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It’s a big country. Come along as we explore some of the most well-known, and maybe not so well-known, places in our vast Western states: Alaska’s Kenai Fjords; Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons; the Grand Canyon; Joshua Tree and Zion national parks; Hoover Dam; Arizona’s Antelope Canyon; Idaho’s Shoshone Falls. Some you certainly have heard of, others not. But what they all have in common is the capacity to astonish, especially if you’re seeing them for the first time. Included is information on how to get there from Bellingham or Seattle, and other valuable travel tidbits. Happy trails.


Zion

Zion National Park in Utah is one of my favorite parks for hiking. Much of that has to do with the scenic beauty of this 232-square-mile park that includes high plateaus and sandstone cliffs colored with oranges, pinks, and creams, narrow canyons worn smooth by water, and springs that burst from the rocks to provide a cool mist.

To get to the trails, you’ll need to catch one of the park’s free shuttles. Before you head out, spend some time at the visitor center, pick up a shuttle schedule and ask about trail closures. Also, bring everything you need with you, like water, snacks, sunscreen, and your pass entry receipt.

To acclimate yourself to the high desert whose base elevation begins at 3,000 feet, start with some easy hikes. Weeping Rock Trail is steep but less than a quarter mile round-trip. On a hot day, the reward is the refreshing spray from the dripping springs. Another good choice is the 1.2-mile Lower Emerald Pool Trail that leads to a partially shaded canyon where waterfalls cascade from the sandstone cliffs above into a green pool. (Sorry, no swimming.) To extend the hike, take the half-mile trail to Upper Emerald Pool, which is considered a moderate path. Wherever you choose to hike, keep an eye out for flora and fauna as this desert landscape is home to more than 1,000 species of plants, 78 mammals, and 291 birds, including the endangered California condor.

One of the park’s spectacular hikes is Angels Landing, which earned a spot on Fodor’s “10 Most Beautiful Hikes in the U.S.” At 5.4-miles round-trip and an elevation gain of 1,488 feet, it is in the strenuous category and not for anyone afraid of heights. That’s because near the end, you walk along a narrow ridge with chains for hand grips as you make your way to the summit. The reward is a bird’s-eye view of the Virgin River as it weaves across the valley floor past massive red sandstone cliffs.

Getting There From Bellingham

Fly McCarran International Airport, Paradise (Las Vegas), Nevada (flight time if direct: 2.5 hours; with connections, an average of six hours), then a 2.5-hour drive
Drive Approximately 19 hours

Fees Or Permits

$35 a vehicle for a seven-day pass

What To Do

River Tubing
zionoutfitter.com

Helicopter Tour
zionhelicopters.com

4 × 4 Tours
zionjeeptours.com

Places To Eat

Red Rock Grill Dining Room
Springdale, Utah
zionlodge.com

Arkansas Al’s Steakhouse
Springdale
majesticviewlodge.com

Switchback Grille
Springdale
switchbackgrille.com

What To See

Pipe Spring National Monument

Pioneer cabin built from sandstone at Pipe Spring National Monument in Arizona

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Bryce Canyon National Park

Where To Stay

Three park campgrounds
nps.gov/zion

Zion Lodge
Springdale
zionlodge.com

Majestic View Lodge
Springdale
majesticviewlodge.com

Events

September 28 and 29
Zion Canyon Music Festival
zioncanyonmusicfestival.com

November/December date TBD
Zion Joy to the World
zionnationalpark.com

November date TBD
Butch Cassidy 10K/5K Race
springdaletown.com

Fun Fact

Zion is home to the Mexican spotted owl, which lives in the park’s narrow canyons.

To continue reading our Western State Landmarks Feature, click here!

"Wherever you choose to hike, keep an eye out for flora and fauna as this desert landscape is home to more than 1,000 species of plants, 78 mammals, and 291 birds, including the endangered California condor."