National Parks Journal: Zion is the Promised Land of the Southwest
Remember playing Oregon trail during the one hour of computer time you got in school? Well, if you were born sometime between 95’ and 2000 you probably do. At the end, if you didn’t die of influenza or starvation, you were tasked with traversing down the Snake River (I think that was it) to complete the game, dodging boulders along the way. Your reward if you survived was an image of the Willamette Valley.
Drawing comparisons between the a photo of the lush Pacific Northwest at the end of a video game released in 1985 (I think? I’m writing this on a beach without wifi so I can’t check and will forget to before I post this) and Red Rock of the southwest might seem strange, but that rendering of what one might image a biblical promise land looking like was the first thing I thought of when I saw Zion National Park.
In the corner of southwest Utah, Zion is so perfectly chiseled from red rock that one might believe it was always meant to be a national park. That officially happened in 1909.
If you’re reading this on Instagram, you’re probably familiar with Zion. It’s the backdrops of thousands (maybe millions) of selfie takers and influencers. And if you’re looking for the primary gathering spot of the smartphone wielders, head to The Narrows.
The Narrows begin at the north end of the canyon. It’s a beautiful display of water meeting earth as the river pours over a smooth rock bed while cutting through high rock walls; in some places, trees have grown out of the rock walls and hang over the river. Once you’re a few miles inside, it starts to make sense why it has become such a sought-after location for Instagramers. The bits of sunlight making its way through the trees causing the water to shimmer in spots, combined with the clean backdrops of the sharp walls, makes it a photography heaven.
Second only to The Narrows in popularity is Angels Landing, which gives one the best view of the canyon valley. It’s accessed via the West Rim trail, a switchback trail climbing up a wall of red, completely exposed to the sun during certain parts of the day.
Oh, here’s a quick note: the trail to Angels Landing is traitorous; a chain runs along the edge to assists hikers. Because of this, the trail is closed for maintenance often. Check Zion’s website to make sure it’ll be open before heading out. We did not, visiting Bryce Canyon National Park first, which prevented us from doing Angels Landing during the two days we spent at the park…
But the West Rim trail is worth doing even without a stop at Angels Landing. It connects to many other trails leading deep into the park’s backwoods.