The Trip of Heights - Part 1

National Parks

Zion's National Park - The Narrows, Angel's Landing, West Rim Trail - Grand Canyon

 

Jenn Fortner

(@jennfortner - jennfortnerphotography.com)

 

In 12 glorious days off of work, my husband (Zach) and I explored the Southwest of America.

On the itinerary: Zion National Park, The Grand Canyon, Palm Springs, and Joshua Tree National Park. Sometime in the middle of the trip, Zach and I joked this was “the trip of heights” as it seemed nearly everywhere we went we stood on cliffs overlooking staggering beautiful and dizzying views.

The Southwest is beautiful and worth exploring. Zach and I were both avid hikers long before we met each other, exploring the Ozark hiking trails on which we grew up, the Colorado Rockies, and the Smoky Mountains. Both of us had a little experience with the Southwest, traveling to places such as Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but never explored many of the National Parks in the Southwest. I can safely say after this trip that the Southwest is not only unique in it’s desert vibey-ness, but matches and in some ways surpasses some of the other outdoor adventures I have found myself on along the way.

I’ll go in the order of our trip and point out some of my favorites from the Trip of Heights. Hope you enjoy!

Zion National Park - has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, or at least that I’ve ever seen. Overall the trails and drives through the National Park are A+ - making Zion now my personal favorite American National Park (yes, even over Yosemite!). Whether you just want to bring the family for a day of easy hikes (there are a ton that are completely kid friendly), or hike some tougher terrain - Zion is not to be missed!

 

The Narrows, Zion National Park. What a crazy hike. In the summertime one can hike The Narrows with a bathing suit on and a sturdy walking stick. Making for the perfect cool-off day hike. We, however, did the hike in February. #Brr. Thus we rented dry suits and canyoneering shoes from Zion Adventures to make this hike possible in the cold water.

I was nervous about hiking for 9 hours in cold water. I didn’t know what it would feel like or if I had the balance to pull it off. However hiking The Narrows turned out to be an amazing experience I would recommend to anyone in decent shape. I would go so far as to say The Narrows is my favorite hiking experience to date.

 

View from the top of Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park.

Holy Moly. I said The Narrows was crazy but I didn’t know what crazy was until I did Angel’s Landing. Here’s what the website has to say on Angel’s Landing:

“Zion's pride and joy runs along a narrow rock fin with dizzying drop-offs on both sides. The trail culminates at a lofty perch, boasting magnificent views in every direction. Rarely is such an intimidating path so frequented by hikers. One would think that this narrow ridge with deep chasms on each of its flanks would allure only the most intrepid of hikers. Climbers scale its big wall; hikers pull themselves up by chains and sightseers stand in awe at its stunning nobility. The towering monolith is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Southwest.”

That pretty much sums it up: dizzying, drop-offs, intimidating, and narrow. I do not recommend this hike to anyone wanting to go up a razor edge cliff in a pair of Chuck Taylors or people who do not have hiking experience. There just isn’t any room for error on this one folks. Also if you have a fear of heights just take this hike off of your to-do-list. On my Instagram account I went into further depth of Angel’s Landing - you can see the posts here.

Still, with all of these warnings Angel’s Landing remains the number one most hiked trails in Zion National Park. Just bring your courage with you when you begin.

 

West Rim Trail, Zion National Park - This trail begins the same place that Angel’s Landing does. However, it doesn’t take on the form of crazy that Angel’s Landing does at all. It is a great one for someone who wants great views at an easy going pace. We did not make it all the way to the top, but the West Rim can be make-it-what-you-want type hiking.

That’s a wrap! On to more cliffs and heights!

 

 

THE GRAND CANYON

It is just one of those things you need to see to believe. Then again, once you see it, you can’t really believe how big it is… so I don’t know. The Grand Canyon always reminded me of family vacations with bratty kids more interested in chipmunks than the beauty of the Canyon. In some ways that assumption held true. Though we visited in February the main pathed trail was packed with people from all over the world, especially around sunset time.

We spent two days total at the Grand Canyon which I felt was just right. The first day we hiked the Kaibab Trail - which is sort of a choose-your-own-adventure trail that will take you down the canyon as far as you want to go. We went 3 miles down to Skeleton Point, a 6 mile journey overall that is MUCH easier on the way down than the way up. I understand now why they say it is completely inadvisable to try to get to the bottom of the canyon and back up in one day. WHEW.

The second day we took a helicopter tour through the canyon via Maverick Helicopter Tours. The tours are a little expensive, but if you have the cash, it is very much worth it. For one, I had never flown in a helicopter (which is awesome by the way) and for two, you will never get to see the expanse of the Grand Canyon any other way.

- Jenn Fortner

 

For the dreamer - For the adventurer