Friday, November 9, 2012

Top 10 Parks pt 2

For the second installment of my Top 10 Parks, let's head to the southwest and the red rock landscapes of Arches and Zion.

Arches National Park is located in southeastern Utah, just a short drive from the town of Moab. The park, true to its namesake, is filled with over 2,000 natural arches as the sandstone has been eroded away. The arches range is size from tiny holes to massive spans such as 290ft Landscape Arch.

My brother and I in front of Landscape Arch

Hiking is the main attraction here, and the park is filled with trails for hikers of all ages and abilities. The most famous hike here is without a doubt Delicate Arch. The iconic image of the park, this
3 mile trail traverses slick rock and is considered moderate, although it may be completed by most hikers willing to take their time.

My brother and under iconic Delicate Arch
My favorite part of Arches is the Fiery Furnace. This labyrinth of canyons and fins is a maze that is usually only attempted on guided hikes. You can choose to explore the fiery furnace alone, but you must apply for and receive a permit, and be very experienced hiking in this type of environment.

We elected to go on the ranger guided hike which lasts 3 hours and is considered moderately strenuous. Between jumping small gaps, wedging ourselves through openings, and holding ourselves over gaps by pressing the canyon walls on opposite sides, the Fiery Furnace was definitely a fun adventure.

The second park in today's segment is Zion National Park, also located in Utah, about 350 miles southwest of Arches.

Zion is a relatively small park, but there is much do to here. One of the more famous hikes is Angel's Landing (you can read about my experiences on that trail here). Another famous spot to hike is The Narrows. This is a section of the canyon where the walls narrow (of course) to as little as 20 or 30 feet while still rising up to 2,000ft off the valley floor. A permit is required to hike the complete 16-mile length of The Narrows because of the constant danger for flash flood, as well things like hypothermia and drowning because the entire length of the hike is spent in the Virgin River.

A hiker in The Narrows. Google Images

Other activities include climbing (for which Zion is a mecca) and canyoneering. There are so many climbers that is seems you can always take out your binoculars and scan a wall and find a few.

Another thing that sets Zion apart is its interesting intra-park transportation system. In an effort to reduce pollution and traffic jams, cars are not allowed within the main portion of the canyon. Instead, several free shuttles run to transport visitors through the length of the canyon. This idea works brilliantly, and also makes it easy on the visitors. You simply get on the shuttle, look at the map to see which stop you want, get off and do your hike, then get back on and ride back to your hotel or campsite.

Zion is small enough that it can be seen in only a few days, but it is definitely a must see among National Parks.

Up next, Glacier and Grand Canyon.

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