Hello, I’m back for some unsolicited hiking advice, which I know you all wanted. This week I am going to talk about two of my favorite parks to go hiking and camping in and just general information about them.
Zion National Park was the first national park I went to when I was a freshman in high school and it changed my life. Zion has everything you’d want in a national park, spectacular views with hikes for all skill levels and the ability to get back to civilization if needed. I would recommend going in late spring to early summer, if you want to avoid the heat of the middle of summer. The weather itself is somewhat temperamental, so I would definitely check the forecast everyday.
As for the best hikes to do there are a few classic ones that I would recommend. Angels Landing is one of my all time favorite hikes as it really jump started my love for hiking and exploration. If you have a serious fear of heights, do not do this hike as it has sheer drops on both sides with only chains to hang onto. Walking onto the narrow spine of a mountain formation that juts out in the middle of a canyon was an experience that I will never forget. If you are afraid of heights you can continue past Angels Landing and do part of the West Rim Trail or just explore the area.
Another hike I would recommend doing is Observation Point via Stave Spring Trailhead. This is a more strenuous hike at 9.2 miles out-and-back with 2,188 feet of elevation gain. There are views throughout the whole hike as you descend into the canyon. You get a great view of Zion’s East Mesa and the Virgin River valley below. I would do this hike late spring or during the fall as snow will still be leftover from the winter and in the summer temperatures rise in the canyon.
The towns around Zion, like Springdale, are a huge tourist attraction. I personally wouldn’t spend too much time around them because not only is everything really expensive, but it’s incredibly crowded. Use the shuttles available to get in and out of the park, but nothing more. I also wouldn’t recommend staying in a hotel around the area as they will be expensive. Either find an airbnb nearby, for cheaper or try to camp in the park if that is your thing.
There are three campsites available at Zion, but not all of them are open year-round so make sure you do your research ahead of time. There is a campsite near the south entrance of Springdale, but is often full so I’d arrive really early to grab a spot there.
Honestly, any national park in Utah is amazing. It’s the mecca for outdoor lovers with numerous parks like Arches, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef. I also highly recommend checking out Canyonlands National Park, which was a pleasant surprise. I went to the Island in the Sky district of the park. I didn’t expect the canyons to be so beautiful and vast, they looked like someone had taken a knife and carved them out. The topography was so interesting and I would try to hit this park if you can.
Another national park I would recommend going to is Yosemite. There is so much to do at Yosemite and you’ll need a few visits to get to everything. From the picturesque views to the formidable granite icons there is just so much to see.
Like most national parks Yosemite is extremely crowded, so a reservation is required to drive into the park during peak hours (6 a.m. to 4 p.m.) from May 20 through Sept. 30, 2022. Because there are millions that come to Yosemite during this time, I’d recommend trying to get off the beaten path and try to camp or head into the back country to avoid crowds. You’ll need a permit to sleep overnight, so make sure you have prepared beforehand. To get the most out of Yosemite, preparation is definitely needed.
If you are planning on camping or backpacking, you have to do research on how to do it safely. Learn all the procedures for putting away food, making a fire etc. If you don’t do this you not only do you endanger the local wildlife, but other people. Also, as cute as the black bears are, you definitely don’t want them digging through your food so make sure you have bear bags and put away your food in the trees.
The first hike I’d recommend doing at Yosemite is the Sentinel Dome Trail which is not very challenging, but is a good introduction to Yosemite. It is a 2.1 mile out-and-back trail with only 456 feet of elevation gain. Once you reach Sentinel Dome you get a 360-degree view of the park and can see for miles.
For longer hikes I loved doing Old Big Oak Flat to Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley. Both of these hikes are for more experienced hikers, and you’ll probably need to find water sources throughout, so be aware of that. I backpacked Old Big Oak Flat to Yosemite Falls with one of my parents because we wanted to take our time and enjoy the views. It is a 17.2 mile hike with 4,402 feet of elevation gain so it is a more challenging hike. It is a point-to-point trail so if you backpack in, you need to figure out transportation back to your car, we hitchhiked in someone’s truck bed which is not too uncommon. It took us about three days to do this, but you can do this at your own pace depending on your schedule.
On this trail you can visit El Capitan, which is a 3,000 feet granite monolith that is one of the most recognizable rock formations in the park. We also went to Eagle Peak for sunrise which was a once in a lifetime opportunity and totally worth the sleep deprivation. The sun rose right in front of us and we could see the valley start to wake up. The trail heads to Yosemite Falls which is the tallest waterfall in Yosemite and in the U.S. at 2,425 feet. There is a spot of the trail where you can scramble all the way down to the base of the Upper Yosemite Falls. You scramble on massive boulders where you reach a prominent ledge above the valley floor and where you can walk right up the falls. I would not do this if you’ve never scrambled and if you do be aware of the risks.
Both of these national parks are a great introduction to nature and really show the amazing landscapes available in the U.S. National parks force you to appreciate nature and the local wildlife and are a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The hiking and nature community are really nice people and are always willing to help, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is always better to be safer rather than sorry. Appreciate the views at both Yosemite and Zion and make sure you take these steps to preserve it, as with things changing in the environment certain things may not be there for the next generations.