Vagabonding in Zion National Park and The Kolob Terrace

We've spent the last 3 years living just a short drive from Zion National Park.  Before we embarked out of Utah on our grand adventure, it seemed only fitting that we spend our last bit of time in Zion.  We've had many a one-day and two-day adventure in Zion, but due to working schedule restrictions, were never able to spend much longer there.  This time we were able to spend an amazing 11 days camping, hiking, climbing, laughing, playing and experiencing Zion.

We arrived to camp just before Memorial Day weekend.  Zion tends to get insanely busy around Memorial Day, so we elected to spend the majority of our time in the Kolob Terrace area of the park instead.  We're quite glad we did.  In fact, we'd recommend that most people spend a larger amount of their time in the Kolob Terrace area as opposed to the more "major" portions of Zion.  Kolob has it's own unique flavor and spirit that is just a bit different than the main canyon.  The area has plenty of amazing hikes, including the illustrious Subway (which unfortunately, due to high water flow and permit issues, we were unable to do).

Here are a few of our highlights:

Camping at the Use By Donation site with our good friends

We were joined by Seth (one of our best friends who came down from Salt Lake to spend time with us and see us off), Jack (a good friend who came from L.A. also to see us off) and Tim (a new friend from CouchSurfing). Tim later came back for some climbing/camping and brought 2 more CouchSurfing friends- Natasha and Jan. We enjoyed sitting around the campfire each night talking about life, cultural differences and just laughing a lot. We turned many things into adventures like gathering wood across the river and figuring out how to transport it back, hiking up the big hill to find the strange teepee sitting above camp, searching the river unsuccessfully for fish and crawdads and having manly caber tossing competitions. Since there were no formal facilities, even figuring out how/where to go #2 was adventurous at times.

Northgate Peaks Trail

A very nice leisure hike through shady wooded sections of Ponderosa Pine to a stunning viewpoint of the park not often seen by the majority of Zion tourists. We had fun hopping the various mountain runoff streams and enjoyed basking in the sun and snacking at the Northgate Peaks viewpoint. The trail was roughly 4 miles roundtrip, family-friendly and not too challenging.

Rappelling at our secret Kolob Terrace spot

We had so much fun rappelling here last time, that we had to share this unique experience with our visiting friends. A friend of ours is aware of some rappelling anchors placed atop a stunning vista overlooking the Kolob Terrace. The anchors were placed there several years ago, before Zion established a ban on placing new anchors in the park. Overall, the rappel is about 260 feet (an 80 meter rope is exactly the right size). This was the first rappel our two friends had ever done... talk about breaking them in quick!

Climbing at Lamb's Canyon

As this area doesn't seem to be mentioned in the guidebooks or sites like Mountain Project, we're not going to give any beta on how to get there, just pics of the climbing. Lamb's provided some awesome sport climbing and some very fun and challenging routes. Favorite route name: Invagination (based upon the uniquely shaped opening an the beginning of the climb. Favorite route: there's a 5.11c on the overhanging wall (not sure of the name). It's speckled with nice pockets and the moves are quite reachy. The Ewe Wall (where all our photos were taken) has a nice variety of climbs ranging from 5.10c - 5.11d. The wall is covered in nice sharp crimps and offers stunning views from the top.

Hiking Angel's Landing

Although Angel's Landing isn't in the Kolob Terrace section of the park, it is one of the "must-do's" for most Zion visitors. The hike wanders up winding paved switchbacks offering views of the canyon that get better and better as you work your way up. It then levels out for a bit as you make your way through Refrigerator Canyon (known for cooler temps than the rest of the hike). A little tip: watch for the little alcoves on the right-hand side. They are some fun little spots to play and climb around. Hiking gets steep again as you approach Walter's Wiggles (a series of several switchbacks close together). Once out of the Wiggles, you come to Scout's Lookout. This is a great spot to view the canyon from multiple angles. It's also a very nice spot to stop and have your lunch or a snack. The last 3/4 mile of the hike then continues up a steep ridge to the summit. This section has 800 foot and 1400 foot drop-offs on each side and hikers are protected only by chain handrails placed along the ridge. Obviously, the view at the top is fantastic and well worth the effort.

Admittedly, living so close to Zion has left us a little bit jaded to it's beauty. Spending time there with others who were unfamiliar and amazed by it's splendor helped us remember what a special place in the world Zion really is. Overall, we had a spectacular time and Zion National Park will always hold it's own special spot in our hearts.

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