1 Day in Zion National Park

1 Day in Zion National Park

Arriving at our Campsite

We arrived at the Zion Wright Family Ranch just after 5pm on Friday. Located 45 minutes from Zion’s main entrance, the Zion Wright Family Ranch consisted of over 1200 acres of land overlooking the Kolob Terrace region of Zion National Park. The only amenities provided included two portapotties, and aside from that campers were all on their own!

Since Zion closed the entrance to the scenic drive at 6pm, we decided we’d rather relax for the evening than try to make the drive to Springdale and potentially miss the entrance window.

Their were several other campers scattered throughout the ranch, but because the land was expansive we had a huge area with a great view all to ourselves. We built a campfire and spend the evening hanging out and making s’mores.

Early Morning at Zion

At the time of our trip, Zion had been open for almost a month following the coronavirus shutdown. Each national park had implemented a phased reopening unique to their circumstances, and Zion was no exception. 

Under normal conditions, traffic on the scenic drive is limited to shuttles, bikes, and pedestrians only. However, because the shuttles were unable to operate while maintaining effective social distancing, they opened up the scenic drive to vehicle traffic. In order to control crowds, however, they closed the entrance to the park to vehicle traffic once all parking areas within the park were full.

This limited visitation to the first 400 or so vehicles in the park. Since I had read that the park met capacity by 6:15-6:30am on days prior, I insisted that our group get to the park by 5:30am. In the event that the park was full, our only option to enter would be via walking or biking. I had a hunch that the group would not want to do any strenuous hiking after several miles of walking and biking, so my alarm went off at exactly 4:30am and everyone loved me for it.

We groggily piled into one van and made the 45 minute trip to Zion, where we then stood in a line of traffic for an hour afterward.

By 6:30am, we pulled into the Zion Lodge Parking lot, found a spot off to the side of the lot, and then were promptly notified by a park ranger that we’d be fined $5000 if we left our van there.

Luckily, Allison disappeared to find a restroom and got lost, which gave us time to make coffee and come up with a game plan which was… leave the park and find somewhere else to hike.

Our cozy illegal parking spot

When Allison returned we started driving out of the park and noticed that there were a few spots available at a turnout point less than half a mile from the lodge. So Greg parallel parked the van, and our trip to Zion was salvaged!

Things to do in Zion

A few of the activities we were looking at doing included:

  • Hiking Angel’s Landing
  • Canyoneering in The Narrows (top-down)
  • Biking along the Pa’rus Trail and the Scenic Drive
  • Emerald Pools Trail

Since we had limited time at all of the parks (this was, of course, the sampler platter of park tours), our strategy was to choose one hike per park. Luckily park closures limited our options, and we decided to hike Angel’s Landing. Due to coronavirus, the chained portion during the last .5 miles of the hike was closed, but we were still able to do the 2.5 mile hike leading up to it.

Angel’s Landing

The trail to Angel’s Landing started at The Grotto, which was about a mile from where we parked. Almost immediately we were greeted by spectacular views.

The hike to Scout Lookout is mostly uphill, gaining about 1,000 feet in elevation. The trail was mostly paved but the climb is not for the faint of heart.

View from Scout Lookout

We finished the hike and returned to our car before noon. The only other hike I really wanted to do was the Narrows, but the park wasn’t giving out permits for the canyoneering portion. Since we all had gotten up super early in the morning, we headed back to the campsite for an afternoon nap.

Thoughts on Zion

While I wish we had been able to do the last part of Angel’s Landing, I still think the hike was well worth it. I’ve hiked many trails where the best view was at the summit, but that wasn’t the case with this one. The entire hike was a scenic trip.

I’d come back again to do the Narrows and some back country hiking around Kolob Canyon, but aside from that I didn’t feel like I missed out from not doing any of the other hikes. 

We stayed at the Zion Wright Family Ranch for one more night, then slept in the next morning before heading off to Bryce Canyon. If we wanted to, we would have had plenty of time to go back to the park for another hike, but we wanted to be well-rested for our day at Bryce.

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