We decided to venture up to Zion National Park for the last weekend in December, since we were nearby in Nevada rock climbing .
December is low season. There was a little bit of snow (beautiful), freezing cold temperatures, cheap hotels with empty rooms and far smaller crowds.
In other words, a pretty perfect time of year to visit this beautiful place!
Our first day, we decided to hike one of the hikes labelled as a difficult in guides: 5-6 hours, 500 meter elevation gain. We loaded up our packs with extra food, clothes and head lamps just in case. I was used to hiking in the middle of nowhere, where safety precautions on long hikes in cold temperatures are important.
As the paved trail continued from the parking lot did not stop after the first 10 minutes, I half laughed and half groaned. The entire way appeared paved! And fully exposed to the warm sun.
People wearing dress shoes, tank tops, carrying snacks in grocery bags and playing with their cell phones.
The careful construction of the switch backs was beautiful, as were the views so I didn’t mind too much. Was definitely nothing like hiking in British Columbia.
When we got to the top, I saw that the trail seemed to continue. I told Bernard, “I think that’s Angels Landing. I bet we are going there!”
The trail was so steep and narrow — and such a juxtaposition to the paved sidewalk we just meandered up.
Bernard said, “That looks intense.”
I saw a clump of people stopped on a cliff side. I said, “It can’t be that bad, look at all those people eating lunch!”
A woman overheard us and said, “They aren’t having lunch. They are stuck trying to come back down because it’s too icy.”
That sounded like good fun to me!
We had rented microspikes from the Zion Adventure Company in town before we left. There were flexible rubber things covered in spikes you slipped on to your regular shoes.
I tested my microspikes by standing on steep inclines and jumping up and down on ice patches. I wasn’t going anywhere. Definitely worth the $10.
Most people were wearing tennis shoes and were slipping around. That did not look fun for them.
We made it to the summit, or end of the cliff in about an hour.
Did I mention I am definitely not afraid of heights? I love being high up the very most.
This was one of my favourite hikes of all time because of how much fun the last half mile was.
The next day we ventured our the The Narrows, one of the most iconic hikes in Zion.
You wade through rocks, sandy beaches and a small river as the canyon gets narrower.
Most people go out for about 5-6 hours, turning around when they want to. It can also be made into an overnight trip.
You’ve probably seen the photos of people doing this hike in the summer, wearing bathing suits or shorts. Like this photo from Flickr.
This was obviously not what was happening in December.
It was cold, and kept getting colder as the canyon got narrower.
To venture into the water, you need a dry suit and special footwear. We rented our suits from the very helpful Zion Adventure company.
Underneath our dry suits we bundled up in every non cotton article of clothing we had.
It was cold enough for icicles to form on the canyon walls.
Cold enough that shallow parts of the river were frozen.
But really quite fun to be wading through icy water being perfectly dry and warm.
This is probably one of my favourite hikes of all time. I think the winter conditions made it even more special.
Here are a few of the places we loved:
- Zion Adventure Company: Gear rentals & advice
- Cafe Soleil: Breakfast, lunch packed to go for hiking, and so much gluten free! Right next to the park entrance.
- Alberto’s: Delicious, cheap Mexican food in Hurricane (20 min outside of the park). Order a fajita plate for $6 and feed two people.
Jessica and Bernard, you are amazing!! Thanks for sharing your adventures with me!