Day 10: Zion National Park

This morning was a short drive over to Zion National Park – only about 90 miles.  I got on the road about 8:30 and after stopping to top off the tank just outside the park I hit the gate about 10:30.  Asked the ranger which campground was best.  His answer, “whichever one you can find a spot in.  They’ll likely be full in the next few minutes”.  That didn’t bode well.  Neither did all the traffic in front of me.

When planning this trip I had tried to reserve a campsite in Zion but there are only a limited number available for this.  Most are simply first come, first serve.  I was hoping that since I was arriving on a Monday, before noon, I would be OK.  There are two campgrounds in the park and as I approached the first, the sign at the entrance said “Full”.  Ditto for the second.  Uh-oh.

So I ended up at the visitor center and decided to hop the shuttle up the scenic route – no private cars allowed except during the off-season.  I got off at two stops, the first just snapped a few shots, the second took a 2 mile hike along the river to the “Narrows” where the canyon narrows to a slot.  From there it was back to the car and decision time.

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I have mixed feelings about Zion.  Without doubt it is one of the most beautiful parks, but it’s ridiculously crowded.  The campgrounds are in the bottom of the canyon near the visitor center and even today in late May it was very hot – hindsight I’m actually glad I couldn’t get a campsite.  The lodge rates were from $175-$200 a night – they had vacancies but I wasn’t going to pay that.  So I headed out of the park and of course all the hotels in the little town were filled.  I had decided by this time that I didn’t want to come back to Zion tomorrow as originally planned given all the crowds and the distance I’d likely have to drive.  So it was on to Cedar City which is near my next planned sight anyway – Cedar Breaks National Monument.  I put my Hilton Honors points to good use and am staying at a Hampton Inn tonight.  A nice break from the camping.  Besides it was awfully hot today…

I certainly want to come back to Zion as there are a lot of areas that I didn’t get to see and there are a number of hikes that I would like to do.  But given the crowds it seems like a visit here really needs to be in the off-season and more importantly needs to be a destination rather than a side trip as was the case this time.

Onwards!

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