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Old Sep 13, 2010, 10:24 PM   #1
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Default Anyone familiar with Zion National Park?

Nothing is definite yet, but in early December I may go for a week-long training in emergency response to radiological threats at the Nevada Testing grounds northwest of Las Vegas. I will have to be in downtown Las Vegas at 7:00 Monday morning for the start of the session. If I do get to attend the training, I hope to fly out on Friday afternoon, which should allow me the opportunity to rent a car and spend the weekend exploring Zion National Park.

Is anyone familiar with Zion? With only 2 days in early winter, what things should be on the top of my list? Can you give me any ideas of what sorts of weather conditions to expect, and which trails are likely to be open and passable?

I should add that I'm not absolutely committed to Zion National Park -- I want to see some marvelous scenery in the southwest, and from what little I know Zion seems like a reasonable choice. I thought about visiting the Grand Canyon, but Google Maps says it's more than 5 hours from Vegas -- a bit too far for a weekend. If anyone has any suggestions for other places to see (within 2 or 3 hours of Las Vegas), I'd appreciate your advice.

If this trip happens, I'll have to figure out what to do with my camera during the training week. All types of photography are strictly forbidden at the training site.
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Old Sep 13, 2010, 10:44 PM   #2
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I been there once nice valley area and the tunnels in the hills.. You will be ok for right now it really don't start snowing till Oct in the WY region and this place you are seeing is in the southern parts of Utah... When I went in April through the place I was glad I was not driving a Simi truck the tunnels are low bored right through the hill with slots for light ... the trials I do not know of I would actually go to the State Game and Park site for Utah to get up to date news of the place they do have flash floods... you will love it ..... Not really far you have the canyons going to ST George.... If you are worried of time try Mt. Charleston closer to Las Vegas, Nevada... I have a girl friend down there some where...Try a locker in town they have them all over the place air ports Bus stations etc..... Bank Safe deposits.... all Ideas!!!
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Old Sep 14, 2010, 7:01 AM   #3
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Mntman, I visited Zion NP in October last year and have nothing but good things to say. First of all though, it is probably a good 3 hours from Vegas. I stayed in St. George, UT and Zion was about 40 minutes from there. I cannot comment on what the weather would be in December, but in Oct it was low 70's -- perfect for hiking.

I hiked 3 trails, the most thrilling being Angel's Landing. It takes about 5 hours and not for the faint of heart. Towards the end of the trail are pathways that are simply rock bridges with only a chain acting as a hand rail and 1000+ ft drops on either side. It is classified as strenuous and dangerous.

I also hiked the trail to the rainbow pools which was a pleasant walk. There was one other trail that I accessed beyond the tunnel that Sharpshotgal referred to. It took about an hour (round trip) and I was treated to nice vistas along the way. Unfortunately, I do not recall the name of the trail.

I'd love to go back and do it all over again!

If you're looking for something closer to Vegas, you may want to exlplore some of the slot canyons (Antelope Canyon) which I hear are spectacular. In a pinch, Hoover Dam is a great place to visit as well.

Here's a picture from atop Angel's Landing at ZNP. In terms of gear, I carried my K10D + the DA 18-250.




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Old Sep 14, 2010, 3:51 PM   #4
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Zion is a lovely place to visit at any time. I've been there both in early December and between Christmas and New Years, and once for a very cold couple of days before Thanksgiving. Weather will be cold, probably freezing at night but probably warming up during the day. That's not guaranteed - there might be a possibility of snow, but that's usually more likely in January, not December. While it usually takes us a couple of hours to drive from Vegas to St. George, I've talked to people who live in St. George but work in Vegas and they claimed they could routinely do the drive in 90 minutes. We usually plan on an hour from St. George to Zion Valley, but it's possible that 40 minutes is more accurate.

The drive from Vegas to St. George goes through the Virgin River Gorge, which is a lovely drive in itself.

I'm not sure whether you'd be able to do the Angels Landing hike, depends on whether they've had snow or not. I second the hike to rainbow pools, a very pleasant walk and some lovely views.

Another pleasant walk is the walk at the end of the road past Zion Lodge. It eventally goes to the Narrows, but that requires permits and special gear in winter - you are walking in the river. The first mile or 2 is a paved trail, a great walk through the narrowing canyon, but you won't be alone. There's also the weaping wall (or something like that, can't remember what they call it now). It's a short walk off the road, where you can walk behind a mini-waterfall (well, call it an overhang that drips water it's not big enough to be called a waterfall). The last time we were there (in winter) the trail was covered with ice and snow, too slippery for me to try in hiking boots. But its an easy uphill walk when the weather is right, and not all that far from the Narrows trailhead.

Zion has two parts (well, 3 in the summer). Another spot that's beautiful is Kolob Canyon. It's higher than Zion Valley/canyon(?) and is only one short road (which isn't plowed so may be occasionally closed in winter). Views are wonderful, though and it's part of the national park. You can't get there from Zion Valley - it's about half-way between St. George and Cedar City just off the I-15.

If you could manage a couple of more days (like 4 more), I'd recommend driving to St. George, visiting Zion Valley and spending the night there. Then the next day drive back through Zion and the tunnel, continuing to Bryce Canyon. Spend the next night at Ruby's (I think there's another place just outside the entrance to Bryce) and spending the next day exploring Bryce, then either returning to St. George or staying at Ruby's again. Then drive back to Vegas. That can be a problem if the weather doesn't cooperate - Bryce is much higher than Zion.

Antelope Canyon is way too far away from Vegas to do as a day trip. It was marginal to do from St. George (a 4 hour drive) - it's located across Utah in Arizona, well beyond the turn-off to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, and not closer to Vegas. The north rim is do-able on a long day trip from Vegas but is closed in winter, so you can forget that idea.

The places that you can visit that are close to Vegas include Red Rock Canyon (see this short album for some pictures I took the day after Christmas one year): http://mtngal.zenfolio.com/p836734211 - that's the last photo of the album, you can click backwards through the few pictures I've posted from there.

Another spot to visit is Valley of Fire State Park. It's north of Vegas and I want to go there - haven't been in years and there's quite a bit of it I haven't explored. I don't have any pictures from there, but you can google it and find lots of them.

It's possible to do a brief visit to Death Valley in a day, but it would be a very long day and you wouldn't see all that much beyond Dante's View and the valley floor. There's so much more to explore there!

Other ideas of things to do in the Vegas area is to visit Hoover Dam - they have tours which are interesting. And admire the bridge they have been working on to take traffic a different way into Arizona, rather than driving over the dam. I don't think I'd be brave enough to drive across it when they get it finished.

If you really get stuck for what to do with your camera, send me a PM. I can probably give you a suggestion if you get really desperate.
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Old Sep 14, 2010, 7:58 PM   #5
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Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions. I'm really hoping I get into the training session and that I can add a few days to visit Zion. I'm hoping that during early December there will not yet be any snow, as I really want to hike to Angels Landing. It sounds like the hike's final half mile is daunting in good conditions, but with snow or a glaze of ice would be insanity. But it also sounds like there are plenty of other options if Angels Landing is closed.

I now believe I will not have to worry about where to stash my camera during the training. I have been told that as soon as the people report for the training, in Vegas before even going to the site, they confiscate all cameras, cell phones, etc. and return them when the session is over. In a way that's too bad since I'm sure the Nevada Testing Grounds is a fascinating area. But the military takes the "no photography" rule very seriously, and I'm definitely not going to test anyone's patience!
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Old Sep 14, 2010, 8:21 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtnman View Post
I really want to hike to Angels Landing. It sounds like the hike's final half mile is daunting in good conditions, but with snow or a glaze of ice would be insanity.
Angel's Landing was the highlight of my visit to ZNP. While I was treking the last half a mile, I had to ask myself what I was trying to prove by being on this insane hike! I have myself some great memories, stunning photos and a t-shirt proclaiming that I hiked Angel's Landing. Definitely go for it if the weather permits. I'm already making plans to return to the NP's in southern Utah with my wife and daughter in October 2009.

BTW, the rangers mentioned that 2-3 people fall to their deaths each year off this trail...be safe!
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