By Grant Sachs – ENO College Brand Ambassador
WARNING: If you plan to travel to Zion National Park in Springdale, UT, you will find it difficult to believe that what you’re seeing is actually real life! Seriously though, this place is absolutely stunning! Zion is overflowing with intense views of incredible rock formations and the diverse, ever changing landscape makes for an unforgettable place to adventure! No amount of video, or even the best pictures out there, can do this place proper justice, but it would be such a crime to not include some awesome shots and footage from our journey. Although Zion is very picturesque, you’ve got to see this surreal place for your own eyes and fully experience the magic of this unique destination! Hopefully our story, along with this barrage of words, photos, and even a GoPro video will give you some good ideas if you plan travel here.
During Spring Break this year, 10 incredible students from the University of Wisconsin La-Crosse committed to an experience of a lifetime that we like to call ZION EXTREME! (ZX for short). This epic trip involved months of planning and required a high physical fitness rating due to all the crazy activities planned! ZX began with a 1600-mile road trip across the country from La-Crosse, Wisconsin, through the mountains of Colorado all the way to Springdale Utah! We arrived late at night and immediately set up a few ENO DoubleNest Hammocks next to a peaceful river to get some rest before our first jam-packed day of adventure!
Day #1: Angels Landing and Emerald Pools
The next morning we finally got our first glimpse of our new home with the help of a spectacular sunrise that slowly lit up the entire canyon surrounding us. We then kicked off our bomber menu with a special breakfast that I like to call “Fruit Rot” which is basically a super deluxe, trail style, parfait! Trust me, it’s so delish! Check out my other post called: “How to Cook Delicious Meals On Trial” (coming soon) for more gourmet trip meals and ideas!
After breakfast was finished, and the campsite packed away, it was time for our first epic hike: Angels Landing. The sun was out and we finally felt that warmth that we were all missing so much during our long Wisconsin hibernation. Angels landing is considered one of the most spectacular hikes in the entire world; this 5 mile strenuous hike stands 1500 feet above the canyon floor and the trail traverses along a very narrow cliff face that is only 2 feet wide in some areas. When our group finally reached the tip top we took some time to just relax, reflect, snap pictures and just take it all in. Gazing out over the seemingly never ending canyon felt extraordinary and it really started to sink in that we were here at last, on top of the world! Up here, I couldn’t help but to be thankful that we were all physically able to make this journey and that we get to experience this breathtaking place for the rest of the week!
After our quality time on the summit we made the trek back down the trail and then proceeded to explore the Lower, Middle and Upper Emerald Pools. This is another wonderful hike that’s not nearly as nerve racking as Angels Landing but ends with this crazy high waterfall that pours hundreds of feet from the rocks above, so stunning! It was an action packed day that started our trip off with a bang! After returning to the campsite, cooking Jambalaya for dinner, and documenting the day in my trip journal, my ENO Hammock rocked me back and forth into a deep/peaceful sleep underneath a sky full of stars to conclude our first day.
Day #2: Left Fork Trail (The Subway)
For our second day in Zion we decided to hike the Left Fork Trail (aka. The Subway), approximately 10 miles round trip. Not many people venture to the Subway, as it’s quite difficult to get a permit to do so but this is a MUST SEE if you travel to Zion. Be sure to reserve your permit EARLY and check the weather conditions! I would also highly recommend reserving waterproof shoes and neoprene socks with The Zion Adventure Company far in advance, in order to do this hike! The Subway is an extremely technical hike that requires hikers to go up and over, under, and across giant boulders and obstacles. Throughout the day we navigated up the North Creek weaving back and fourth through the crystal clear water! We finally arrived at the legendary Subway tunnel! The water trickles underneath your feet and the canyon rises into the sky above as you walk into this beautiful formation. This tunnel completely engulfs you and is extremely awe-inspiring. An ice-cold waterfall lies at the very end, the perfect way to end this long hike!
Day # 3 Hidden Canyon and Observation Point
For our third day we hopped onto the convent Zion Shuttle and headed to the Hidden Canyon Trail. During the spring, (the best time to visit) the shuttle system is the best way to get to the many different trails Zion has to offer. We began our steep hike up to the hidden canyon trail and got to explore all afternoon. We climbed up and over inside this narrow slot canyon and had an absolute blast what a beautiful place to adventure and spend our day. The walls of this canyon are quite amazing and I would definitely suggest the Hidden Canyon and Observation Point Combination Trail for your visit!
Day # 4: The Narrows
What more can I say about today other than it was completely and totally epic! On the way to The Narrows trailhead we had to make a pit stop at The Zion Adventure Company to get outfitted with full dry suits for the journey ahead! They feel and look like space suits but they super cool to wear and they kept us warm and dry in the freezing cold Virgin River (plus we got this sick photo).
This unique hike is almost completely in the cold water and it is even up to your neck or over your head in some areas. From the bottom up, we began hiking upstream for several miles before reaching the famous “Wall Street”. It’s tough and technical hiking but the rocks that jet up to the sky above are insanely cool! Every turn here is filled with complex rock formations that are so beautiful. It’s crazy to think that this powerful river carved out this huge canyon! Being so far into the canyon it was very important for us to watch our step as an injury here (or anywhere) would be especially difficult to handle. We hiked and hiked till it was time to turn back then made our way back down stream and back to the campsite via the shuttle system. We ate an entire pot of Pesto Pasta for dinner and with our bellies full and our bodies worn out day 4 was in the books.
Day 5: Bryce Canyon Chillax Day
After so much adventure thus far, a chill day is exactly what we all needed! We made a small road trip to Bryce Canyon and visited the Mossy Cave Trail. This was the ideal spot to spend our day; we only had to hike half a mile to a really awesome waterfall with plenty of places to explore all around. This sunny day was spent recovering, climbing, tossing the Frisbee, and napping in the sun; we really had true freedom today in the great outdoors. It was so nice to slow down and just hang out in such a great spot for the whole day. Up above us were these amazing Hoodoo rock formations that look like large pillars and behind those was a wonderful view of Bryce Canyon! Although there was still snow visible here it was a nice warm day that we all enjoyed!
Day # 6 (last day): Canyoneering High Adventure Day
After a full day of relaxation it was time for the grand finale of our trip: a full day of High Adventure Canyoneering with The Zion Adventure Company in Water Canyon. We woke up early and met with our three incredible guides Robby Brower, Sam Keller and Ben Rhinesmith. We got to hang with these three awesome dudes, share stories and repel down a stunning mountain all day long! The experience was so freaking fun! Water Canyon was spectacular and repelling hundreds of vertical feet over and over again was exhilarating and part of this trip that we will never forget! I have to rave about the Zion Adventure Company, they seriously hooked us up during this whole trip and it would not have been possible without them! All of the staff there are super knowledgeable, very experienced, helpful, and so nice!
Journey Home and Conclusion
The next morning we packed up and organized all our smelly gear and got back on the road for our long journey home. Zion National Park was breathtaking and even though our trip seemed to go by in a flash, it was an escape from reality and an unforgettable expedition. While most college students travel to a beach somewhere to party it up and drink their spring break away, we decided to spend our time off of school doing this! Zion Extreme was a true and genuine experience with memories that will last a lifetime.
Special Thanks to our Sponsors: ENO and Rockstar Energy for hooking us up with their awesome products and to everyone else whole helped make this trip happen!