I'd say we did a pretty good job of exploring as much of Zion National Park as we could! Top to bottom, literally. We camped for three weeks at Sand Hollow State Park, which is just outside of Hurricane, UT ("Gateway to the Parks"). The plan was to stay for two weeks, but we quickly added a third because it's...uh...pretty incredible out there. I don't really know how else to convey this, other than these pictures that do no justice to the magnificence of it all.
Thanks to the early Mormon Settlers, Zion is full of of epic-ly named features like The Watchman, The Altar of Sacrifice, The Court of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), etc.
We hiked as many trails as we could. A few miles of the East Rim Trail, Lower and Upper Emerald Pool Trails, Weeping Rock, Northgate Peaks via Wildcat Canyon Trail, Kayenta Trail to Angel's Landing, Hidden Canyon, the Riverside Walk at the Temple of Sinewava, and we covered a few miles of the Hop Valley Trail. We walked a bit into the Subway Trail, but didn't get very far because the sun was getting low, and you need a permit. Someday!
These signs never fail to excite!
Zion is full of textbook cross-bedding of Navajo Sandstone, formed from ancient sand dunes.
Geology! It's everywhere!
The park is full of micro-climates, everything from deserts to swamps. The cottonwood trees grow in the river valley, all along the Virgin River. The air was thick with floaty cottonwood seeds in the bottom of the canyon, it was like being in a snow-globe.
Cacti! Some of them look like feet with pink toenails
Virgin River, along the Riverside Walk
Lower Emerald Pools (looking rather sapphire this evening)
Upper Emerald Pool (thanks for the photo, friendly Texan and fellow hikers!)
Along Kolob Terrace Road
We got a little lost, then realized we missed our road because it wasn't really a road. Didn't realize we'd need a jeep to access the West Rim Trailhead! It was a pretty drive anyways, I don't think I had seen Birch tree groves before.
Northgate Peaks Trail has tall trees! This is exciting in Southern Utah.
Northgate Peaks - We found a nice spot on top of a mess of volcanic rock to sit
and take in the view with the lizards.
(do you see him?)
Indian Paintbrush flowers
Oh hello again, Stephen!
The Weeping Rock
Hanging gardens at the Weeping Rock
Part II coming later!