Outfitted, Rested, Hydrated, Why Not?
May 6, 2012 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Wanna go for a run? "The Trans-Zion is a 48-mile route across Zion National Park that wanders from the East Entrance to Lee Pass in the Kolob Canyons section of the park. The route links together many of Zion's most scenic trails and amasses more than 10,000 feet of total climbing."
posted by Xurando (15 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Worse - - there's more than 10,000 feet of total descending.
posted by fairmettle at 1:23 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Zion National Park is awesome. I worked there for a summer when I was in college in the late 1980s, and it was transformational in a lot of ways for me. This was before the days of this run, but it was during the time that Amy Grant came and filmed the video for Lead Me On.

It's a fantastic place, well worth visiting. The main part of the park is down IN the canyon, so most of the hikes involve trails which go UP and UP. (This stands in contrast to Bryce Canyon, not too far away, where you're up on top and most of the hikes involve descending.)

The amazing hike I did get to do during my time there is called The Narrows. It starts outside of the park proper, up where the river that created the canyon begins to cut its course down and through the rock. You spend 16 miles following the course of the water, often in the water (as in, up to your waist or chest), and you eventually come out near the Zion Lodge.

You can only do that hike if there are no thunderstorms forecast within a giant radius of the park, because any precipitation will result in the water making its way into the slot canyons, and subsequently will bash you to death on the rocks you're supposed to be hiking through.

I only wish that the road up the side of the canyon with the amazing slot windows had allowed stopping to take in the view. I drove up that road a zillion times that summer, but never had more than a passing glance out through those openings, and the vista they offered was amazing.
posted by hippybear at 1:32 PM on May 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

For whatever it's worth, that's about the same as the Grand Canyon r2r2r in terms of elevation gain / loss. Which is to say, totally doable if you're properly prepared. Zion... incredible place, totally stunning. My buddy is doing The Zion 100 next weekend... be curious to hear what he has to say about it.
posted by ph00dz at 1:33 PM on May 6, 2012

Which is to say, totally doable if you're properly prepared.

In one day, no less.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:01 PM on May 6, 2012

That looks fun! I wish I could hie to the Kolob Canyons, but there's no way I could get the time off.
posted by The Confessor at 2:44 PM on May 6, 2012

Bring a good knife. (Not a cheap knock-off.)
posted by Skygazer at 3:11 PM on May 6, 2012

It's such an amazing place, I'm kind of glad that my roving adventure up a canyon was at a slower pace than running. There were so many little details to discover, that made the huge encompassing grand scale feel even grander.

Zion is different than Bryce or the Grand Canyon, because at Zion you can choose your own adventure. At the other two, you pretty much stay on the narrow path or tumble to your death.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:27 PM on May 6, 2012

Kolob. What an unusual name for a rock formation.
posted by scalefree at 4:19 PM on May 6, 2012

Kolob. What an unusual name for a rock formation.

Not in Mormon country.

My favorite anecdote about Zion National Park is that when Brigham Young visited the area, he found that someone there was growing tobacco. This led him to remark, playing on the name of the place, "this is not Zion". Which in turn led to people in the area for quite a while calling the place Not-Zion.
posted by hippybear at 4:25 PM on May 6, 2012

Zion is basically a place of some of my fondest memories. I first hit it on a college road trip out west, primarily to states I'd never visited. It was kind of a fluke... I didn't know a thing about it and we didn't plan any of the trip rather than 'westward ho', but it was on the route so we stopped.

We got to the park after dark so couldn't get in and ended up sleeping in a hotel parking lot (not a lot of money in the coffers, oops) in the back of the Tahoe in muggy, 90 degree heat that dropped down to about 60 at night, remaining humid as hell. In the morning we ate thawed-out soggy microwavable mozzarella sticks that had reached a tolerable temperature thanks to a deficient cooler. We hit the trails early.

I have to echo hippybear in that The Narrows is a fantastic hike. In our ratty shorts and sandals and a lot of youthful idiocy we took to the water after a group of people who were dressed to the nines for 'outdoors stuff', some kind of wetsuits, walking poles, everything. In other words, pretty smart if maybe a little overkill. Determined not to let them outdo us, we walked for four hours before finding another group of people and asking about them. They said they turned back probably two hours ago after going up some side canyon. That night we drove to Las Vegas and got there at about 4 am, walking about 10 blocks or so to the strip just in time for dawn to break and reveal that area as the plastic, litter-ridden place that it is. The hotel was pretty great though.

The second time I went was on a geology field trip. We found some petrified wood on the trail (left it behind, come on people) and generally had an awesome time, but the second day a group of us got up super early for my absolute favorite trail so far: Angel's Landing. You hike up a trail with something like 26 switchbacks that was surprisingly not too hard, and then out across a ridge that is, in places, about 3 or 4 feet across. There's a chain to hold on to, just in case. You end up on a platform with a cliff, straight drop-off, and the most spectacular view of the valley.

We reached it right at daybreak. It was the best thing ever. The trail gets ridiculously heavy use, and the zoo that followed was pretty terrible, but for maybe an hour after us people trickled steadily in and we got to watch the lizards waking up and trying to catch flies. We rooted for one for probably half an hour before he got his breakfast. It started to get too crowded and we were feeling a little bad for taking up space, but there's ample view to stick around and just take it in. Out of all the parks we went to in Utah alone (Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capital Reef, Arches) it was hands-down my favorite. Arches is probably a close second.

It was an incredible time. It's funny to think back; when we took the bus out to the trailhead I remember seeing climbers up on some big wall. From memory of location and image I think it must've been on The Great White Throne, 25 pitches. Early in the morning they were still bivvied high, high up on the wall (hundreds of feet) and were just getting out and setting up gear. I remember looking up through the ceiling glass and thinking that is absolutely insane. I will never do something like that. Eight or so years later I'm climbing. Nothing above a hundred feet yet and no multi-pitches, but I'm hoping to in the next couple of years. Some of the ones, despite being huge, are at a skill level I could easily do. It's funny how things change.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 4:25 PM on May 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Correction: the climbers had to have been at least a thousand feet up at that point. That particular wall is 2500 feet +.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 4:29 PM on May 6, 2012

For whatever it's worth, that's about the same as the Grand Canyon r2r2r in terms of elevation gain / loss.

I read that as rim to rim and thought that's not so bad. Then I realized it was rim to rim to rim. Then I looked it up and saw that the fastest time was 7 hours.
posted by euphorb at 9:36 PM on May 6, 2012

Have to agree that Zion National Park is one of the most awe-inspiring in the United States. On my most recent visit, I ate a healthy dose of psilocybin mushrooms and did the hike to Observation Point, about 4,000 vertical feet over 4 miles, often with huge dropoffs to one side, all the while muttering to myself about the Cliffs of Insanity (Pricess Bride reference). It was great fun.
posted by Uncle Grumpy at 7:35 AM on May 7, 2012

Great post, thanks. This hike is going on the bucket list.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:29 AM on May 7, 2012

The most I've done is a 25K trailrun, but I'd love to give this a try someday. Thanks for sharing!

I read the first 3 links and what strikes me the most is that cedarandsand and slcsherpa weren't prepared for trailrunning of this distance, at least in the classical sense of the word (i.e. training). The cedarandsand group had done a 50K and a marathon between them, and slcsherpa had never run more than 9 miles (though he was an avid cyclist and backpacker). They both finished. The UltimateDirection linked story seemed like die-hard ultrarunners and she didn't finish. It goes to show, there's a lot of "mind over matter" going on in the endurance sport game.

The other item I gleaned from all three stories: don't underestimate how much water you need (as all three did).
posted by bwilms at 11:49 AM on May 7, 2012

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