictures can be misleading when it comes to the flow. It is pretty strong or rather stronger than it seems. We spent hiking the narrows for a good 3-4 hrs. The 3 of us went a little further while S found a nice groove among the rocks and decided to lie down looking at the sky and the cliffs. This gorge has views like none other. The play of sunlight on the walls almost a thousand feet tall is simply breath taking.
We probably hiked about 2 miles before we headed back to the trail head. S and I were to head to Arches that evening. Akka and C stayed back to complete some of the smaller hikes we’d missed on Day 2.
After returning our equipment we stopped for a quick bite and coffee at the Spotted Dog(note to future self : this place needs at least shorts and a shirt.not worn out faces from the narrows) before we got on the road.The drive from Zion to Moab is roughly about 5 hrs with pleasing countryside views. The speed limits are in the 75 – 80 mph range so make the most of it (also, drive safe).
We passed Arches National Park and the Canyon Lands National Park on our way. They are about 10 miles and 30 miles away from Moab respectively. Fatigue hit as we got closer to our motel. Tomorrow can wait. For now, sleeeeeeeep!!
:As we were getting ready, we got news that akka and C were a little behind schedule and were on their way to Arches. So we decided to have a leisurely breakfast at Jailhouse Cafe
. Now, the name seems ominous, I know .But their chorizo scramble and Swedish pancakes are to die for. R and I were starving I think, we devoured our own separate order of eggs and ordered a third one to share- downing it all with some fresh brewed coffee. We were ready for any hike Arches were to throw at us :D.
We drove to Arches National Park which was a mere 10 miles away. The winding roads up to the park offer great views of the canyon lands. We drove past most of the view points and came down to the visitor center to rondewoo (yes, that’s how i spell it. what for you? ) with akka and C. The four of us refilled our water bags and drove back up to the first view point – Park Avenue. Now, this is a grand panorama of towering walls of red stone. We hiked a small part of the trail and went about driving to all other view points the park had to offer. It was quite a contrast from Zion actually where everything was tall while here everything was vast. Around late afternoon, we made it to the Delicate Arch trail head and began the ascent. Akka and I caught up on much needed girl talk on the way up and before we realized Delicate Arch was in view. Now this is a famous spot for sunset viewing and though we were a few hours way from sunset time it was packed with people.Folks were really nice about letting you have your picture op at the arch (everyone waits in line and all). I have said this before and I say it again, nature is the best teacher when it comes to squashing personal pride. We are but so little amidst everything that is so huge.
In all of this, we were running on just breakfast from this AM. Needless to say a much deserved meal was in order. After a fresh shower at our Moab motel, the four of us got to Moab Brewery
for celebratory drinks and a full meal (oh yeah and some of the best mango -champagne gelato). R insisted we all drive back up to the national park for star gazing. I was only half into idea as the other half of me wanted to sleep. I am so glad we went. We don’t have any pictures from that hour only memories. We just laid on the concrete pavement with our cardigans rolled under our head staring at the tiny lights in the sky. For a second we were transported to days of dreaming under the stars, days of sleeping outdoors with our cousins and days where not everything had to be photographed. After all, some memories are just for you, for your heart to leaf over when you close your eyes. Thanks, R ❤
Day 5: Last day, and surprisingly I was still in one piece and was looking forward to the last hike of this trip.It’s all the strength training I tell ya! The one good thing about extensive hiking trips is all the carbs you can eat. Today’s breakfast was served by the Pancake Haus a Moab version of IHOP, serving way better food :D. We started our Devil’s loop hike a little later than planned. But were able to cover a good chunk of it. The Land Scape Arch and the Double O Arch. While the Landscape arch is the longest arch we have ever seen (probably the longest in the world?) it is also mesmerizing to realise that the arch can collapse at any time (after all its only 11 feet thick at its thinnest point and supports something that is ~300 feet long!!!).
The trail gets a little uneven after the landscape arch with just your instincts and cairns to stay on the path. Also the views alongside the trail are stunning pushing us to plank and pose for some pictures 😀
After about 2 miles of hiking we made it to the double O arch at which point we took it all in. As we feasted on protein bars we chatted and took pictures. A few minutes later, R and I were to head back down to the trail head the same way we came up while Akka and C would complete the rest of the loop and continue their hiking adventures all the way to Grand Canyon!
Suffice to say all the beauty of Utah has us captivated. We earned blisters, sun burn and tan lines that we would proudly show off for weeks to come(R says they are the mark of outdoorsy people and I agree). As we drove back to Vegas I was thinking if we would ever come back to Utah. May be we will, may be we wont (too many places to see and too little time and all that). But this trip has gotten me closer to myself than ever before. And it will be a constant reminder of what strength and endurance can fetch you – stunning, breathtaking views. And I am all about that. Thank you, Utah!
Couple of things…
- Carry hydration packs, hiking shoes if hiking Angel’s Landing.
- Compression socks while walking through the narrows may cause blisters.
- No water/food available at Arches. Plan accordingly if hiking.
- In Zion try and stay as close to the visitor center as you can
- If you have additional days, consider visiting Bryce or Canyon Lands national parks too.
- Disconnect and soak it all in