West Rim Trail and Lava Point Campground in Zion National Park are Now Open for the Season

The West Rim Trail is officially open as of May 8, 2018.

west rim 6Hikers who want to see some of the most incredible sights available in Zion National Park (and who are also a wee bit masochistic), can now enjoy the 14 mile trek from the West Rim trailhead (below Lava Point) on Kolob mountain in Southern Utah to the Grotto in Zion.

I did this hike 2 years ago and I was fully unprepared for the level of difficulty that it presented. Below are some of my pointers (though it’s not an all-inclusive list) for the trip. Note that these suggestions are for hiking the West Rim Trail in one day and not camping:

West Rim Trail day-hike tips –

  • Wear good shoes! – I wore ‘okay’ shoes and it was miserable! Wear durable hiking shoes that you have already broken in. They should have a comfortable sole and some sort of padding near the toes (you will be going down some very steep hills and this will come in handy). I also recommend wearing Bandaids or some other sort of skin protection on your heel where your shoe would rub against your skin. I had blood blisters the size of nickels on both feet at the end of this hike
  • Take LOTS of water! – Fortunately, this is one of the things I did get right. There is nowhere to refill your water along this hike and you are going to be really thirsty. I would recommend taking at least 100 ounces in a CamelBak, as well as large back up water bottles. When I went, it was hot, but not as hot as it can get it the summer. I would say to take no less than 2 gallons of water, per person, if you’re hiking in the heat & make sure to drink it
  • Pregame your hydration – drink plenty of water in the days prior to your hike to fend off cramping due to dehydration
  • Take plenty of snacks – Salty snacks are good as you will lose a lot of electrolytes through your sweat. I took beef jerky, crackers, and trail mix
  • Pack a lunch – I took a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a Gatorade. I can’t tell you how good that tasted!
  • Wear sunblock, UV protection for your lips, a hat, and sunglasses
  • Watch the weather – It’s always a good idea to know what you’re up against
  • Dress in layers – Don’t wear clothes that might chafe your skin
  • Have a plan for a ride to the trail head – If you’re staying in Springdale, you should be able to take the Zion National Park shuttle from the Grotto back to the town shuttle and to your hotel. There are a couple of shuttle companies that take people to the trail head, but be prepared for around $40/person for the lift (it will save you the hassle of having to find a way back up to retrieve your car). Plan ahead as these shuttles fill up quickly
  • Take toilet paper and a waste bag – Just in case
  • Take a first aid kit – I pack a basic kit with things like Bandaids, tweezers, nail clippers, wrap, gauze, Neosporin, pain relievers, and alcohol swabs
  • Be aware of your surroundings – watch for wildlife such as snakes, mountain lions, and more
  • Plan for plenty of time to spend on your hike – you’re not going to want to be in a hurry, so leave early in the morning to get started
  • Don’t take the shortcut! – as tempting as it may be to take the “shortcut”, which if I remember correctly saves you about a mile, don’t do it! You will miss out on some spectacular scenery
  • Take a cellphone – even if you don’t get great cell service, you may still be able to make an emergency call if you need
  • If you like to walk with a hiking stick, this would be a good hike for it
  • Don’t forget your camera!

Desert Wildflowers in Bloom in Southern Utah

🌵🌺😍

It’s that time of year again!

The wildflowers in the desert are in bloom and I, for one, am very excited about it! 😀

If wildflowers make you as happy as they make me, now’s the time to come and see them in Southern Utah.

These beauties are currently in bloom in the foothills surrounding the town of Virgin, but I’m certain they can be seen on many of the hikes in Zion National Park.

(Above image: prickly pear)

(Above image: cliffrose)

(Above image: Indian paintbrush)

(Above image: orange globe mallow)

(Above image: indigo bush)

(Above image: Gueldenstaedtia verna)

Enjoy the beauty all around us and don’t forget to take the time to stop and smell (or at least look at) the flowers! 😊

Permit Now Required for Kanarra Falls in Southern Utah

Permit Now Required for Kanarraville Falls in Southern Utah

In an effort to deter the hordes of hikers who descend upon the small town of Kanarraville, in Southern Utah each year (potentially causing a water contamination issue for residents who rely upon this water source), there will now be a permit required to hike Kanarra Falls (also known as Kanarraville Falls or Kanarra Creek Falls).

Kanarra Falls has become quite popular in the last few years, seeing an estimated 45,000 hikers in 2017 alone.

Below you will find a summary of information from the Kanarra Falls website of what you need to know:

  • As of May 1, 2018 a permit is required to hike Kanarra Falls
  • The cost of the permits are $8 per person, and does include the fee to park at the trail head parking lot [100 North 300 East, Kanarraville, Utah]
  • Parking permits can be purchased in advance, here. Note – there is a nominal transaction fee
  • Permits can be purchased at the trail head with a credit or debit card (no cash transactions)
  • There are no limits on the number of available permits at this time (subject to change)
  • One non-profit group permit is available each day, for a maximum of 30 people, at a price of $25 (this is for non-profit groups – reservations must be made on the website and proof of non-profit status is required)
  • Commercial operations must purchase permits at the regular rate of $8 per person
  • If you purchase your permit in advance, bring a paper or text version of your permit to the trail where the attendant will scan it (once scanned, it cannot be used again)
  • Permit purchases are final and are non-refundable under any circumstances

This hike does require you to walk on a dirt road, as well as through water. Wear appropriate shoes and follow all other hiking common sense rules 😊

I will be posting my own list of common sense rules for hikers, but in the meantime, here’s a good one that I found from Utah.com called The Hiker’s Code

The Kanarra Falls website is a great source of additional information about the hike, and I highly recommend that you read it before you go.

(*Above image courtesy of Utah.com)

No, It’s Not Snow – It’s the Annual Cottonwood Tree Bloom in Southern Utah

Have you been wondering what that fluffy white stuff is that you’re seeing falling from the sky and collecting on the ground all around Springdale and Zion National Park?

It’s not snow ❄… unfortunately (we could really use that right about now!)

It’s an annual event that we experience in Southern Utah called the Cottonwood bloom.

The Western Cottonwood trees that you see growing so beautifully along banks of the Virgin River, creating a stark contrast of green leaves against red rocks, release their cotton after pollination is complete.

You may also have noticed a bunch of creepy crawly caterpillars wandering all over the roads and sidewalks, along with what looks like enclosed webs full of insects overtaking the Cottonwood trees (and other shrubs and trees). 🌳

(*Image courtesy of: https://www.123rf.com/stock-photo/eastern_utah.html?sti=nz11l3g1t0soqpkd8w|)

These are Western Tent Caterpillars, and don’t worry, unless you happen to be a tree, they’re pretty harmless (assuming you don’t have an uncommon allergy to them). I used to pick them up and play with them all the time as a kid.

Luckily, both of these natural phenomena are temporary and only last a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, shield your eyes from the little pieces of cotton flying around, and watch your step. 🐛

Venturing away from Zion – A quick trip to Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona – Part 2

On a Sunday morning in April 2018, after staying a night in Page, Arizona and visiting Lower Antelope Canyon on Saturday, we made our way up to check out Horseshoe Bend.

The access for the trail to Horseshoe Bend is located approximately 2.5 miles to the south of the roundabout in Page on U.S. Hwy 89. You will see a sign and a specific turn lane to take a right to the parking lot.

We knew we would need to get an early start as we had read that the parking lot fills up quickly. So, by my definition of an early start, we began our hike at around 9am. Luckily, it was a beautiful day with a high temperature in the low 70 degree (Fahrenheit) range.

It’s a very good thing that it wasn’t any warmer, because it felt HOT!

The sign at the beginning of the trail warns hikers to bring water and to make sure to drink it. Even though I know better, I didn’t listen. Word to the wise future visitor of Horseshoe Bend – take water. If it’s a hot day, which most days in the summer will be, take LOTS OF WATER!

 

Now, when I say that the hike is uphill both ways, I mean it. It starts out up a fairly steep and sandy hill, where it comes to a summit and leads down the hill toward the edge of the cliff. There is no shade on this 1.3 mile hike, so wear sunscreen and take it easy.

Once we made our way to the end of the hike where we came to the edge of a cliff with many other visitors, we were met with some pretty spectacular scenery.

horseshoe 2

DSC_0627DSC_0661

As you can imagine, if you have a fear of heights, you might not enjoy this view. There are no railings currently (but it does look like they’re in the process of building some), and there is loose rock and sand anywhere you walk. Be very careful when looking over the edge. There are a lot of other people around, so be aware of your surroundings and where others are. I can’t tell you how many times I thought someone was going to go over the cliff… but I’m a bit of a worrier.

Once we had our fill of the view and the crowds, we started our way back up the hill toward the parking lot. Pace yourself for this climb as it’s a steady elevation increase.

DSC_0662

By the time we got back to the parking lot, there were hardly any parking spaces left and a few tour buses had arrived. I definitely recommend getting an early start (probably 7:30-8am) in order to avoid the heat of the day and the heavy crowds.

It is a great photo opportunity, so if you’re ever near Page, Arizona, you should take a little time to check out Horseshoe Bend.

 

Venturing away from Zion – A quick trip to Antelope Canyon/Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona – Part 1

I am often asked about Antelope Canyon. How do you get there? Is it necessary to go with a guide? How much does it cost? Is it worth it?

Even though I have lived only 2.5 hours away most of my life, and have been to Page and Lake Powell many times, I have never seen Antelope Canyon nor have I seen Horseshoe Bend. Embarrassing, I know!

Last weekend, on a whim, I decided that it was time to change that. We booked a hotel room (because, why not) and set out toward Page. Since Zion National Park is pretty busy this time of year and going through the Zion tunnel can be a pain on the weekends, we decided to go through Colorado City on Highway 59. This route takes you through Fredonia, Arizona & Kanab, Utah, where you take Highway 89 (not 89-A) toward Page, Arizona.

After checking into the Holiday Inn Express and having a power nap, it was time to head over to Ken’s Tours for our 4pm guided tour of lower Antelope Canyon [there are two sections of Antelope Canyon – upper & lower]. In my mind, I was expecting it to be well off the beaten path… I was wrong.

10 minutes from our hotel, south on Coppermine Road and left on 98 (with another left on 222), we arrived at Ken’s Tours. The signage is a little off-putting and it took a minute to figure out where to go, but once we had paid for our reservation and located the tour guide, we were taken to the mouth of the slot canyon – literally just down the hill from the building.

To get down into the slot canyon, there is a very steep and narrow stair case. Be sure to hold tightly onto the railings and be careful of where your feet are. It’s a little tricky, but once you’re down in the canyon, it’s well worth it. Even the very first section is incredible, but gets more and more impressive as you make your way through the slot canyon.

The colors of the walls do not disappoint in photos! Our guide said that different parts of the canyon are illuminated during various times of the day, so there’s never a bad time to go. I will tell you that our guide said that during the summer months, snakes will occasionally fall down in from the desert floor above…

If that doesn’t deter you – and I would probably recommend that you not visit in the summer as it gets HOT – read on 🙂

You will be busy taking lots of photos. This is one photogenic canyon!

The tour itself lasts around 40 minutes and at the end of the canyon, visitors will exit by another set of metal staircases. The staircase is slippery with loose sand and there is one area that the rock hangs low, so you’ll want to be careful not to slip or bump your head!

Once out of the canyon, and you look down toward the crack you just crawled up out of, it’s strange to see how unassuming the area is. Who would think that the crack in the ground you’re looking at leads down to this wondrous natural art?

Now I can confidently explain to visitors how to go about visiting lower Antelope Canyon! 🙂

Here are the answers to those previously mentioned frequently asked questions:

Q: How do you get there?

A: From Page, drive south on Coppermine Road until you see the sign for AZ-98 E. Take a left on 98 and drive until you can take a left on to Indian Rte 222. You’ll make a sharp left onto an entry road toward the parking lot for Ken’s Tours (Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours is in the same parking lot).

The ticket booth is located to the far right of the front of the building. Once you have paid, walk back toward the welcome desk and enter into the gift shop to meet your tour guide and group.

Q: Is it necessary to go with a guide?

A: Yes. Antelope Canyon is owned and the tours are operated by the Navajo Nation. There are two main tour companies that I saw: Ken’s Tour’s and Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours. It is best to reserve your tour via their website prior to arrival (the website says ‘no same-day reservations’).

Q: How much does it cost?

A: The price at Ken’s Tours is $40/adult + $8/person Navajo Park Permit Fee (cash only) + taxes = $100/two people. The general tour fee and the taxes can be paid with a credit or debit card for a $1 fee, but the Park Permit is cash only. Kids ages 8-12 are $20/each + permit and tax & kids 7 and under are free.

Q: Is it worth it?

A: Yes! I believe that the experience is worth it. However, if the price is too steep, I would say that photos do the the canyon justice. I feel that once is enough for me and I doubt I will need to see the upper Antelope Canyon, but I’m glad to have gone.

I hope this helps! I’ll post information about Horseshoe Bend on Part 2 of this blog post 🙂

 

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Construction Update – SR-9: Springdale – Zion National Park

*Update 8/9/18 – Road construction is complete on Zion Park Boulevard (SR-9) in Springdale, Utah except for minor final touches [example: Canyon Springs Drive]. Road construction on State Route 9 (highway 9) between Virgin, Utah and Rockville, Utah is now underway. The purpose of this project is to add passing lanes. The impact to your drive to Springdale is expected to be minimal. Please read more about it here.

The road construction that we have been patiently (well some days not so much 😉) waiting for its completion is finally coming to an end!

It will still be a few weeks until the project is finished. There are still several areas of sidewalk that are closed, and multiple sections of the highway through Springdale where construction barricades are placed to guide traffic through makeshift lanes.

(Above image: Southbound on SR-9 Zion Park Boulevard – 4/25/18)

As of this update on 4/30/18, the Canyon Springs Drive (between the Hampton Inn, The SpringHill Suites, and the Switchback) is closed to access. The alternate route to access the SpringHill Suites is through the parking lot of the Hampton Inn.

(Above image: Canyon Springs Drive access is closed near SpringHill Suites – 4/30/18)

Construction crews are currently working on the section near Blondie’s Diner and traffic is down to a single lane in that area. The wait time was less than 5 minutes today.

(Above photo: Southbound on SR-9 in Springdale, Utah near Subway, Cafe Soleil, and the Cliffrose Lodge – 4/30/18)

The construction schedule has been pretty much on time and the vast majority of the work is complete. The roads do look nice with new crosswalks and bike lanes.

As you know from a previous blog post, there are now parking meters throughout the town of Springdale for visitors to Zion National Park.

Even though there are a few areas where the sidewalks are closed to allow the freshly poured concrete to cure, and there are still barricades along the road in many places, it is so much better than it has been!

(Above image: Up-canyon [northbound] view of SR-9 in Springdale, Utah toward Zion National Park from approximately the La Quinta hotel)

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Zion National Park Fee Increase – The Price of Entry to Zion and Other National Parks to Increase as of June 1, 2018

Zion Entry Fee Increase – 2018

New Zion Entry Fee Structure:

  • Zion National Park 7-day, per vehicle, pass – $35
  • Zion National Park 7-day, per person, pass – $20
  • Zion National Park 7-day, per motorcycle, pass – $30
  • Zion National Park, annual, pass – $70
  • Zion National Park annual, senior citizen (age 62 +), pass – $20

The America the Beautiful pass (aka The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass) will remain $80.

This pass allows entrance to all federal lands for a 12 month period after purchase.


According to the National Park Service website, this modest fee increase is to help “raise additional revenue to address the $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance across the system of 417 parks, historic and cultural sites, and monuments”.

Keep in mind that only the proceeds from the Zion National Park passes go toward maintaining the shuttle system.

As anyone who has visited Zion when the shuttle system is not in effect can attest, the shuttle system is very important for the preservation and enjoyment of Zion Canyon.

For additional information about various National Park pass options, check here or here

park_fees

(*Above image courtesy of: https://drivetofive.com/2016/11/27/thanksgiving-2016-zion-national-park-in-southern-utah/ – showing previous Zion National Park entry fee structure)

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Parking in Springdale – Parking Policies in Springdale, Utah for Visitors to Zion National Park

Parking in Springdale – Parking Policies in Springdale, Utah for Visitors to Zion National Park in 2018

Visitors to Zion National Park will see some big changes to parking in Springdale this year.

Springdale has implemented on-street parking policies. In areas where parking is still permitted, you will find new parking kiosks. The cost to park in these zones is $1 for the first hour with each subsequent hour being an additional $3.50. The maximum daily rate is $22.

As you can see on the parking map, there is little on-street parking remaining. Most hotels in Springdale have free parking for their guests. It is highly recommended that you leave your vehicle at your hotel and take the town shuttle to Zion National Park.

For those who are not staying at a hotel or other lodging option in Springdale, there are additional paid parking lots available in town. Do not park in the parking lots of any businesses that you are not an active customer of as many business owners will be forced to have any vehicles not belonging to their customers or guests towed at the owner’s expense.

Parking policies will be enforced 7 days a week between the hours of 6am and 6pm. The town will issue citations to anyone who is parked in no parking zones, or to those who have not paid to park in parking zones (citations range from $60 to $125).

Payments for parking can be made at the parking meter kiosks with a credit or debit card. You will need to enter your license plate information in the kiosk (the town of Springdale recommends that visitors download the ‘Whoosh‘ app for easier payments).

Please note that a parking pass is not an entrance pass to Zion, nor is an entrance pass to Zion a parking pass. These will need to be purchased separately.

Springdale, Utah on-street parking prices:

  • 1st hour = $1
  • 2+ hours = $3.50/hour
  • Maximum daily rate = $22

Parking map can be viewed here: https://www.springdaletown.com/DocumentCenter/View/863

(Above image: Parking meter kiosk in Springdale, Utah – April 2018)

parking map

Zion Canyon Earth Day

Come and celebrate Earth Day in Zion Canyon on Saturday, April 21st!

There will be craft booths, live music, a silent auction, food, and fun for all ages from 1pm-7pm.

The new location is at the ballfield by the Springdale Town Park: 126 Lion Boulevard

Earth day