If you have just one day to kill in Zion National Park, what would you do?
We began our day with three short hikes:
1) Riverside Walk – shuttle stop: Temple of Sinawava
Round trip: 2.2 miles/3.5 kilometers
Elevation change: 57 feet/17 meters
This wheel chair accessible trail is mostly shaded. It follows the Virgin River along the bottom of the Zion Canyon, leading to the Narrows.
Here, you will find rock squirrels
and the lush and unique “hanging gardens” for which Zion is famous.
Other wild plants dotted the path.
Even watercress in the wetland areas, adjacent to the river.
2) Weeping Rock Trail – shuttle stop: Weeping Rock
Round trip: 0.4 miles/0.6 kilometers
Elevation change: 98 feet/30 meters
This short but steep paved trail ends at a rock alcove with dripping springs.
What makes Weeping Rock weep?
Mud deposited in lowland streams millions of years ago was covered with wind blown sand. Centuries of pressure squeezed the mud into thin shale layers. Water passes easily through sandstone but not through shale. Rain and snow falling on the plateau above soaks into the sandstone. When it reaches the shale it moves sideways to emerge from the cliff face as a spring.
3) Lower Emerald Pools Trail – Starts from shuttle stop: Zion Lodge
Round trip: 1.2 miles/1.9 kilometers
Elevation change: 69 feet/21 meters
Three sets of pools create a unique oasis in this desert environment and provide year-round habitat for an amazing variety of life forms. One of those, aquatic green algae, led early visitors to dub these the “Emerald Pools.”
Although the lower pool was small and rather unimpressive, the trail was mostly shaded with spectacular rock formations and a misty waterfall.
We made an attempt to hike Angels Landing.
But the scorching mid-afternoon sun and the dry heat made us falter.
So we retreated to the shady lawns of the Zion Lodge and rewarded ourselves with a generous serving of soft-serve ice cream.
After the break, we hopped on the shuttle bus to the Court of the Patriarchs – a trio of sandstone cliffs named after the biblical figures Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
We decided to have dinner in the park, so that we could stay late and watch the sunset. The portion was small, but the food was well seasoned – both the pork chop and the salad came with a flavorful prickly pears sauce.
We were told that the best place to see sunset is on the Pa’rus trail
For which we took the shuttle to Canyon Junction and walked the 3.5 miles/5.6 kilometers trail out the entrance.