Backpacking Zion's West Rim Trail

After my first year of college, I was feeling pretty good about myself. School's out, summer's in, life is good! Only problem was, I was sitting at home with nothing to do and that's not my idea of the good life. So I made a phone call to a good friend.

Two days later, Leah and I are headed North-East towards South-West Utah. Our sights set on Zion National Park. Neither of us had much backpacking experience. To get specific, I had been on one trip when I was 13, and Leah had never been. Needless to say, we were excited and anxious as we drove.

Upon arriving to the park around sunset, I snapped this picture. Zion is beautiful from the moment you enter and no matter where you look.

Red Cliffs at Zion National Park

Red Cliffs at Zion National Park

I knew the cliffs of Zion were going to be red. But this red? Mind blowing!! 

The sun was soon to set, so we cruised 10 minutes outside of the park and found a motel to crash at for the night. The plan was to be up early and out so we could be on the trail ASAP.

Morning light touches the tops of Zion's cliffs

Morning light touches the tops of Zion's cliffs

Leah enjoying the view and mentally preparing herself for the trek ahead

Leah enjoying the view and mentally preparing herself for the trek ahead

Zion Red Wall

And not only are the cliffs red, so are the roads!

Red Roads at Zion

Red Roads at Zion

Before we knew it we're in a Mercedes 4x4 off-road van with an Alaskan shuttle driver from Zion Adventure Company. Saying we felt safe with them is an understatement. Anyways, after 90 minutes of driving up through Zion's back country, our guide was dropping us off at 9000 feet at the beginning of the Western Rim Trail. Our plan was to cruise 25 miles over the next 30 hours down back into Zion's valley; seeing most of the National Park from it's elevated trail. 

We were off!

Beginning of The West Rim Trail, Looking West

Beginning of The West Rim Trail, Looking West

All Packed Up

All Packed Up

Leah looking lovely on the trail

Leah looking lovely on the trail

Red Pack from the Back

The photo above always kicks off a hilarious memory for me.

About 3 minutes after this photo was taken, as we’re packing our cameras into our packs, it began to rain. Light rain, but enough to get us moving. We were only about 1000 yards from where we were planning to camp for the night, so we figured we'd be alright. Regardless, when it starts raining at 9000 feet and you don’t have a tent set up, you want to move quickly.

About 10 seconds into our fast walk, the light rain had turned to full on hail. Three hundred yards from the campsite, we’ve just hiked 9 miles at 9000 feet with 45 lb packs on, and there are now grape sized balls of ice falling from the sky and hitting us in the head.

100 yards out and we’re in a dead sprint as a crack of lightning rips down above us with a booming thunder immediately following. No break in time to count out the Mississippi's to see how far away it was. No time at all. We were directly underneath this massive, angry storm cloud, scared out of our minds.

By the time we got to the area we thought we were planning to set up camp, we couldn’t see a thing. There was a thick fog hanging in the air, combined with the hail and ran, this beautiful day was coming to an awful close.

I’ve never set my tent up quicker in my life than I did then, which is amazing considering the circumstances. We were in the tent within two minutes, soaking wet, sucking wind, and hysterically laughing.

Along with this, we really had no idea where we were currently camped, or what the surrounding area looked like. With the fog being so thick, we couldn't see a thing when we set up. 

We hunkered down, and thankfully the storm passed quickly. It was dark out by then, so we fell asleep.

And then we woke up to this, what a time.

Sunrise in Zion

Sunrise in Zion

Zion in the morn

I wish these photographs did proper justice to just how amazing these cliffs are. Something you definitely have to see in person.

West Rim Trail goes narrow
Cool Hand Leah

We came across this red wooden bridge about 3/4ths of the way through the trail. I loved how it matched the color of the rock around it, it seemed to fit in so well. Major props to the National Park Service who maintains our beautiful National Parks. 

Red bridge on Zion's West Rim Trail

Red bridge on Zion's West Rim Trail

Once we got towards the end of the trail, we saw our final task. Angel's Landing. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's the thin piece of cliff you see over my right shoulder in the picture below. It stands in the middle of Zion's Valley, and we were going to climb it. 

Feeling alive in Zion

Feeling alive in Zion

I wish this woman wasn't in front of me for this image, but she definitely helps give some scale. On the ascent of Angel's Landing. It may look freaky, but it's not too bad.

On the way up to Angel's Landing

On the way up to Angel's Landing

Posted at the top of Angel's Landing!

Posted at the top of Angel's Landing

Posted at the top of Angel's Landing

Once we had our fun at the top of Angel's Landing, we quickly made our way down. After a couple hours, we found ourselves back down on the valley floor--but our trip wasn't over! We weren't going to leave without checking out Zion's famous Narrows.

Zion Narrows

Zion Narrows

Startled deer up high in Zion National Park

Startled deer up high in Zion National Park