I have been to Zion National Park twice, prior to this trip. The first time was with two of my best girlfriends on our month long road trip across the U.S after we graduated college back in 2007 (yea, I’ve now dated myself :P). Unfortunately, when we got to Zion after camping in the Grand Canyon – one of them developed Strep Throat, no fun, and so we stopped in briefly to the park, took a bit of a walk on the Pa’rus Trail, and after the heat and the weird biting insects got to us, we packed it up, and didn’t get to see all the beauty that Zion truly is. :/
The 2nd time was last year after St. George 70.3. I went with my dad, and we enjoyed a few trails of the park. My favorite was hiking a bit of The Narrows. You can read about that trip here. I really wanted to go back and do all of The Narrows with Topher, so when we planned our post-race trip this year, initially we planned on hiking all of The Narrows. How amazing that cold water would feel on the legs. It’s like the perfect active recovery + ice bath, after a race. After Topher and I raced St. George 70.3 this year, and enjoyed Snow Canyon, we then drove to Zion which is about a 45min drive away. So convenient. We hadn’t reserved any spot to camp (when I looked a month out from our trip, all the reserved spots were reserved), so I had planned on us going to one of the “first come, first serve” campgrounds. We pulled into Zion, and first bought a year pass. It’s so affordable if you go to multiple National Parks per year, plus we were going to be going in and out of the park, since we were staying for 4 days, so it made sense for that reason, too.
As we drove up to the Ranger’s Booth, there were two signs that said both campgrounds were full. We inquired if there was possibly any vacancy, and there was!!! We drove over to Watchman campground, which is the one where you reserve spots. It is also group camping. There are multiple campgrounds that are “group sites”. There were 3 “group sites” that had overflow availability. Meaning they weren’t filled up to their maximum capacity. We scoped out the 3 sites, and decided on one that seemed spacious and it looked like it was just a bunch of random individuals who just needed a place to camp for the night, rather than a very tight knit group, who clearly had planned and reserved their spots. It was perfect. We pitched our Alps Mountaineering tent, set up our amazing Thermarest air pads, air pillows, and duo sleeping bag, and then made healthy wraps out the trunk of the car. With us only being able to stay there one night, since it was reserved camping, we had to wake up early on Monday morning to go wait in line for South Campground, which is first come, first serve.
You all, I had no idea, that campgrounds in May were of such high demand. We were blown away. We were told that sometimes the line starts at 6am! So, we woke up not quite that early, hopped in the car, and drove over to South Campground, and there were already about 7 cars deep. We got in line around 7:30am, and we were in line for nearly 90min before we got a site. Check out is at 11am, so since it’s first come, first serve, we have to wait for people to pack up and clear their camp area, before it is given to a new person. We got an awesome spot, a mix of nature, and near the bathrooms. 🙂 We then reserved the spot for two nights. We were excited to not have to move! It’s nice getting comfortable, and unpacking a bit.
We had our bikes, and were excited to ride through Zion. Honestly, it was beyond my wildest dreams. I had always dreamed of riding my bike on vacation and through scenic lands, but this was more than I could have expected. It was a beautiful adventure. Literally, my dream was coming true. Vacationing on bikes and camping! What more could an outdoorsy/adventure girl ask for?
After getting settled at our new campsite, we got our bikes ready and headed out for an afternoon ride! You ride out of the campground, and if you stay straight on the main road that goes from one end of the park to the other entrance/exit, you immediately start climbing. We climbed and climbed and climbed with epic views, until we ran into a tunnel. We weren’t allowed to cycle through because there’s no lane and it’s dark, so we were told we had to hitch a ride in a truck for the 1.1 mile tunnel. About 10sec later a white truck pulled up, and asked if we needed a lift. We were grinning with excitement that we barely had to hustle, not only that, this couple with their two kids, and parents, had just done St. George 70.3, too! #triathletefam It was really fun getting to know them. We hopped out on the other side, and continued on our way, riding by a herd of Mountain Goats along the way. It was seriously an adventure of a lifetime.
Photo by Topher Riley
We enjoyed the speedy decent back to the campground, and enjoyed another peaceful truck ride through the tunnel on the way back. We couldn’t have been more lucky. The weather, the people, the scenery. My heart was full. We can pack it up, now! I’m all good. haha. Jk! After we got back, we went for a walk along the path new our campgrounds that mimics the river. Again, it was so peaceful and calm. It relaxed me. Calmed me. The sound of the wind blowing through the trees, the white noise of the river rushing, and the mountains, and greenery all around made for a visual explosion. Walking in nature. And we had a surprise guest on our walk, which made it that much more special. Nature…so beautiful, and so rewarding. When we got back from our walk, we had bought so many snacks from Costco, and we were pretty tired that it was snacks and wraps again for us.
Photo by Topher Riley
Photo by Topher Riley
We crawled into the tent, and both of us were pretty excited to lay our heads on our Thermarest pillows, and cozy up in our duo sleeping bag. We were so comfortable. It made the trip that much more enjoyable when you can actually get a good night’s sleep, because sometimes camping isn’t so nice on the sleep game. But, we were spoiled.
Stay tuned for Day 2 of Cycling and Day 3 of Hiking Angel’s Landing!