2019 Marks Family Vacation, Part III: Zion National Park (Updated)

Update: Toby has now posted his excellent pictures of our trip to Zion with his own take on things. Please go take a look.

Day 5 of our trip began in Williams, Arizona, with breakfast at the hotel, a quick grocery store stop to replenish our snacks and sandwich materials, then we hit the road to Zion National Park. Today we'd eat on the road. We had a fairly long drive - about five hours - ahead of us out of Arizona and into beautiful Utah, where we'd only spent a tiny bit of time last summer mostly driving through the Navajo Reservation on our way to Monument Valley and Four Corners. We had no idea how varied Utah's landscape was or how extraordinarily beautiful it is! 

Zion was Toby's idea. I'd heard of it, but not much about it. He noticed that many of the best photographs he saw in the various photo groups he sees on social media, the most interesting to him, were taken there. As we began to plan this trip, initially we were going to go to Bryce Canyon National Park from the Grand Canyon, but Toby wanted to go to Zion. We made the right choice. 

Our only goal this day was to get to Zion, pick up a map, then check into our hotel and finish planning our next day. We were aware that we'd need to use the shuttle system in Zion as many of the roads are closed to vehicular traffic. Still, we'd actually approach it from the northern entry and drive through it to get to the hotel. We would have ample time to stop and take pics along the way. 

We've learned that the drive to a place can be an adventure and full of unexpected sights in and of itself. We stopped along the way for gas and to make sandwiches while on the Navajo Reservation - it is very, very large. But most of the landscape I've seen is Mars-like and desolate. Honestly, our government gave the Native Americans terrible, difficult, dry, barren land and expected them to thrive (or did it?). Frankly, not to get too political in a fun post, but I could have supported reparations a few generations ago when those most affected would have benefitted. I thought the same when we were driving through a different part of it last summer. 

I consult and draft briefs for an attorney who has a number of cases in Arizona. It was interesting to drive through some of the cities I'd seen mentioned in documents. I'd heard about Page, Arizona, and Lake Powell and its namesake was frequently mentioned even while we were at the Grand Canyon. I'd not realized we'd drive over it and a hydroelectric dam. My father was an electrician and very interested in such things. I have been on tours in at least two of them - one was a private tour that an employee took us on where tourists were not supposed to be. My father had so impressed him with his knowledge and interest in such things, that before we knew it, we were in the deepest recesses of the dam in the control center and even down below water level. You could feel the pressure of the water against the concrete of the dam. I was five years old and still remember it well. I have a shared interest in such things with my father but am not nearly as knowledgeable as he.

When I saw this dam, I had to stop so we could take pics. And, look at the color of that water! It was more turquoise to emerald than what I was able to get my camera to pick up. I hope Toby's was able to get more accurate color. Still, it looks pretty spectacular here. 

After this brief stop, we continued on. As with the Grand Canyon, there was no clue as to what you would see once you were in the park along the way. It's also worth mentioning that unlike the Grand Canyon, where you are on the top of the canyon, the rim; in Zion, you are in the bottom of the canyon. It's hotter there and the views are very different. That was a neat contrast, I thought. (We did something similar our first trip three summers ago where we spent part of a day at Royal Gorge then headed up to the top of Pike's Peak (I drove it!) in one day. That was a day of contrasts.)

As we neared the park, the views were like this, sort of rocky, but also grassy and with buffalo! 

As soon as we entered the park, the terrain changed. I was so amazed by these formations with their checkerboard bases. 

I liked those little formations there that reminded me of smaller versions of what we've seen at Monument Valley and what we expected to see at Arches National Park, which was the next leg of our trip.

I loved how here you have sand and the etching in the rock is slanted.

He's so excited to be here!

We got our map, checked into our room which had a fantastic view, then headed to dinner. Tomorrow was to be a big day with a few hikes and very warm temperatures along with waits for the shuttles. We needed to be rested and patient. 

Where we ate breakfast at the hotel. Just incredible views. This was also the view from out our room window.

The view from the front of our hotel. We walked to the city shuttle stop that would take us to the park where we'd then use the park shuttle system. This was fairly novel to Texans like us. There are city buses here and trains, but they are not nearly as well connected and usable as these are.

View of our hotel from the pool.

Day 6 was all about Zion. We only had one day in the park, so we decided to hit some of the biggest sights. I thought it best to hit those farthest away first and work our way back given the number of people and waits for shuttles. We started with Stop Number 9 on the map, the Temple of Sinawava. This is also the beginning of the hike up The Narrows, for those who wanted to do a hike in the water. This stop - even the part of it we did - involved a bit of a hike along the Virgin River that runs through the canyon. There was much to see that was quite varied in just this first stop. Here are my pics from there in the order taken.

The color of the rocks vary greatly - from red to black to white.

Along the trail, there was a treed area with rocks in it, likely there from past rockslides.

There were many areas where springs seep through the rocks and ferns and mosses take full advantage. 

Different looking little ferns.

This was a constant theme and we saw evidence of the recent rockfalls. Just this week, another slide happened which I post a link to below. Very scary reality of nature. 

You could see where the rocks fell and the trees that were broken in the slide still had some green leaves. 

The blue water was very pretty. 

I loved the black along the red rocks with greenery sprinkled here and there. Such great contrasts of color.

I enjoyed the green ground cover here in this very wet little area. 

Look very closely - you'll see a woman rock climbing. 

Next, we got out at Stop 7, Weeping Rock, which has had an unfortunate incident of late. Less than a month ago, we were at that very bus stop! It's very popular and after seeing the pics, you understand why. 

First, we walked around the bus stop and got some pics of things in the distance. Then we headed up the trail which was steep at times. It was also quite wet and slippery in places. You had to be careful and on your guard. 

I love this picture. See the black and red rock with the whiter ones in the background? Those are the types of variations that are common in Zion. 

Now the hike to see Weeping Rock begins. 

This is the view from under or within Weeping Rock. 

Ferns and moss have ample moisture to really thrive here. 

If you look closely, you can see little white drops in this picture; that's the weeping of the rock.

Again, look closely and you can see the water drops here against the darker rocks.

After Weeping Rock, we headed to our final sight-seeing stop, Court of the Patriarchs. This was a great favorite of Toby's. We hiked up a short, but steep incline and got these great views. 

These four peaks are named after the Patriarchs in the Bible: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Ironically, we met a couple from Texas there who we visited with for a bit. They'd just come from Bryce Canyon and the lady was showing me their pictures from there. She thought Zion was much prettier. I thought so, too. We had indeed made the right choice; not that we'd not like to see Bryce, but with limited time, having to choose one, we made the best choice. 

After this, we headed to the Visitor's Center to get some souvenirs, refill our water bottles, then we had an early dinner / late lunch before getting back to the hotel. We needed to accomplish the mundane task of doing laundry and Lucy and Anthony wanted to swim before getting to bed.

The next day, we'd head out for the fourth leg of our trip - Arches National Park - but by way of a beautiful route that showed us all that Utah seems to have to offer in terms of ever-changing scenery. I'd gladly take that drive again and stop frequently for pics. Again, I had no idea what was in store for us until we were well on our way. 

Zion was an unexpectedly delightful discovery. It is busy and we understand the powers that be are trying to figure out how to handle this. That said, we did not find it all that off-putting. The shuttles ran efficiently. The truth is that people love our National Parks and more and more want to get out in nature and, I think, get away from technology for a bit. Nature centers us. I don't think I'm in the minority in thinking that. Just be patient and remember why you are there - to relax and de-stress. Don't let crowds and lines ruin it for you. Just go with the flow and focus on nature.  

Thanks for reading! 


  1. I am glad you guys all had the time to experience all this together. It looks like it was an incredible time. Love the pics, learned some new things.

    1. Thanks! I'm just seeing this, BTW. I did not get a notification. But I'm glad that comments can be made.


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