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  • Writer's pictureJon Watkins

Zion National Park- The OG in Utah

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

Have you ever heard of The Mighty 5? It's the 5 big National Parks in Utah; Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Zion. Zion is Utah's first National Park and home of Angels Landing, the Emerald Pools Trail and the Narrows. In the Summer, this park averages about half a million people a month! You can backpack, canyoneering, hike, horseback ride...really anything that's outdoorsy.

Or just drive! The Zion-Mount Caramel Highway allows you the chance to journey over a mile through a mountain. Or the Zion Canyon scenic drive will allow you the chance to see some of Zion's most famous landmarks.

Transcript from our podcast:


Jon: Okay. I thought of something this week about our theme song, --

Jen: Go on.

Jon: A lot of complaints about our theme song since we started our podcast.

Jen: I know.

Jon: But here's what I think it almost sounds like Harry Style's Watermelon, Sugar Highs intro as well. Watermelon, Sugar,

Jen: Watermelon Sugar.

Jon: Does.

Jen: Nope.

Jon: No.

Jen: Nope.

Jon: I swear I was listening to Harry styles and I'm like, oh, he stole our ref.

Jen: Yes. Sue him, sue him now.

Jon: we're coming after you, Harry styles. Welcome to Our Savings Starts Tomorrow. My name is Jon. My wife, Jen sits across from me at our kitchen table. And we just tell stories about travel.

Jen: Mishaps.

Jon: And some tips along the way.

Jen: Some tips,

Jon: Some tips, a few tips sprinkled in there. Not too many. No one wants to show with too many tips.

Jen: God, no.

Jon: That's exhausting.

Jen: Yeah.

Jon: Cause how many are you really going to follow?

Jen: None.

Jon: Like you get a tip and you got to.

Jen: Maybe like two,

Jon: Two, like I see the list, like 20 things you can do on... I'm like 20,

Jen: I know 20, You know what I feel like it's actually more helpful to just hear like people's mishaps and be like, Ugh, that's a tip. Don't do what they did.

Jon: Don't be like them.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: And then you're fine. We continue to explore the mighty five. What exactly are the mighty five? No relation to the mighty ducks. These are the big five national parks that are in Utah. There are Arches, Canyon Lands, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef. And the one we're talking about today, which is Zion. We have been to Capital Reef.

Jen: Yes. We need to talk about that.

Jon: Yeah, we actually, haven't done a podcast on that one.

Jen: I Know.

Jon: So, I guess we're not really continuing to explore the mighty five. We are Beginning.

Jen: Well for you. Yes.

Jon: Yeah. For our listeners,

Jen: For our listeners at home.

Jon: So, but for us, we've done two out of the five. We're going to continue this year. We're going to go to arches this year. Excited about that.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: And of course, we'll be bringing it all to you in a podcast as well. But Zion is Utah's first national park.

Jen: Oh, it really Is.

Jon: Yeah.

Jen: Oh, I didn't know that.

Jon: Yeah. Home of angels landing mm-hmm <affirmative>, which is a famous one, the Emerald pools trail, and the narrows. Those are like the big three hiking trails that people enjoy going to when they're at Zion's. I was looking it up, you know, getting ready for us to talk about it. And in the summer, the park averages about half a million people a month.

Jen: I Believe it.

Jon: It was packed.

Jen: It was packed. I mean, we kind of went a little bit of a peak time, even though it was COVIDY yeah. Still, it was, it was still, it Was pretty packed.

Jon: Yeah. And I mean the town itself, which is called Springdale, which is outside of Zion it was packed as well, like restaurants and everything. So, if you go there in the summertime, just expect to have crowds, which kind of in some ways takes away from nature. Like when you're walking in a line. Like, you feel like you're in a line at Disneyland, but you're on a trail.

Jen: I know.

Jon: Like, it's kind of weird.

Jen: You that's Why you got to, like, when you start the trail, go really fast.

Jon: That's what we did.

Jen: Yes. Get past the riffraff.

Jon: Yes.

Jen: All the slowpokes. You want to like, be closer to the serious folk and the serious folk doesn't want you by them either.

Jon: No.

Jen: You need some like distance.

Jon: Yeah. You need the buffer between the ones who are like the serious hikers. And then the, like,

Jen: Like I don't want to see any hikers when I'm hiking. Right.

Jon: Cause that gives you the feel of nature. Yes.

Jen: So, they need to be far enough in front and far enough behind that. I don't see them at all.

Jon: Yes. The worst is when you're following behind some hikers who shouldn't be hiking.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: Maybe because they're not in shape or they didn't bring the right clothing, not to say like we're professional hikers. We barely hike.

Jen: We're not hikers at all.

Jon: No.

Jen: No.

Jon: But you know, we didn't bring like sandals

Jen: I know

Jon: There are people that, or like someone who obviously has not walked more than 50 yards in quite some time decides, hey today I'm going to go on a seven-mile hike uphill.

Jen: I Know. Or the like a grandma in a wheelchair or something.

Jon: Yes.

Jen: Like why we are, I don't feel like this is a good idea. This is

Jon: This is not a paved path. It's not accessible. I agree. There's a lot you can actually do in Zion though. You can backpack. You can go canyoneering. Do you know what that is?

Jen: Is that where you like propelling down canyons and stuff?

Jon: Yeah. They have like slot canyons and you kind of climb and you wedge yourself down like that's canyoneering.

Jen: Yeah. I don't think that that would be for me, but you have good for those people.

Jon: You can hike, which is what we're going to talk about a lot today. There's horseback riding.

Jen: I would do that.

Jon: Can do really anything that's outdoorsy.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: You can find it at Zion's national park.

Jen: Yes. If you're outdoorsy you need to be in Utah.

Jon: Yeah. Yeah. Just in general. We talk about that a lot in our park city podcast that we did, you know, we're trying to do better about just being outside people. We are an indoor family.

Jen: Yes. I enjoy the air conditioning.

Jon: Yes. You enjoy wine and cheese.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: And that's fine. You like to sit out on your porch, which is considered outside.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: But that's about as far as you go.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: So, we're trying to get better and we're challenging ourselves. And one of the things is by doing these national parks and I will say it was a lot

Jen: Of fun. It was so fun. I get it.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: I do.

Jen: I mean, we're not like hikers.

Jon: No, still not.

Jen: That's still not our thing, but even if you're not a hiker, you can have a great time and still experience it and say that you did It.

Jon: Yeah.

Jen: Now we didn't camp.

Jen: God. No, no, no.

Jon: But you can, there's a bunch of great campsites, but we stayed at the Zion cable, mountain lodge.

Jen: Yes. I really liked that place. And you know what if we go back and I would actually like to go back again because there are so many hikes that we didn't do. I would say again in a heartbeat.

Jon: Yeah. It's literally next to the entrance. It's as close as you can get to the entrances.

Jen: Yes. That's what I loved about it.

Jon: You just woke up and you walked into the park.

Jen: Yeah. I will say Springdale. It's like lined with hotels.

Jon: Yes.

Jen: And all the hotels looked very nice. I mean, even the, like, I don't know if there was like a best Western or Hotel Six.

Jon: There was a La Quinta.

Jen: Okay.

Jon: Because we love the LA Quinta.

Jen: They all looked very nice. They all looked new and nice and all of them almost all of them had pools and all that stuff, but if you're staying down there, you've got to take a little shuttle. And anyway, it was just nice to just kind of like get up and walk to the…

Jon: Right to the entrance. And the Zion cable, mountain lodge, they have a market which we went into and grabbed like snacks for a hike, and you could actually grab your dinner there if you want.

Jen: They also had pre-made like breakfast items and even pre-made dinner items.

Jon: And then speaking of dinner they had at the Zion Canyon Brew Pub, which was on the property.

Jen: Yep. That was nice.

Jon: Yeah. So, they Had like a, you know, you can drink and have some food after your hikes for the day and a pool to go and soak in which you're going to want.

Jen: Yeah. It was nice.

Jon: For bathing.

Jen: Or the hot tub.

Jon: Yeah.

Jen: We actually went in the hot tub a lot too.

Jon: But you get so dusty. It's nice to throw your kids in the pool.

Jen: I mean, you should shower them too. Oh. But a pool is also nice.

Jon: Yeah, just throw them in the pool. And what would be really cool is like there's deer everywhere.

Jen: Yeah, there is deer everywhere.

Jon: You're going to, you just walk down the street and there's deer wandering next to you.

Jen: Well, there's also like a little stream that is like it kind of separates the resort from the campground. You can kind of see the campground across the way. And so, there's this stream and yeah, there was so much wildlife,

Jon: Including the biggest tarantula we have ever seen. Actually, the first tarantula

Jen: We've ever seen, I've never seen a tarantula.

Jon: No.

Jen: In its element.

Jon: You and I were just sitting outside, and we looked down and there was this tarantula bigger than my it is moving around.

Jen: Oh my gosh.

Jen: And we just watched it and it hung out with us for a few minutes. I thought it was trying to figure out if it could eat us, but I ended up just Roaming along.

Jen: I know it was huge.

Jon: It was. Yeah. if you are into camping though, there's the Watchman campground and the south campground. Just

Jen: Just know there's Tarantula.

Jon: I was thinking about that if you're laying in your tent.

Jen: Oh my gosh.

Jon: Do you imagine this tarantula just, walking by

Jen: You. I mean, they say that they're like pretty harmless. Yeah, no I know, but I don't want a tiny spider on me. Let alone a tarantula. They're very bony.

Jen: Oh God, they're hairy. They're just, oh, it's just creepy.

Jon: Like Jen said though, you know, spring is the town and there's a bunch of places to stay and there's this bus system that'll take you to the Park's entrance. And there's a lot of good restaurants in that area too. Now you have to get off to get through the entrance and then you'll have to go onto another shuttle. It's a free shuttle. That'll take you into the park and they drop you off along the way at all these like hiking trails or trailheads and cars can't even park in the national park anymore because it's gotten so crowded. So really there's no point. I mean, you got to drive there. Just set it and forget it. Right. Like, use the shuttle system. That's what it's there for. They do a nice job. They're always running. But if you do want to get into your car, I would recommend driving through the there's a scenic drive.

Jen: Oh yeah.

Jon: Or the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway which we did with the kids.

Jen: Okay. Is that the one we did?

Jon: That's the one we did. Yeah. So, the scenic drive is actually what the shuttles do.

Jen: Oh.

Jon: Where you can see like angels landing from the, and you're like, oh, that's cool.

Jen: Oh, that's cool.

Jon: Yeah. and it ends at the narrows and then it just turns back

Jen: Okay. So, we did do that too. We

Jon: Did that cause we wrote the shuttles.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: But the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, which was the other one we did which goes from the south entrance to the east and it's beautiful. First of all.

Jen: The whole park is absolutely stunning.

Jon: Yeah. And it like hugs this cliff it's kind of scary. Like as you drive it and then you get to this mountainside where you have to go through the mountain. Yeah. And it's a mile long, actually. You did a really cool video where we videoed like going through the whole thing. It's actually not even wide enough for us to pass. So, they had to stop everyone.

Jen: I Kind of didn't understand that, because it is a two-lane so it's like, if there's an RV, why don't they just stop it for the RV?

Jon: That's what they would do. They would stop it for the RV.

Jen: I know. But like we had to wait, remember there was like a long line to like to go through and then once we went or we were waiting in the line, then our kids are like, we have to go to the bathroom. We're like, literally like we cannot leave this line. So, we had to go through the tunnel and just basically turn around and get back in line to go back through the tunnel so we could get out there.

Jon: The kids are so Lame. Also, we like open the sunroof and we're like, go stand up and like do.

Jen: Put your head out. Yeah. wouldn't do it. Nope. They wouldn't do it.

Jon: No. They're like that's against the rules.

Jen: They're rule followers.

Jon: Yeah.

Jen: I'm sorry.

Jon: Boo. Before we tell you about some of the hiking, we do want to tell you about our favorite craft spice, honey. It's Heart Soul Heat, Raoul. Heart Soul Heat. It's so good. He's the man. He's a big supporter of our show. So please support, Heart Soul Heat Craft Spice Honey. Great. On ice cream, you could put it on ribs, fried chicken pizza. And of course, cheese boards.

Jen: Yes. That's what I'm all about.

Jon: We talked about putting it on goat cheese last week, I just saw on their Instagram, which is at Heart Souls Heat that they had this recipe for a spinach salad with goat cheese sprinkled on top up and then that craft spice honey, cause it's a little spicy. Not too spicy. But it's sweet also at the same time.

Jen: That actually sounds

Jon: Really good. And then I was reading they had another recipe for putting it on garlic bread.

Jen: Interesting.

Jon: I know that's what I'm talking about. or check them out on Instagram and follow. Again, they're big supporters of our podcast. So, we love them. Hiking is the big reason why people go right to Zion's. Yes. And Angel's landing is the most popular trail. Angel landing is stop number six on the shuttle. And it is not a hike for everyone.

Jen: We didn't do it.

Jon: No.

Jen: We have little kids.

Jon: I saw some parents though bringing like their seven-year-olds on this thing and no judgment. But I'm judging. That seems dangerous.

Jen: I think you have unless you feel like fairly experienced, and your kids have grown up doing that. I just don't. I do not recommend it.

Jon: So, if you don't know what Angel's landing is. It follows like this narrow Ridge and there's, drop offs like on both sides and there's actually at one point just a chain-link fence that you kept or a chain like a chain you have to hold onto. So, you don't fall off the cliff. I don't know.

Jen: Honestly, I don't even know if I would do it.

Jon: If without the kids?

Jon: Would you, do it?

Jen: Maybe you probably would.

Jon: I probably would. Yeah. I don't want to die that way though. Like there's nothing about me dying, hiking. There's a lot of things I could die enjoying and be like, oh, he died doing what he loved. Let me tell you right now.

Jen: It's not hiking.

Jon: That's it's not it. So, know that if I die while hiking on it, I didn't die doing what I love.

Jen: He died doing the one thing he never wanted to really do. Yeah. I feel the same way, but yeah. You know, talk to the people. Don't be weird on the shuttle. Talk to the people on the shuttle.

Jon: Yes.

Jen: Because we've talked like we actually normally don't talk to anyone where we're traveling. We're very like.

Jon: Antisocial,

Jen: Antisocial, but we ended up talking to like people on the shuttle both days and there were some people that were very experienced that had been there so many times that gave us so many great tips. And even those people, like the one lady she had her daughter, I feel like, and her daughter was like 10 or 12 and she's like, this is her first time we've come. Like every year, this is finally the year that she's doing it. So yeah. I mean if you've got really young kids just don't.

Jon: Do it. But you know as you talk to people, they'll tell you about hikes that aren't on the travel guides. Like we. got told about this one that was off the beaten path, and you got to do a little bit of bouldering where you climb over large rocks. Yes. But it was perfect for kids. Our kids' age.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: And, like the mom knew that cause she's been coming here so many years. but unless we spoke with her, like we, would've never known that.

Jen: Yeah. And you can also find those on the All-Trails App too. If you go on the All-Tails App and just search, you can find some cool different

Jon: Ones. I was saying how Angel's Landing was stop number six. That's also where you can see the Weeping Rock. So, the Weeping Rock, this dripping stone overhang where they have these hanging gardens on the rock. It's really all over Zion. But that's like where it's called Weeping Rock. It's like the most famous spot of it. But I will tell you, you can see it at the narrows also. And actually, the Narrows are really cool. I didn't know much about it.

Jen: I know it's like the thing.

Jon: Yeah. It is. In fact, when you, when you go there, you'll see like rafts that you can rent or water shoes, you can rent. Like there's all these different things you can bring into the narrows.

Jen: And again, the Zion's Cable Mountain Lodge. Right there. Right at the mouth of it is also like a gear place. Yeah. So, you can like rent all your gear. Like if you want to rent like hiking shoes or the water, like shoes I don't know. They're like waterproof hiking shoes there. Boots that were waterproof. And then also like if you want to do like. walking sticks or they had all sorts of stuff.

Jon: Did you feel like we were ready? I mean, we read up on the narrows before going, were we prepared enough for it?

Jen: I think so.

Jon: We brought water shoes.

Jen: Look, we knew that we have two kids. We knew that we weren't going to be hiking in the Narrows.

Jon: Too far.

Jen: Too Far.

Jon: So, the narrow, it's like this huge slot canyon and there's water running in between it. And honestly, you have to watch the weather because people do drown there with flash floods.

Jen: And the kids actually were very freaked

Jon: Out by that. Well, there are like signs everywhere.

Jen: And they even told some people like we were there like three days and two of the days they straight up told people like, do not go there.

Jon: We will not rescue You will die.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: And so, by day three, the kids had heard that from the Rangers so much, they were scared, but it was a beautiful day on day three. So, we felt comfortable doing it as did millions of other people. Cause honestly, that was the biggest line out of everything we did was the narrows, but it is so worth it.

Jen: It's so beautiful.

Jon: It's the one I want to go back and just do that again.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: Because you get there and you get, feel like you're, you're, you're exploring the world for the first time. Like you're starting a little stream and you're over pebbles and the next thing you know, you're up to water, that's at your waist and you're trudging across it and it's a little strenuous in its own way and you just keep going and it's beautiful.

Jen: It's amazing.

Jon: And watching our kids kind of accomplish it.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: Like I thought that was really cool, so it's the last stop on the shuttle, but you there's even like a, a path takes you up to the entrance that's cement.

Jen: And That even that is very pretty.

Jon: Yeah.

Jen: Even that is very pretty, and it's all paved. So, like, if you are in a wheelchair or anything like that, you can easily do that. And really anyone can walk that.

Jon: No, it's just a mile.

Jen: And then at least you can kind of see the beginning of the Narrows which is just gorgeous.

Jon: The problem with Narrows is once you're there and you start doing it, you don't want to turn around.

Jen: I know.

Jon: And this was our last day and we had to checkout, and we kept going further than we thought we would. And honestly, I would go another few miles.

Jen: Yeah. We were wearing like a water... You and I were wearing like a water... It was like a water hiking shoe, I guess the kids were wearing kind of more like a hiking sandal. I mean we'd probably do something a little bit more closed toed for them. And honestly, I think they're lame.

Jon: What?

Jen: The hiking sticks if you're doing the Narrows.

Jon: Well, you slip so much on rocks when you're in the water.

Jen: Yeah. I just think, I mean, we were like holding onto people. It was. Yeah. And you saw people like falling in

Jon: Oh yeah. Which is crazy.

Jen: And even in July where it's like super-hot, the water was freezing, freezing,

Jon: Freezing but a much easier hike is the Emerald Pools trail, which is what we did on day one with the kids we were told, like, this was the fun one to do with children. There are the Lower Emerald Pools. And they have a weeping wall. And there's like these tiny little pools at the base that you can see in a mini waterfall.

Jen: Yeah.

Jon: And it's, it's easy.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: It's an easy hike.

Jen: It is.

Jon: It's not bad at all. And in fact, I think there was a paved trail. Yeah. That's like a half-mile long.

Jen: Yep.

Jon: That will take you to the lower one.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: Now once you do that one, you go, okay, we got this one.

Jen: Yeah. Let's go to the next one.

Jon: Yeah. And that's where you go up to the upper one, the upper Emerald pools, which was cool too. It's a little steeper, a little more bouldering, but still a lot of fun.

Jen: It Was a lot of fun. Very pretty. Oh, so pretty.

Jon: Yeah. I'm excited to see what the other national parks are.

Jen: I would definitely if you're going in summer, obviously, at that time of year, it's very hot. Yes. I would start your hikes out early before it is too hot. Take lots of water with you.

Jon: Be ready. Prepared. Some extra snacks.

Jen: I will say. If you see a park ranger, stop and chat with them. Honestly, it sounds lame but like we ended up like chatting with one lady for quite some time and she shared with us so many interesting facts

Jon: And then, you know are things to look out for on the trail. So, then the kids were kind of into it a little more. Cause it is hard. Look hiking is boring, especially for children. So, if you give them something, you know, like a game. Like, wait until you find this or look for this when you make a left here like it is more fun.

Jen: Yes.

Jon: And you know, if you poop in the woods, carry it out. That's my last thing.

Jen: Oh God just don't. Go before you

Jon: That was my biggest fear. Constantly.

Jen: Pooping?

Jon: Wasn't that your fear at all?

Jen: No.

Jon: Like we were on the really,

Jen: There are porta-potties at the beginning of the trails. What if

Jon: What if we were on the trail? I was always worried. For breakfast I was like, I got to make sure I don't eat anything that you know.

Jen: Oh my gosh.

Jon: Just me. Well, that's the last time I put I'm going to opening up I'm honest.

Jen: Hold It. I'm going to hold it.

Jon: Thanks for listening to our podcast. We're going to post a bunch of photos of our hike at Zion's up on our Instagram page. Our Instagram handles Our Savings Starts Tomorrow. And if you don't mind giving us a review, it helps out so much.

Jen: It really does.

Jon: Yeah. and give us five stars, but we are like at 56,

Jen: I know. That's so awesome.

Jon: Let's get to 60.

Jen: I know.

Jon: Come on, we're counting on you.

Jen: Yes, please.

Jon: And I make sure to help out our sponsors as well, a new episode next week. Bye.

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