Zion National Park, found in southwestern Utah, boasts over 2.5 million visitors each year. This booming tourist trade allows surrounding towns, such as St. George, Hurricane, and Springdale to thrive in a harsh desert (and economical) environment. Read more HERE. I’m sure locals have their own ins and outs for how to get into restricted areas of the park and surrounding lands for free, but for the layperson traveling to the park, permits are required for the most popular hikes. During peak months (spring, summer and early fall), permits not only sell out, but are totally booked months in advance. To apply for a walk-in permit, there is a nonrefundable $5 fee, and during the busy season many folks lose out. With that said, there are ways to get around the permit process and see spectacular views. HERE is Zion NP’s official page for more details.
In no way do I condone illegally entering special use areas of the park. I’m simply stating that some trails need permits to hike them in their entirety, whereas doing only a portion allows for some of the best views with no permit required. Hiking/wading the Narrows from the Temple of Sinewava TH is a prime example. As long as you can brave a couple mildly deep pockets of cold water, you will be handsomely rewarded with spectacular narrow canyon walls. All in all, 3 miles in and 3 miles back should suffice for the best views.
If you’re serious about doing hikes of all sorts throughout the southwest, I suggest the book “Hiking From Here to Wow: Utah Canyon Country” by Kathy Copeland and Craig Copeland. Aside from its cheesy name, the book has a wealth of facts coupled with personal opinions for the casual to hardcore hiker. This book gave me a nice edge the last time I visited, and I was quite pleased with the outcome of my photos. So with that said, get off the couch and plan your next adventure. Just make sure you grab a good book and a map before you go!
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