Zion National Park (Fall 2012 – Camping, Hiking, and The Narrows – Early Planning)

Posted: January 1, 2012 in Bucket List, Camping, Family and Friends, Fitness and Health, Happiness, Hiking, Travel, Travel Resources, Worthwhile Activities
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Zion National ParkZion National Park has been one of my favorite places since the mid-80’s; however like so many other things I have let years pass without spending time there. I did visit a couple of years ago, but in the wrong season, way too hot to fully enjoy all that the park has to offer. One of the most unusual parts of the park is the Narrows, and I’ve never been there. So next year is my chance! I’ve learned a lot about National Parks lately, but the number one lesson is “you can’t plan too early”. National Parks are wildly popular and the opportunities to see many of the most popular attractions “sell out” as quickly as they become available. I want to stay in the Park if at all possible and that also takes planning well in advance. All the Nation Park websites have an option on the main page to “Plan Your Visit”. Lodging is usually, but not always, the thing that can be reserved the farthest out. Unless my destination is very near to home I prefer to have reserved lodging and permits in hand before traveling to the park.

View near Visitor's Center in Zion National ParkLodging in Zion. There is one campground that is not “first come, first served” in Zion. Watchman Campground’s 185 camping sites can be reserved up to six months in advance. Unlike the lodges, the campgrounds in the National Parks usually have nonrefundable fees, although the fee is low, it is best to have a good plan before reserving a camp site. Zion Lodge is managed by Xanterra like many of the lodges in other parks. I found the link on the official Zion National Park site to the Zion Lodge reservation site a little harder to find than the links on the Grand Canyon and Yosemite sites, but it is there on the bottom of the Reservations and Fees page.

We want to hike the Narrows (it’s on the Bucket List), however, having never hiked in these spectacular canyons before, we aren’t planning to jump right in to a top to bottom day hike or over night trip. We’ll start with a bottom and back trip to see some of the spectacular views. We wold also like the water level to be low but not wait until the weather is too cold. So we’re looking at September or October. We have a couple of weddings to work around next year, but should be able to find a good time to go when the conditions will be right. After we experience hiking in the river we’ll decide if we want to do one of the longer treks next time. Canyon Overlook Trail, mid-80s hikeI’m not so sure about Angels Landing. I would love to do it, but it will definitely depend on the conditions. No interest in that hike if it too hot, or if it is rainy or windy.

Right now our plan is to do this between the last week of August and the 3rd week of October. The normal water level is lower at that time, but the chance of flash flood conditions is higher, so we will probably want to plan to spend 5-6 days in the park if necessary to have a good day to hike the narrows. We’ll watch the publish water flow rates and weather reports and be flexible. If we don’t spend the entire time in Zion there is always Las Vegas on the way home! We’re not gamblers, but there are a lot of good shows. The next step in planning is to invite some family and friends and pick firm trip dates before the camp ground reservation window opens up. I’ll do another post when we’ve done that, and put a few other things we plan to do at the park.

Next Post in this series:
Zion National Park (September 2012 – Watchman Campgrounds, Narrows, Zion Lodge – Reservations and Planning)

Jump right to the trip post! We had a great time.
Zion National Park (Observation Point, Narrows – September 2012)


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