Zion National Park + some.
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After leaving the Grand Canyon, we made our way from Arizona to Utah passing through a several hot spots like Horseshoe Bend and Buckskin Gulch. Horseshoe bend, which is readily recognizable, is a tourist bus stop. I wasn't sure what to expect... was it a part of a larger park or a wilderness hike in? Nope. It's literally right off the road. Lots of large tourists buses stop here to take photos. You park and walk three-quarters of a mile and there it is. The pictures always look so scenic but in reality you are passing through possibly hundreds of people wanting to take photos. Peter and I would trail off to the side in an attempt to get away but it's difficult. We also went right at the heat of the day (around 3 pm) so prime tourist hour.
Next, we drove to Buckskin Gulch. A seldom visited slot canyon that many locals love and is one of the main tributaries of the Paria River, which is itself a minor tributary of the Colorado River. It is actually one of the longest slot canyons in the US and possibly the world. You can hike the entire canyon in three days but we wanted to make a day hike out of it so we ended up choosing to tackle half of the first day's canyon. We camped at Buckskin Gulch trailhead and then woke up bright and early to hike the canyon to Wire Pass Trailhead. Slot canyons are often prone to flash flooding, so you have to be incredibly weather conscious when embarking on a hike. Only a few days earlier did a flash flood occur and a group of hikers had to be helicoptered out. Luckily, we only had the wet mud and a few feet of water to play with. After making it to Wire Pass, we started our return hike back to the car along the main road (another 4ish miles in prime heat). We only walked about 1 mile before we were picked up by a truck driven by two local girls. This was my second time hitchhiking but Peter's first! It was only a few miles but we joyfully swung our hats around in the fresh air on the bed of the truck.
From there we drove to Zion National Park. It was Monday but our camping reservations were for Tuesday and Wednesday night. We were playing around with the idea of hiking the Narrows but didn't pre-book a wilderness pass and now we only had the option of day-of permits. We were risking it driving in late on a Monday, hoping for a Tuesday permit-- but we got one! We traded our camping reservation from Tuesday to Monday night and set out on our journey the following morning.
To hike the Narrows top-down, which is arguably the best way to see it, you need to be dropped upstream at Chamberlain's Ranch, outside of the National Park. We took a shuttle (Zion Adventure Company) to the trailhead and started our decent down the Narrows back into the National Park. We carried only one pack, no tent, and lots of water. The Virgin River is full of silt so even with a water purifier it's difficult to harvest clean water. It was cold, but not too cold. Your body gets used to it fast and the flow rate was a comfortable 60 CFM. The 3- 4 hour approach was mostly open trail before tightening to the more canyon-like parts of the hike. Once we hitting the canyon we were fording the river frequently which forced us to walk even slower. We often hiked alone, but every so often we would cross paths with a shuttle friend. After about 8 hours (which is longer than normal) we made it to our campsite- site 10.
The next morning we returned to our route later than our normal schedule, around 8 am. We quickly began to see several groups descending from their overnight camps. After a few hours of hiking we ran into the upstream tourist crowd, massive groups of people clambering to see the Narrows without camping overnighting or traveling any significant distance. We only had a short stretch where we had to carry our bags overhead due to the water depth. Well really, I had to swim... Peter was chest deep but could walk. We made it to the National Park shuttle ground by 1:15pm, just in time for me to go to the bathroom so to avoid having to carry it out (haha)!