Winter weather, closures, crowds, traffic, lack of parking...
Zion National Park is the first national park in Utah and one of the six national parks which I visited on a trip back in December of 2020 during the height of the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic; and I arrived from Toadstools Trail earlier that morning on a cloudy and chilly day with snow flurries.
Zion National Park: Nothing Went Right — Until…
I drove west on Utah State Highway 9 through the east entrance of Zion National Park. The snow flurries had stopped for that moment. The high temperature for that day was 41 degrees Fahrenheit; and the low temperature was 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
At times, the main road was crowded with vehicles — and parking was extremely scarce. I did manage to find a place barely large enough to accommodate a car to take a photograph of what I thought was an interesting pattern on the side of a hill, which the light snow accentuated.
Most of the points of interest are located on the scenic drive; and only 400 vehicles at a time were allowed in the scenic drive area. I suppose the layout of Zion National Park itself could also have been an obstacle, as other than the Scenic Drive, only one road crosses through the park.
The arch formation which is embedded in the side of the cliff reminded me of either an outdoor theater or a natural partial bridge.
As evidenced by the natural “window” opening in the mountain in which the main road was located — I had already driven inside of it but due to the narrowness of the road, I could not stop to take photographs — the snow started to fall again shortly after arriving at Zion National Park.
Canyon Overlook Trail at Zion National Park
Deciding to take the steps up from the road to the Canyon Overlook Trail, I managed to park the rental car in a questionable area where other vehicles were barely parked along the main road. I had no idea if the rental vehicle was going to be ticketed — or if it would still be there by the time I returned.
That was not a comfortable feeling; but I had little other choice if I wanted to experience some pare of Zion National Park, as the Scenic Drive was closed because the maximum number of vehicles was already in that area and the shuttle service was not operating for another three months — but I did appreciate how the road and the tunnel reminded me of a miniature layout of some aficianado of model cars and trains.
At times, the Canyon Overlook Trail was sandy; while at other times, it was wet from the runoff from the light snow. The sand and water on the smooth uneven rock surface of the trail was slippery at times. Sometimes the “ceiling” was low that I had to duck to not hit my head on the rock.
Just to give an idea of the drop off, see if you can find the person in the photograph which is shown above who is walking along the narrow path with no railing or other safety device at that point.
Fortunately, some portions of Canyon Overlook Trail were equipped with a railing — but only some portions.
Steps were barely carved out of the rock of the edge of the cliff — only to have been smoothed over the years by the elements.
The trail was so narrow at some points that passing a person who was going in the opposite direction was not always easy to do.
Although some of the rock formations and colors were indeed interesting, the weather, the traffic, the lack of parking, the crowds, the closures of some portions of Zion National Park were simply annoying and overshadowed the beauty of the park at that moment. December is supposed to be the off season for visiting the park — but I felt like I was experiencing the worst of the off season with the worst of the peak season.
Still, I ventured onward, with the natural beauty of the light snow forming on the rock and the greenery of the evergreen flora helped bring about a picturesque peace for me at times…
…but at one point, the trail became so crowded with people and wet in an area where the trail was quite narrow and slippery because it was wet — right next to a steep drop-off of the cliff of which no railing, trees, or anything else on which to grab was available; so I reluctantly decided to abort the mission to venture to the end of the trail because I believed that the sneakers which I was wearing at the time did not have enough traction.
I was not happy about aborting the way to the view which overlooked the canyon at Zion National Park; and I was ready to call it a day as I was on the rare verge of giving up at that point. Nothing seemed to be working out for me…
The canyon was not accessible beyond the end of the Riverside Walk trail due to toxic algae in the Virgin River; and a couple of trails were closed at the time due to winter weather conditions and rock slides — plus the aforementioned closure of the Scenic Drive — and deciding not to complete hiking on Canyon Overlook Trail, I began to think that this day at Zion National Park was going to end up as a disaster and a colossal waste of time…
…and I was miserable at that point — I had though about simply leaving the park and heading on to the hotel early to relax in a warm comfortable bed.
Final Boarding Call
What happened next will be imparted in a future article. Please stay tuned for part two of this series of articles on Zion National Park.
All Weekly Passes are valid for seven days.
Weekly passes are non-transferable and are valid for seven consecutive days — including the date of purchase. Weekly passes may be upgraded to annual passes within seven days of purchase.
Private Vehicle: $35.00. Admits private, non-commercial vehicle with a maximum capacity of 15 passengers and all occupants to Zion National Park — including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas.
Motorcycle: $30.00. Admits one non-commercial motorcycle to Zion National Park — including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas.
Per Person: $20.00. Admits one individual with no car to Zion National Park — including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas. This weekly pass is typically used for bicyclists, hikers, and pedestrians. Youth 15 years of age and younger are admitted free of charge.
Non-Commercial Organized Groups. Organized groups such as Scouts, Rotary, Clubs, Youth Groups, Churches, Reunions, etc. that do not qualify for an Academic Fee Waiver are charged as follows:
$35.00 Admits private, non-commercial vehicle with a maximum capacity of 15 passengers.
$20.00 per person for non-commercial vehicles with a minimum capacity of 16 passengers. Fees will not exceed the commercial fee for the same-sized vehicle. Youth 15 years of age and younger are admitted free of charge. Individuals or families with any valid Annual or Lifetime pass may use their pass for entry at the per person rate. The pass and photographic identification must be present upon entry.