Zion National Park, Utah: Just Two Bros At It Again
We did it again; Eric A, and I pulled off yet another epic road trip. This time we hit Zion National Park. We originally planned on going to the Grand Canyon, but if you look up temperatures in December all you really find are articles about how you will probably die. So we went another route.
We started our 175 mile drive around 6:00am on Christmas morning from Henderson, NV-aka Las Vegas’s finest retirement community. The drive takes just under 3 hours, and the scenery is incredible. Don’t forget to bring along some sweet jams-Eric A recommends “Single Ladies” by Beyonce.
Preparation for the trip involved packing 2 cases of Bud Light, no water, and 2 ritz cracker snack packs; light and practical. As per usual we did not have a plan for when we arrived in Zion. We knew we wanted to hike, eat fatty foods, and drink beer. So when we arrived at the park, we paid the $20.00 entrance fee, parked the car, packed some beers, and began our day.
The weather conditions varied throughout our two days, but to start it was dull skies, icy conditions, and snowfall. Thankfully about 45 minutes into our first hike, on Sand Bench Trail, the skies cleared. This allowed for Eric A to get in touch with his inner photographer and make Whitney A look like a total baller with Zion as the backdrop.
During all of this I managed to palm a cactus and had to trash the only gloves I packed (probably my karma for stealing the gloves from Alex). Either way, my hands were very cold so once we got back to the lodge I made Eric A buy me new ones. In total, Sand Bench Trail takes about 1.5 hours to complete, and it is almost entirely flat. During the summer the trail is designated for horseback riding, but it offers some really great, ground level, views of the park, and is easy, for those that don’t want to hike too much. For the rest of the afternoon we ventured down most of the main, “popular” trails such as “the grotto,” and enjoyed some bud lights at the end of it. Note: If you plan on visiting Zion in the winter prepare yourself for the icy conditions. Imagine when you are walking down a sidewalk, slip on a patch of ice, and then awkwardly look around praying no one noticed, because slipping is almost more embarrassing than if you would’ve just completely eaten shit. Well that happened about 150 times during our hikes.There are solutions for this slippage, but naturally we elected not to pursue those.
Following our first full day of hiking, we inquired about rooms at the lodge in the park, quickly realized we were too poor, and headed over to the fabulous La Quinta in right outside the park entrance to get a room. To be fair this La Quinta in was hands down one of the nicest I’ve ever seen. Once we checked in, we hit up 1 of 2 restaurants open on Christmas, both of which were Mexican. Oscar’s Cafe offered appetizers
that could feed a family of 15 (they don’t tell you this until you’ve ordered everything on the menu) and beers the size of a keg. The food and beer were great, but the
prices were definitely representative of a national park. Unfortunately neither restaurant has a bar, and no other place in town was open. So we ended the night drinking bud light in our room. This was probably the only disappointing aspect of the entire trip. It would have been nice to have somewhere to throw back a few beers after a long day of hiking, but that’s what happens when you visit a national park on Christmas.
Our second day of hiking started early. We headed to the visitor center to check the conditions of Angel’s Landing and get advice on whether or not to hike it.
We were told not to do it, so we headed straight over and got started. The hike up was pretty amazing, but, again, the icy conditions on the trail provided challenges.
Once we reached higher altitudes it was a bit easier, but still very slick. Once we reached the landing, before the real landing, we took in the incredible views, and contemplated the last, treacherous climb of the trail. This is the part that park signs warn you about, encouraging you not to do it, because they’ve had multiple people fall to their deaths.
Eric A went first, and made it about 1/3 of the way up. I made it about 1/8 of a centimeter up slipped on a patch of ice and went straight back. I am all about taking risk, but based off the entire side of the mountain being an ice rink and the chain as sturdy as dental floss, I thought better. Eric got to a point where the chain had literally been ripped out of the side of the mountain and decided to turn around. I would definitely consider going back in summer, but the winter conditions were pretty bad, unless you rent chains for your boots.
We ended our day, by heading over toward “The Narrows.” The man made path that leads to the start of the narrows was a disaster. There were about 200,000 people falling on the ice trying to walk in crocs. It is about a mile walk to the actual start of the narrows. Had Eric and I planned ahead, we would have budgeted to rent the gear and do this hike. It is one of Zion’s most famous hikes. It entails wading in water from ankle to neck deep. Their were a decent number of people doing, even in the 25 degree temperatures. Disappointed that we didn’t get to do this hike, we headed back to the car to make the drive back to Henderson.
Zion was incredible. The views were insane and the hiking was a blast. Their were definite pros to visiting in winter; number 1 being the lack of crowds. Based off the difference from Christmas, to the day after, the summer is probably overcrowded. Christmas day, we hardly passed people on the trails, and the day after we passed an overwhelming amount of people. The biggest con is the lack of things open in town, and the icy trails. Slipping and sliding was definitely a pain, but overall the snowy mountains were beautiful, and the hiking temperatures were perfect.