We just got back from Utah after visiting Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. Our goal was to go to a national park in the winter to avoid the crowds and hopefully get a little snow for our photos. We got our wish! Both parks were stunningly beautiful and we did some hikes that tested the bounds of our fear of heights. It was not only a park visit; it was truly an accomplishment. Here are the main places we visited while in Zion.
Canyon Overlook Trail
Our first stop was the Canyon Overlook Trail for sunrise. We had to get up well before the crack of dawn so we could be in place to get the magical colors. Unfortunately and fortunately, there was no sun to be found. Instead we got the clouds moving over the mountains which made for great time-lapse video.
We also spotted a mountain goat and her kid while heading back down from the overlook, which was an additional treat. We tried again on day two to catch sunrise and ended up with some very high and thin clouds that blocked the effect. We are still happy with the experiences we had, the serene walk, and the very few visitors at that early time in the morning.
Canyon Junction Bridge – The Watchman
Of course, if we are going to get up early for a sunrise, we also have to try for sunset somewhere. We chose to go to the Canyon Junction Bridge to get the iconic view of the Watchman as the sun glowed on its way down. The water down below was a smooth as silk and the Watchman was glowing in the distance.
Since we were with some other photographers, we got great photos that evening and yet another timelapse. The air was so fresh and cool, and the views just did not get old. We were glad it was winter and not the peak season zoo.
Emerald Pools Trail
The Emerald Pools Trail was an easy hike and had some waterfalls which were more like a trickle during the winter season. The reward was at the top where there was a small reflective pool with some light ice. It was a nice place to relax for a bit before making the hike back down. Since this is an easier hike, it does get a bit more crowded. We would recommend going early so you spend less time tripping over children and more time enjoying the views.
Normally closed for winter, the trail for Angels Landing was open. This was a real treat as we were not expecting to do this hike. If you are even remotely afraid of heights, this trail is not for you. As someone who still has a slight fear for heights, this is where the accomplishment really kicks in. I did it!
The climb is roughly 1,500 feet with steep drop-offs of around 1,000 feet. In the steep, riskier sections there were chains to hold onto for support. Yes, chains! There are some narrow parts of the trail with not much room between you and death. Keep an eye on the current weather conditions and be sure to be back down before sunset to stay safe. There is a sign near the trail that says six people have died on this hike. Unfortunately, we were shocked to find out that one teen fell the week before we arrived. Luckily we did not know this before we did the climb and had a larger-than-life experience.
It was a difficult hike, but most of that was in my head and not my feet. The view at the top was out of this world and worth spending some time taking it all in. This was the highlight of our trip!
This portion of our trip to Utah will always be memorable to us. It was hard to find a view we did not like, as everywhere we looked there was something epic. We would highly recommend a winter trip to this park and February seemed like a nice time to go. Winter weather can be risky, but for us, it was perfect for the most part, and the crowds were low. The air is dryer since it is a desert, so you do not feel the cold like you would in a more humid climate. Even though we layered up, we ended up taking off most of it on any of our hikes and learned quickly not to bother except during sunrise.
We compiled a video to better share some of our experiences, especially with the Angels Landing hike. Enjoy!
Next stop, Bryce Canyon!
Comments make us happy, so please let us know what you think!