Guidelines for domestic travel as it relates to camping and parks:
“Going camping at a time when much of the United States is experiencing community spread of COVID-19 can pose a risk to you if you come in close contact with others or share public facilities (like restrooms or picnic areas) at campsites or along the trails. Exposure may be especially unsafe if you are more likely to get very ill from COVID-19 and are planning to be in remote areas, without easy access to medical care. Also be aware that many local, state, and national public parks have been temporarily closed due to COVID-19.” -CDC
Returning to Utah
If you have been following along then you know this is my second time in Utah; the first time I camped in Moab and visited my first two Utah National Parks- Arches and Canyonlands. Click here to read that post. Heading back east I stopped again to vist two more in southwest Utah- Bryce Canyon and Zion.
I stopped in a little place after Vegas- Cedar city, Utah. Without notes on my itinerary, I couldn’t remember why I chose to stop here so it ended up being a day to recoup and connect with people back home. I ended up falling in love with Jack… in-the-box, and have been many times since. We don’t have Jack-in-the-Box where I live. My favorite item is: Jack’s Spicy Chicken combo- the curly fries are delicious! Fast food is not a sustainable life choice and creates a lot of waste, as someone who never has depended on it, I have it VERY rarely like 1x every 6 months if that. Obviously on the road I had it more for 2 reasons: 1) it was convenient and I wasn’t prepared, 2) this trip was before my transition into zero waste.
…I digress. By the way, I figured out why I stopped at Cedar City- there are many hikes in this area; I just didn’t figure that out until I had left- I forgot to put the trail on the itinerary and became confused without a direction as to why I had booked this place.
Bryce Canyon National Park
I stopped in Bryce Canyon on my way to my next accomodations. I didn’t have a ton of time, I went to the visitor center to gather some information, I would have enough time for a short hike. After talking to a park guide I decided to do The Rim Trail from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point. This was an easy 1 mile hike that could extend to the rest of Rim Trail (11mi.). So I parked at Sunrise Point and started walking… the wrong way!! I chose this hike because it wasn’t too challenging and I wanted my legs to be rested for Angel’s Landing. I ended up on Tower Bridge Trail, a 3 mile moderate hike. This hike was a CLIMB and on my way back it was a slide, too.
Hugging a Hoodoo
On my way back I decided to go off trail to get closer to a Hoodoo (I do not recommend this- looking back I was most likely ruining the terrain). I wanted a picture next to a Hoodoo to give it scale because they’re so much bigger than they look in pictures. No other people were hiking this trail so I had no scale but myself. I climbed up to a nearby hoodoo formation. It was such a steep climb I had to BEAR CRAWL to get to the top.
Once I was there I realized I was in quite the predicament and was at a saddle type brittle sandstone mound. This was at least 30 ft up. I set up my phone on my camera tripod (my camera was dead) and then I attempted to climb the base of a Hoodoo; I needed to be about 1 foot up to make the frame. Well, that’s not true; I didn’t attempt the climb at all because just walking from my tripod to the Hoodoo was too difficult.
[Disclosure: because my camera was dead most pictures are from my cell phone- sorry!]
Shoe sliding in Bryce Canyon
This idea was a fail; I shot 5 pictures, none of which anything more than my messy bun made the frame because the camera was tilted to show where I would have been. Then I took a few more pictures as I climbed back across the brittle sandstone- still not in the frame completely. Although I failed, I am definitely an official Hoodoo Hugger. I grabbed them so tightly for safety of falling.
Eventually I had to let go and when I did I went sliding all 30+ feet down the hill back to the path. Honestly, it made the hike 10x better. I wasn’t enjoying the hike, my mind was preoccupied, because I thought I had an internal camera issue from the fall in Death Valley… long story short the charging chord was bad and I just needed to replace it. Anyway I headed back to my car just in time to catch sunset at Sunset Point. Not that it mattered, I’d try to capture the sunset on phone and it wasn’t enough. Yet another sunset for me to keep saved in my memories.
Glamping in Southwest Utah
Each time I have visited a National Park in Utah I’ve found awesome camping options- including my teardrop trailer rental in MOAB and a schooly onvert in 2019. This time I’d be glamping for 2 nights! I left the park and made my way to my Hipcamp booking (click here for $10 off your next campsite).
I stayed in Virgin, Utah at the cutest farm with 3 canvas tents, a speakeasy- bar’n, hot tub, and fire pit (search Zion on the Green Luxury Tents). A couple, Scott and Ken, run the camp and were in town during my stay- I got to meet them! I think one of them is an architect or maybe an interior designer- I can’t remember now but know they have designed building in Las Vegas. They were both gracious hosts and an amazing and fun couple! Another couple was staying while I was there, too. They were on their honeymoon.
On the first night, all five of us sat around the campfire and we traded travel stories. The newlywed couple shared a little about their time in Zion from earlier that day, too. They neglected to tell me one major thing though. The next day I learned a key lesson that I had not planned for, nor did I hear about from anyone when talking about Zion. I finally got to bed around 2:30AM. They have this wild Rooster on the farm that doesn’t quite know why our when to crow. He was going off at all random times, I’ve convinced myself he is blind. I never saw him, but I would hear him at the most absurd times, it was comical.
Zion National Park
I woke up late because the bed was so comfy- with a heated blanket and the best pillows. It was noon by the time I ended up getting to Zion National Park; my fourth and final Utah National Park. I drove passed my turn to the Angel’s Landing trailhead and my GPS rerouted; I figured it would just connect me back to the other side of the road. What I didn’t realize is it rerouted me to go through the ENTIRE park to complete a U-turn and come back. About an hour later I made the realization and turned somewhere mid-route. Don’t worry- that wasn’t the news I was missing.
By 14:00 I was back to the original missed turn. Ignoring all the ‘Authorized Vehicles Only’ signage, I took the turn, because I saw other private vehicles there, too. I finally turned around when the signs were more serious and all private vehicles were out of sight. I turned into a lodge instead.
First day hiking in the Park
I went to their main lobby to ask about how to get to the trailhead. The lady behind the concierge desk wouldn’t stop talking about all the signs I ignored. As if I was the only car on the road- there were hundreds parked in the lodge lot. I explained to her that I wasn’t aware of the shuttle being the only form of transportation permitted throughout the park and I’d move my car as soon as I left the lodge. I just needed to know if I’d have time to get back because the shuttle ended in 5 hours and the hike is 4 hours and, well, I still had to drive out and catch the shuttle to the trailhead. It seemed best for me to retry in the morning. I found a different tail to do instead.
Necessary Detail for visiting Zion
Eventually, I drove back to the main road and found parking and rode the shuttle to Observation Point. From this stop I visited Weeping Rock and then hiked as far as I could until 18:00 and then went back down as quickly as I could. Remember when I said I wanted to rest my legs for Angel’s Landing, ha! This hike was strenuous and longer than Angel’s Landing.
After I left the park, I had dinner at Spotted Dog Cafe. I recommend this restaurant to anyone who visits Springdale, Utah and have been back already myself; it’s so good! When I arrived back to my ‘glampsite’ I soaked in the hot tub. I’d have a big day ahead of me yet. There was no way I would visit Zion National Park and not hike Angel’s Landing, but I also would have a long drive after. Now I was equipped with the most important information: Zion National Park requires all visitors to use the shuttle for most park trails- especially Angel’s Landing even in November.
[Authors Note: I have lost track of the amount of National Parks I have visited, to include more popular parks DURING peak season, and none were as restricting- YOU WILL NEED TO SHUTTLE!! This of course is sustainable but be prepared for delays in your plans and grab parking when you find it- I have found parking inside the park everytime- the welcome center has an enormous lot].
Second day hiking in the park; Angel’s Landing
I woke up early and had breakfast; Ken and Scott made me a breakfast taco each morning with some other goodies. Then I packed my car and was off- for good. I arrived to the trailhead at 13:00 and began my hike. I was so proud once I got to the chains, the hardest part for me was the incline on the switch backs. Once I was at the top there was no giving up, I was so determined to complete this hike entirely- to the end. When I reached the top I had a group congratulate me. This group remembered passing me on the wiggles where I was struggling but I assured them I’d get there. It felt great to hear them acknowledge this new achievement.
Many people were surprised I was hiking alone… little did they know I was hiking many places alone. Even though this hike had chains and is considered dangerous it felt very safe. Once I made it to the end, I made a few friends and we took each other’s picture. There was absolutely no chance I’d set up a tripod on that peak, there was too much wind and I had my brand new lens attached.
[Authors Note: I hiked Angel’s Landing again in the Summer (2019) and had so much more endurance. The circumstance were much worse- it was at the hottest part of the day in August, around 100 degrees, and yet I performed my best hike yet; proud moment. And even though there were lines to get on the shuttle I had the entire ‘landing’ point to myself. It was peak season- dont let the lines and delays deter you! That was a quick overnight impromptu visit- I still plan to get back and complete the Subway hike- permits required].