Posted by: Alex MacGregor | December 12, 2017

Zion NP Explorations

With serious picture-perfect winter weather in Zion, Molly and I got out and squeezed every bit of daylight we could out of the Park. And the place was ripe for exploration, even on a tight time frame, because in winter cars can drive all through the place!

So thus follow some shots of what an awesome place to visit Zion NP is, even if you opt for a less strenuous introduction than barreling up to Angel’s Landing (which, in fairness, appears to be exactly what most tourists do). Seriously, this is my new favorite National Park.

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The Virgin River at sunset

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Awe-inspiring landscapes throughout, especially with the unexpected contrast of red rocks and perfect white snow.

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For a less-demanding way to stretch out your legs (although this trail is listed as MODERATE, in the interest of full disclosure), the Canyon Overlook Trail is a great option.

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A quick hike through caves…

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…to an amply rewarding lookout!

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In the distance, the West Temple (on the left) and the Altar of Sacrifice (on the right). An amazing, forbidding sight, especially generously heaped with snow. A little like how I picture Cerro Torre to look (sadly, a place I have no link for at this stage in my life–someday I’ll correct this). And now knowing the names of the mountains makes it all the more forbidding!

Although we had to rush back to Vegas that evening to meet with my dad, Molly and I couldn’t resist one more possibly ill-advised major trek: this time to Observation Point, a somewhat daunting 8-mile round trip hike with a supposedly perfect overlook at the end. A much longer hike than Angel’s Landing, although less risky in snow.

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We had to start early to keep on schedule. Before long, the skies cleared up for another blissfully sunny day–except not down where we were! It was bitter cold, and the sunsoaked mountains in the distance might has well have been on another planet. Crampons once again saved the day.

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Deep in a crevice, on a tail it seems amazing anybody was able to forge in the first place, I wondered how tall this cliff was. With a 3-D Google Earth model of the entire park now at my disposal, I have the answer: it’s approximately 1,300 feet tall (400 meters for the non-USA readers). But down on that trail all you can do is pause to stare up in amazement at the cliff towering above your head, and how even the little cliffs right in front of you are pretty huge if you think about it.

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Amazing views, but still no sun!

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And, just like that, a bend in the mountain, and you’ve got sun…

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…sun…

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…and more sun! Suddenly getting sunburned and dehydrated on a freezing morning in the mountains seemed like a real possibility. Oops.

Before long we shed much of our winter gear, and basked in the warmth. It was amazing, the beauty and serenity of being far out in the emptiness, looking out over a different valley from Zion, with no people or roads or anything, and early enough that we had the whole place to ourselves.

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At last, we rounded another mountain bend and the main valley came back into view. Definitely worth treading carefully on this stretch, even with crampons.

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It’s difficult not to get held up by the view every few minutes on this part. Just amazing. A second day of some of the best hiking I’ve ever done in my life!

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A perfect blanket of snow to frame each picture.

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And no, that still isn’t Observation Point. The trail takes one more stretch across open plateau before you finally get to this:

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An amazing vista of the snow-filled valley. Angel’s Landing, that knob of rock sticking out from the right side of the valley, looks so small from up here.

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You can risk your life in various ways plodding off into the snow trying to frame just the perfect picture of this place!

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Which I was inclined to do…but only a couple times. My mom reads this blog after all!

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