This year, for Thanksgiving, I was on Delta flight 463 crossing the country when most people were tucking into turkey and debating the election. I was headed to Las Vegas for the long weekend. During my time there, I drove to Zion National Park in Utah. This is an account of my day trip to Zion, a magical land that lives up to its biblical name.
On Sunday morning, a snow storm warning was in effect for Zion. We didn’t pack for snow, so we scrambled through our suitcases looking for anything that could weather the storm. I put on a wooly sweater my sister gifted me for Christmas a few years back, and a thin white beanie hat from H&M. My cousin and I agreed to turn back if conditions became too hostile to drive.
We picked up our rental car at the airport and set out from Vegas around 9am. Three hours later we were at the Springdale Zion Visitor Center & Store. It was cold out here, but not freezing, and certainly no sign of snow. The store owner, a cheerful tall guy who wore an eye patch, gladly mapped out every nook and cranny of the park. I smiled and thanked him as we took the map and headed back to our jeep. First stop: Zion Mount Carmel Highway.
As we drove up into the mountains, reaching altitudes of 6,700 ft, it was time to crank up the heat. Snow also begun to appear, but the majesty of our surroundings was a sight to behold.
The Zion Mount Carmel Highway is a ten-mile stretch running through the mountains and clifftops Zion is famous for. According to MyUtahParks.com, the rock formations are due to eons of freezing and thawing which created the horizontal lines and cracks you see.
Next up were two famous tunnels dug through the stone mountains. One is a mile long and unbeknown to this driver, neither was built with any lights. As we entered the first one, I frantically turned every knob, dial, and switch in front of me, before a car could drive straight into us. An unbearable thought. In the end, what felt like a lifetime took a few seconds and we were soon out of the darkness.
With our near death experience behind us, we headed to Canyon Ranch, the intersection leading to a fabulous riverside trail. Along the way, we met a bighorn sheep; Zion is home to 68 species of wildlife.
We parked the car and headed to the river. It’s a 1.5-mile trek, fully paved, which tracks the bottom of a narrow, high-walled canyon. Eventually, it leads you to the Narrows: the North Fork of the Virgin River, and a spot known to be one of the best hikes in the world. Waterproof attire is essential here, and given our faux pas wardrobe choices, this would have to be done next time. For us, though, the sheer breadth and beauty of the deep red canyons surrounded by green fall foliage and a light blue river, was completely worth it.
By now it was 4pm and time to head back to Vegas for our last night.
As we drove through the town of Springdale, the sun reappeared. It was cloudy and wet in the park itself, so this was a pleasant surprise. We were in awe of the sun beaming down on the long stretches of road – Americana at its finest. We stopped, took more photos (for Instagram of course) and made the 163-mile drive back.
Zion is a MUST-SEE if you are in the area.
As always, pushing for health.