Is Zion National Park the New Disneyland?

Great Expectations

Its mid-July 6:30 A.M. and I awaken to the day with great expectations.  For the moment I forget how tired I am after sleeping on a lumpy mattress all night in a cheap motel in Hurricane, Utah. I try to forget the too hot or too cold air conditioner, the banging doors and toilets flushing all night. I think something special is supposed to be happening today but what?

My head starts to clear and then I remember, I’m going to hike the Zion Narrows in Zion National Park, one of the most famous and beautiful places on earth.

  Wall Street – Zion NarrowsWall Street Zion Narrows, Zion Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah, Zion in Utah

The Narrows in Zion National Park located in southern Utah, is a section of canyon on the North Fork of the Virgin River. The Narrows was first descended and named by geologist and explorer Grove Karl Gilbert as part of the Wheeler Survey in 1872.

Next, I’m in the car next for  a 20 mile drive to the park, and stop along the way for a quick breakfast. After that, there are two crowded shuttles and finally I am heading up the one mile trail to the start of the trek thru Zion Narrows.

The New Disneyland?

Then it hits me like punch in the gut, the serene and leisurely hike up the canyon I was expecting isn’t going to happen. There, at the mouth to the Narrows are literally hundreds, maybe thousands of other adventurers that have the same idea as me.

“Main Street” Zion NarrowsZion Narrows Crowd, Zion Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

The start of the trek up the Narrows is bottlenecked  with people of all ages, sizes, shapes, clothing, gear and all of them, it seeems, are intent on going up the canyon with me. And the funny thing is, I don’t remember inviting any of them. 🙂

It looks like “Main Street” in Disneyland on a holiday weekend. Is Zion National Park now the New Disneyland?


So there I was, what do I do, go back to the motel room and watch game shows and the shopping network and wish I hadn’t come at all? Or do I accept that it “is what it is” and make the best of it?

I think a case could be made for either choice, but we “adventurers”, know that this kind of dilemma can be a perfect opportunity to prove we can overcome a challenge and move forward.

I think, Hey,  it’s just possible you might even have a good time if you really try.

So I go for it, trekking up river with my specialized river waking shoes and an insanely large group of unknown and what looks like mostly inexperienced fellow adventurers.

As I trudge up canyon with the masses I look up and around and I’m pleasantly surprised by what I see.

National Geographic #5 of America’s Best Adventures

I realize that maybe National Geographic was right when they rated hiking the Narrows as # 5 in the rankings of America’s Best 100 Adventures.

Wow, this really is awesome, Nat Geo knows what they are talking about. Soon I notice that the crowd is thinning the deeper I go into the canyon and the Disney effect is slowly but surely receding. This really is a great adventure and the scenery is breathtaking.

I start taking 100’s of photos to share with Art of Adventure readers, family and friends but ultimately will refine it to a dozen to keep it simple.
So here they are, my 12 (a picture is worth a 1,000 words) reasons to hike the Zion Narrows.

12 Reasons to Hike the Zion Narrows Photo Gallery
Click to Enlarge Photos

I ended the hike at about 3 miles up canyon at a point called Wall Street (Top Photo).  The thru hike is 16 miles long, requires a permit and generally a night’s stay in the canyon. Hmmm, sounds like a future adventure. This short venture alone took about 5 hours round trip.

The return trip back thru the Narrows was just as interesting and beautiful. But the further back I went the crowd of people increased to the aforementioned “Main Street” Disney like conditions,  almost to ridiculous levels.

I had to bite my tongue as these people had just as much right to the Narrows as I did; I just wished they had picked another day. I know next time I will, as there are still 13 more miles of the Narrows I need to explore.

In Summary, the Zion Narrows is Art of Adventure Approved.

Arto of Adventure Approved

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