I first saw the Zion Narrows last summer on a bottom-up day hike. At the end of the journey, I was in awe and felt a strong desire to experience the entire 16-mile Narrows trail. It was a little like in O Brother, Where Art Thou? when George Clooney's character declines Delmar's gopher offer by saying, "No thank you, Delmar. One third of a gopher would only arouse my appetite without bedding it down." Hiking the bottom half had that same teasing effect on me, and I had to go back and complete the full trail. The first question was whether to traverse all 12 and half hours in one day or split it up into two days and spend a night primitive camping in the canyon. I opted for the slower paced, two-day trip and managed to reserve campsite #2 online at the Zion National Park Website.
They had flooding throughout a large part of the summer, and I was slightly worried when booking the trip that it might still be flooded when it was time to go. (Writing this post, I just looked for a link on the reservation site for campsite #2, and I see the canyons are closed once again due to flooding. I got very lucky with my timing and hit the perfect window.)
I don't own a lot of hiking equipment, so I called Zion Adventure Company. They said no need to reserve any equipment, just come in between 6-7 p.m. the day before my hike.
The staff there is incredible, from the phone calls prior to traveling, to outfitting my gear, to providing expertise and helpful "how-t0"s (like don't put drinks inside the dry bag). Total bill for all the supplies in the video below was $68.82.
TIPS from PLANNING and PACKING:
- DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE FULL LOT SIGNS. Driving up to the park entrance to pick up my backcountry hiking permit, there were several signs saying "Lot Full at Zion. Park in town and take the shuttle." However, for permit pick-ups you can park in visitor parking for an hour or less. It took me awhile to find a space, but it was still faster than riding the shuttle.
- ASK ABOUT CANCELLED RESERVATIONS. I loved the campsite I had, but if you didn't get the one you really wanted, ask if they had any cancellations when you go to pick up your permit. If they did, you can switch campsites at that time.
- CAMELBAK OVER WATER BOTTLES. I had no equipment, and all my food was packaged and disposable. Drinking water from a bottle required stopping and taking the backpack off. It would have been better to be able to drink on the go.
- DON'T EAT MEXICAN THE DAY BEFORE YOUR HIKE. Especially not for both lunch and dinner. Although the Cutthroat Pale Ale at Oscars was quite tasty. I guess that was actually a learning from days 2 and 3, but the error was on day 1.
What is your "must-have" camping and/or hiking equipment?