Given our experience on Thanksgiving, and anticipating a potential increase in visitors, we made sure to arrive just as early on Saturday. We had no trouble parking at the Visitor Center, and the line for the shuttle was about the same. This time our plan was to hike Hidden Canyon – hopefully a less populated trail than Angel’s Landing – and then leave Zion Canyon for another section of the park, Kolob Terrace.
We got a slightly later start – around 9:45am – and at first, it seemed like there were a lot of people. Luckily, the trailhead for Hidden Canyon is by Weeping Rock and the majority of people were not continuing in our direction. That said, there was still a healthy amount of hikers out. The first part of this trail began yet again with a series of switchbacks. We actually saw the switchbacks from Angel’s Landing on Thursday. Near the top, the trail to Hidden Canyon diverged into a separate series of switchbacks until we reached a saddle.
At the top of the saddle, the trail followed the canyon walls down into a small valley before we reached an impressive set of steps chiseled out of the sandstone. At the top of the steps we embarked on the last – but most exciting – part of the trail: an exposed ledge carved from the sandstone. There are chains for support, but the ledge is wide enough that they aren’t always necessary – unless you’re afraid of heights! There was a couple in front of us who seemed a little hesitant, so we waited for them to get a good distance ahead before we began climbing.
As we came down off the ledge, the trail was essentially at its end. We climbed another set of steps chiseled in the sandstone and were met with the mouth of the canyon. The trail felt incredibly short. Luckily, we could continue into Hidden Canyon, following the narrow canyon walls and going as far as we wanted. This was the most enjoyable part of the hike; there weren’t many obstacles but we did have to scramble up and over a couple of boulders, through a small crevice and down a log, and various other small but fun scrambles. Plus, there were few enough people that it didn’t feel crowded. We went as far as the arch near the canyon’s end (about half a mile) and decided to turn back. By that time, more people were filling into the canyon, and we wanted to give ourselves time to go over to Kolob Terrace.
Once we reached the bottom, we hopped back on the shuttle. On our drive back, we overheard tales of the traffic congestion coming into the park from Springdale. People were waiting 45 minutes – 1 hour to get into the park. Since we would have to exit the park to visit Kolob Terrace and then re-enter through Springdale, we decided it wasn’t worth leaving if we had to wait in that kind of traffic just to get back to Kanab. So, instead, we opted to do the Pa’rus Trail from the Visitor Center, and then try to do the Canyon Overlook Trail in the upper east canyon before calling it an early day.
The Pa’rus Trail is a pleasant paved path which leaves from the South Campground just across from the Visitor Center and travels alongside the Virgin River to the Canyon Junction. It’s open to bikes, dogs (on leash), and is perfect for a leisurely stroll. There are several spots with access to the river too. Not as dramatic as the view from Angel’s Landing, the Pa’rus Trail provides beautiful views of Zion Canyon albeit from a lower perspective. It was a nice way to round out our visit to the main canyon.
We returned to the Visitor Center; just as we started into the parking lot, a woman and her child asked if we were leaving. They escorted us to our car as her husband followed behind in their car in order to grab our parking spot. There was even a little dispute with another car before they eventually claimed it. It’s this kind of thing that turned me off of Zion. It’s beautiful, but I think it’s been a bit over-hyped. At a certain point, the crowding has an effect on your experience. And while I think we both enjoyed ourselves and were prepared for the lack of solitude, it was really great to get out of the park and hike elsewhere.
On our way out of the park, via the Zion-Mt.Carmel Hwy., the park felt more like a zoo. Cars were parked alongside the road, even in spaces with No Parking signs. Park police were out writing tickets, but I doubt that matters much. We couldn’t get a spot in the trail parking lot again, and I didn’t want to even try. I’m not great with crowds, and I’d reached my fill. Again, hiking is supposed to be enjoyable.
We parked in a pullout farther on after I’d spotted some bighorn sheep and were able to enjoy the silence. It’s definitely possible to find solitude in Zion, you just have to be willing to put up with the other stuff for a while. We’ll go back, but we’ll try to stay off the beaten path as much.