Only 100 miles down the road from Panguitch we found ourselves turning off of Interstate 15 and driving through the sleepy town of Leeds, Utah. From our site at Leeds Motel and RV Park we are a little over a 10 minute drive north of St. George Utah and about a 40 drive from Zion National Park. This full hookup park is 175 per week and our pull through spot has a great view of some red rock mountains to our west.
Having never been to Zion we took a drive over to do a couple of short hikes and get a feel for how traveling through the park would be. I was shocked to see as many people as there were this time of year and there were lots of children. We purposefully planned to be here after school started to avoid crowds. What we found was that many if not most of the tourists here this time of year are foreigners as we heard many different languages while hiking on the trails. Also entry into the park requires that one use the shuttle system which, along with the crowds, made the park feel to me more like a visit to Disneyland rather than a National Park out in the middle of nowhere. Parking is limited within the park so we saw cars parked all along the road leading to the entrance just outside the town of Springdale. We took a chance and luckily found one open parking space right near the visitor center.
On the shuttle Sharon enjoyed the pre-recorded narration describing the history and geologic features of the park so we rode the full length of the bus route before stopping for hiking. The main hike we chose to do this day was the hike to Emerald Pools. We got off the shuttle at the Grotto Stop and started the hike from there. We crossed a bridge over the beautiful Virgin River surrounded by lush vegetation. The trail is actually a series of trails that if taken all together are less than three miles and gain about 400 feet in elevation.
After crossing the Virgin River we took the Kayenta Trail. heading southeast. We climbed a bit and then traversed a ridge just above the Virgin River. Most of this part of the trail was paved and made for easy walking and gawking at all the beautiful scenery above and below. As the pavement ended the trail headed into a canyon where we took the spur to the Upper Emerald Pool. About two tenths of a mile on the trail we found a small reflecting pool that at first I thought was the upper pool. We stopped for a few photos and then got back on the trail. The last quarter mile or so climbed rapidly some 200 feet on a sandy trail with lots of rocks and high steps as challenges to get to the top. Once we reached the upper pool we lounged a while as we were at the base of the some 300 foot cliffs above us. The upper pool was quite small as there was only a very light trickle of water coming down the cliffs whereas there is likely a nice waterfall there in the spring.
Next we retraced our path back down the trail until we found the Lower Emerald Pool Trail. Another half a mile down the trial we came to a lushly vegetated canyon. There was a chain attached to the wall to walk along the steeper parts of the trail in a beautiful alcove. The chains are probably only necessary when the trial is wet and slick. There were two wispy waterfalls trickling water from high above that we walked under while in the alcove and the small pool was below us. What a beautiful little area this was and the lower pool trail could be easily reached by most any hiker of any skill level.
The trail then left the canyon and we took a leisurely hike going slightly downhill until we reached another small bridge crossing crossed the Virgin River.over to the Zion Lodge. We explored this cool little lodge and then caught the shuttle back to our car. We plan to do at least one more hike in this part of Zion but may explore the Kolob Canyon part of Zion north of the main park to get away from the hassle in finding parking, taking the shuttles as well dealing with the hoards of people there.