Zion- Our Journey Begins

Posted: June 4th, 2011 under Hiking, Photography, Traveling with children.
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Zion National Park



Perhaps it is because my sons are fascinated  with the Guinness Book of World Records and the Top Ten List of Everything that they feel like every experience must be rated and ranked.  But sometimes I just can not do that.



We have returned from a trip out west where we visited seven parks and saw wondrous and glorious sights.  I can describe them.  I can even compare them.:

At Zion Canyon,  you stand at the bottom and look up.

At the Grand Canyon, you stand at the top and look down.

But I can not rank them.  Each park had features that made it special.  Each park was a treasure to be discovered.

We began our journey in Las Vegas, where we rented a passenger van.  We traveled many miles by van, and I found the landscape to be mesmerizing, like gazing into a fireplace.

Utah landscape

Don't see that in Georgia!

Or that either!













Our first stop was Zion National Park.  The Virgin River flows through the Zion Canyon, and in the spring it appeared lush with countless green cottonwood trees.  The rock formations at Zion are fascinating swirls of color and texture.  I had never  before seen anything like them.

Zion Canyon

Zion Canyon

Feast for the eyes









Because of spring flooding, we were unable to hike “the Narrows”.  It is the most popular hike at Zion, through a slot canyon. For our first hike we chose Observation Point.  It is a strenuous eight mile hike, climbing almost 2200 feet. The view was spectacular!

View from Observation Point Summit

Nine-year-old at summit

Elevation 6508 feet













At the summit we were harrassed  by aggressive chipmunks.  We joked about them possibly jumping on us and wrestling us to the ground.  While that was unlikely, we did find them unnerving.  When my oldest unzipped his backpack to change out a camera lens, a chipmunk jumped in his bag and stole an apple. So while the views were stunning, we always felt distracted by the chipmunks, who seemed to be sneaking up on us, waiting to pounce.













After our morning hike we collected the other children and toured the park.  Zion NP runs a shuttle bus to transport visitors to the various trailheads.  It reduces the traffic while providing an excellent tour of the park.  We suffered intermittent rain, yet on the shuttle my children were able to see the park and have noteworthy peaks identified for them.

Together we enjoyed some short hikes:  Riverside Walk (2.2 miles), Lower Emerald Pool Trail (1.2 miles), and Upper Emerald Pool Trail (1.0 mile)  The splashing water was so refreshing.  The children enjoyed scampering about the rocks.

Sharing the load

Emerald Pool








The second morning, though achy and sore, we set out to hike Angel’s Landing.  Though not as far or as steep an ascent as our previous hike, Angel’s Landing is downright dangerous.  If you stumble, you do not tumble down 20 feet.  Instead you fall 1000 feet to certain death.  At least five people have fallen to their deaths. (My macabre fifteen-year-old enjoyed regaling us with these statistics at every peak we summited.)


The last 1/2 mile to Angel’s Landing is over a narrow sandstone ridge. Each side of the ridge drops off over 1000 feet.  The sides are sheer and the footholds irregular.

Path to Angel's Landing












When I arrived at the beginning of this last stretch, my older children had already ascended the first ridge.  If I had seen how treacherous the conditions were, there is no way I would have allowed them to climb.

Now please note:  I am not afraid of heights.  In fact, I find them exhilarating.  I loved climbing trees as a child, riding roller coasters as a teen, working as a stage electrician up on the cat walks in theatre as a college student.  But when I get my kids near heights, my anxiety meter goes through the roof.  I could not finish the climb.  I felt that I had to stay at the base and hold on to my nine-year-old.

Anchoring my son

No, you may not go.








My husband decided to climb after my teens.  He returned after crossing the first ridge.  The strain of the exertion combined with anxiety  from the height was too much.  My teens were on their own.  We waited and waited.  They were gone for over an hour.  We saw dozens of hikers begin the climb and turn back.   I confess – when a big, burly mountain man came down and said that was the scariest thing he had ever done, I covered my face and wept.

What was it like to see my children return?  Indescribable JOY!

My adventurous teens

If you look over their shoulders in this photograph, you will see tiny people climbing the ridge.

In retrospect I should have climbed after my teens and allowed my husband to stay behind and sit on my eager nine-year-old.  How I wish that we had more photographs to document that awesome climb!


With verdant valleys, sheer cliffs, and  awesome vistas, Zion National Park was a great starting point for a great vacation.  Besides, after that everything else looked easy.

Beautiful Zion


1 Comment »

  1. What an awesome description of that special place called ZION Ntl. Pk. I have had the priviledge of visiting this sacred place. I felt that I was for sure in the presence of GOD. The most beautiful place I have ever been. My daughter and family are on that trip now. Jill Griffin and I know they are enjoying every moment. Thanks for sharing your beautiful memories.

    Comment by Liz Morgan — May 11, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

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