The Wild West is synonymous with Ghost Towns and Zion has one, conveniently a short drive away. Grafton traces its origin to 1859 when its fertile surroundings gave birth to a cotton industry despite local Indian attacks. It seems the Indians liked the place too and for good reason; it's a gorgeous area with a good water source. Evidently the settlers won out and the town thrived until the 1930s. What you see now is a skeleton of its former glory but a nice step back in time including a simple old church.
Access Grafton via Route 9 from the west entrance to the park. We stopped here on our way back from our backpacking trip on the West Rim so can easily be combined with a trip to either of the Kolob areas.
The Kolob Terrace section of the park is probably its most remote part of Zion due to the 36 mile winding road to access Lava Point, the area's core. The drive itself is breathtaking and there are numerous trails into very little traveled wilderness like Wildcat Canyon and the West Rim trail. Please plan ahead as there are no facilities in this part of the park. The primitive campground at Lava Point only has pit toilets and no running water. Check for opening as this part of the park is much higher in elevation and is not open in winter. We saw quite a bit of snow even in May.
As I'm sure Native Americans named the beautiful rock formations before them, Mormon settlers had some interesting if a bit zealously religious names for many of them. Zion conveniently has signs everywhere detailing their names as well as information about the formations themselves. The West Temple and the Towers of the Virgin are some of the most famous. Capturing them in perfect light is quite tricky as the canyon is steep so early and late morning light also produces a fair amount of shadow.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Grafton is its very atmospheric cemetery. Inscriptions on the graves tell a sad story of harsh frontier life where children often died young as well as proof of a bloody Indian-settler dispute over who had rights to the land.
We didn't see much wild life during our seven days at Zion, even in the back country but the wild turkey was ever present and it seems in mating season while there. Of course, the ubiquitous squirrels were always the lookout for a handout. Don't feed the cute little buggers, please.
Only 86 miles east of Zion will bring you to Bryce Canyon National Park. In just a short distance you will find a drastically different landscape compared to Zion.
At Bryce you will see huge amphitheatres full of colourful spires of rock called hoodoos. There are many viewpoints to photograph the hoodoos, but plan to take one of the hikes in amongst these strange rock formations.
You can use your National Parks Pass for admission to Bryce NP. See my Bryce Canyon pages for more photos and info.
A little over 80 miles north east of Zion is Bryce Canyon National Park. Here you will see some awe-inspiring landscapes. Hoodoos, pillar of rocks that have been formed by erosion rise skyward in fantastic shapes. Many of these are a beautiful red color and cover the landscape for miles. If you only drive over to Bryce for the day take the scenic drive, stopping at the look out points, it will be well worth your time. If you can, take a hike down into the Hoodoos for the full impact of their size and beauty. This park holds some of the most interesting and beautiful views I have ever seen, try not to miss it.
It is a worthwhile detour to the north rim of the Grand Canyon from Zion, if you have not seen the Grand Canyon before. It is only 120 miles and can easily be seen as a daytrip.
We visited in mid October and found snow en route but by the time we arrived at the canyon, the snow had melted from the canyonwalls. If this is your only opportunity to see the Grand Canyon, I would plan to be there in the late afternoon to avoid the harsh midday sun.
You can use your National Park Pass to gain admission to the North Rim.
Angels Landing is one of the best locations in the park to view the canyon. Its stunning views have made it one of the more heavily used trails in the park.
The climb is not easy though, it requires an ascent of 1,500 feet (460m) in only 2.5 miles (4.3km) from the canyon floor through many switchbacks. At one point about halfway into the hike you will reach a location known as Walters Wiggles which is a series of 10 switchbacks in immediate succession. That accumulates for an elevation gain of about 600 feet (182 m) or more.
The upside to this strenuous hike is that the first 2 miles (3.3km) are paved in a very interesting stucco type pavement. I found myself thinking that it must have been a lot of work to pave this trail's first 2 full miles (3.3km) of walking.
After reaching the top of Walters Wiggles that is where the real hiking begins. Climbing Angels landing requires an ascent of a very narrow path with large cliff exposure on either side. The park has installed chains to hold on to but you should really be careful. A fall from this height would most certainly take your life.
The trail is quoted as a hike that will take you 4 hours. That is a very accurate timeline for anyone who does not have a lot of hiking experience.
I reckon that the first time i had to cross the river just started the hike i was a little bit annoyed about boots and socks (lol). Actually i didnt imagine how i ended up the "trail". Anyway the first 15 minutes are awesome.. everything is amazing there trying to avoid streams and thread over the water.. Later you forget that is water and simply enjoy time there
The easiest part is so simple and when its some water on the stream (that was my case) the first crossings are so funny.. the game starts after a 180 degree bend so clear to see after those 15 or 20 minutes of trail..
These pictures are on this part of the narrows
With 2.5 million visitors a year and only one and a half main roads (the road from the south gate interescts with the road from the east gate and then join to make the journey to the Narrows) everyone pretty much sees the same sights. As usual in a national park, take a hike and you will soon lose the crowds. But if you only take the shuttle bus and stop at the main attractions, expect to be elbow to elbow with people all day long.
The path is strenuous and long so long...i started at 11.30 aprox and i was coming back closer to 5pm .. actually the first km are easy job but after some bendings the water current becomes swifter and huge rocks, moody lands and your wet socks and shoes become the effort harder...
Despite fatigue and the long track you discover impressive views and amazing nooks like this at any narrows curve .. pay so much attention to weather forecast... fast and dangerous storms can change easily the quiet and beautiful narrows in a swiftcurrent stream !!
Here we go !! finally we got the springs... i was quite disappointed.. i was expecting huge waterfalls and a place different to this.. but thats life.. !! Actually the stream and the trail follows river up but i reckoned it was enough and if i was worried a little bit to get wet going up...i descended the river to get to starting point so fast and regardless crossing the river and forgetting my initial worries... It was one of my best experiences crossing America.. proud of it !