At last, we arrive at the mightiest and most spectacular of the National Parks. This is probably the highlight of our West Coast trip and our first time camping inside a National Park. It was awesome in every sense of the word.
Zion National Park
What can one say about Zion except it is simply majestic. Literally, as you drive into the park from the east you start to get hints of the stunning landscape ahead. And then, you arrive and see it for the first time and almost drive off the road and crash.
We entered from the east on highway 9 which means we drove through The Zion Mt. Carmel Tunnel which is the longest vehicular tunnel in the National Park System. It was constructed in 1930 and is not quite big enough to accommodate two-way traffic with my Ford Super Duty pulling a 28′ Airstream. So, they closed down the tunnel and let me drive right down the center line for the mile long journey to the other side. Of course, there was a surcharge for this privilege. And it was worth it.
Once thru the tunnel, you start the winding road down to the canyon floor. The scenery was breathtaking (yup I used that word, breathtaking) and it was hard to drive and gawk out the windows at the same time. I had to pull over a few times to fully appreciate what I was experiencing on my first time in Zion.
After safely navigating the switchbacks and pullouts, we settled into the Watchman Campground which is in the heart of Zion and being off-season it was nearly empty the entire four days we were parked which was a nice reprieve from the nosey people always wanting to see inside the Airstream and chat about the RV lifestyle.
After getting setup and chasing Lily around (she was happy to be there too), I swiftly organized a National Park Happy Hour and began to settle in for the first night in this spectacular place.
We woke up the first morning and set out to explore the surroundings on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. It was truly amazing being in this grand place with hardly anyone else around. Zion is a lot more intimate than I expected – I think I was comparing it to Yosemite which is has a much larger canyon/valley area.
After getting the lay of the land, we ventured outside to the little town of Springdale which is just outside the south entrance. I found a great little coffee shop to fuel up on caffeine and a breakfast burrito. After eating, I was ready for the first hike which was the Canyon View Trail and it was really fun.
There was some pretty amazing scenery along the hike and I couldn’t stop taking pics.
After traversing natures staircases, I arrived at the top and experienced the glory of Zion. And let me once again say that it was really fantastic being there in the off-season without a million other people. It made the experience a lot more memorable and positive.
I was too scared to attempt the Angels Landing Hike which is supposed to be the epic Zion adventure. However, I did enjoy an afternoon of hiking around the Emerald Pools and despite some ice on the trails and ice cycles hanging overhead it was pretty spectacular. There are just no bad views from any trail when hiking in Zion.
Four days passed quickly and all too soon it was time to leave and head to the next amazing National Park. We packed up and settled in for the 5 hour drive across Utah to Moab which would be our home base for nearly a week.
What a cool little town nestled around Jurassic sized red rock landscapes. This would be our jumping off point for the next few National Parks on the list. The Portal RV Resort was an awesome place to call home. The only bad thing about being here in February was most of the eateries I had earmarked for trying were closed for the season.
Arches National Park
After Zion, I did not think anything could impress me ever again but that changed when I entered Arches National Park. I spent all day hiking around and exploring the fascinating formations created by nature. The hike to Delicate Arch was the most cool – half of the hike was up the side of a massive granite rock dome and the final stretch was a path carved into the side of a sandstone cliff.
And then you arrive at the most interesting and fascinating formation by nature – Delicate Arch.
Then is was off to Windows to check out more arches and let Lily out for a little adventure. Hiking in Arches was a little different than what I experienced in Zion, the trails were mostly marked by Cairns.
And finally, at the end of the day, we made our way back thru the park and stopped to check out Balanced Rock and Park Place.
So that was the first half of what we experienced while positioned in Moab. There is just too much to do in this awesome place. Tons of off-roading and natural wonders to explore. Stay tuned for more!