A perfect day in Zion National Park

I hadn’t been to Zion National Park since I was in 4th grade so when we decided to start our trip in Red Rocks & Las Vegas I knew it would be easy to stop by Zion too!

After leaving Valley of Fire around sunset the previous day we drove out towards Zion and spent the night on a little dirt road between Hurricane & La Verkin, Utah.

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We woke up to this!

We arrived at the camping spot in the dark. It was on some BLM land that we found from satellite images of the area. We woke up to these views and then drove to the park.

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Sunrise from our camp-spot

We stopped at the visitor center so I could buy a patch to decorate my rope bag and then we cooked breakfast on a picnic table in the parking lot.

The air was crisp and clean. The sun was shining and it was damn cold.

I warmed up with some hot tea and Malcolm cooked up bacon and eggs and we were ready for the day in no time.

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Zion National Park Visitor Center Views

Since we only had one day we decided to do one hike and one climb – the best of both worlds!

The hike we chose was Hidden Canyon Trail. It is 3 miles long with about 900 feet of elevation gain. We wanted something that we could hike fairly quickly, would get us sweating and would provide awesome views – Hidden Canyon Trail was perfect! The hike starts out with a bunch of switchbacks that really got my legs and buns burning.

My sleepiness wore off almost immediately and the cold air all of a sudden felt perfect.

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Stair Section of Hidden Canyon Trail

Once at the top of the switchbacks the trail guides along a cliff. There are some pretty long drop-offs – if the hike didn’t get your blood flowing yet, looking over the drop-offs will! There are also cool series of tiered pools that lead back into the canyon.

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Malcolm near one of the big drop-offs on Hidden Canyon Trail

The views towards Angel’s Landing and into the Zion landscape were breathtaking. Malcolm stopped and peed off the cliff – one of his favorite things to do is to find tall places to pee from. I have embraced (accepted??) this part of his personality even though it scares the crap out of me when he stands on the edge.

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When you reach the “end” of the trail – keep hiking!

There is a gravel path that leads back through fallen trees and boulders to a really beautiful natural arch (keep looking to your right, a lot of people we passed said they couldn’t find it, it’s easy to walk by without seeing). After the arch, the trail continues back a bit further to a spot where tons of big boulders and trees create a bit of a wall. Malcolm decided to climb the boulders and explored a little bit further and I felt really content taking a moment in peace and quiet to connect with my surroundings.

After taking some pictures and playing around in the canyon we returned to the car. I highly recommend this hike to anyone who is short on time but wants a good work out. There were pretty views and a diverse landscape so it made for a very enjoyable walk. The guidebook states that it takes about 2.5 hours to do the trail but we did the hike, plus our off-trail exploring in just under 2 hours and I didn’t even feel rushed. It was a great experience! After our hike, we drove the whole out-and-back road through the park and stopped for a couple photos.

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Hidden Canyon Trail Yoga Sesh

We then headed to Ataxia Tower to climb Ashtar Command a 2-pitch mixed route.

We knew we only had time to do one climb and we chose this one for a few reasons, it’s short approach, the fact it was mixed (trad & sport) and it was 2 pitches so we got a 2 for 1 deal! The climb is located near Mount Carmel Highway Tunnel, a long tunnel that exits the park. The approach takes about 5 minutes. Simple as that!

It’s a pretty popular climb but thankfully the party before us was just finishing up when we arrived. I think the fact that it was a cold day in February and this climb was in the shade kept the crowds out – if you’re here during busy season plan accordingly.

The first pitch of Ashtar Command is a trad route that follows a crack up to some small ledges. The second pitch is, as mountain project says, “mostly bolted”. The traverse from the first set of anchors to the first bolt of the second pitch is easy climbing but would produce a pretty gnarly, cheese grater fall – so the exposure definitely added some excitement. I haven’t been climbing outdoors for very long so I hadn’t experienced anything like it before. I’ll be honest, my legs got pretty shaky for a good chunk of the second pitch, but it felt great to be up on a wall, facing my fears and learning new skills. When I reached the top I was stoked to sit and take in the view with Malcolm for few minutes before repelling down.

Malcolm on top of Ashtar Command taking in the view!

If you’re heading to Zion this climb is definitely one to add to your list. It has some great views of the valley and The Great Arch, which is a gorgeous site to see.

We left Zion just before sunset, stoked on the day we had had. It was a sweet trip to a beautiful place; no better way to spend a day if you ask me!

Whats your favorite hike or climb in Zion National Park? Leave it in the comments below so I can check it out next time I’m there!

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