Day three turned out to be one of our low-key favorites. We spent the night before at the East Mesa Trailhead, which lies on the border of Zion National Park. We camped there so we could get an early start to see the stunning view that is Observation Point. We woke up around 4 am, packed up in record time, threw on our headlamps and off we went! The hike was an easy one, and it felt more like a leisurely stroll through a meadow more so than a “hike”. We made it to the overlook as the sun rose and we couldn't believe our eyes. Pictures don’t even come close to capturing the epic view. Even though the overlook doesn't look over the sunrise, being there at that time gave the sky some beautiful hues of color that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. The grays, pinks, oranges, and blues were just stunning, and looked like real-life watercolor painting. It was the most spectacular start to a morning I’ve ever experienced, and this is why we chose the shortcut hike.
After taking in the views, taking some photos, and making some coffee to try and cope with the frigid gusts of wind, we hiked back to the car to take on the rest of the day. We drove back to the visitors center parking lot and our first order of business was to tackle the mountain of a mess that was our minivan. We spent a significant amount of time repacking, condensing, and organizing… Basically playing a game of Tetris in our car trying to make 13 days worth of gear seem like 3. Afterwards, we ate some PBJs and JetBoiled some pasta sides at the picnic tables beforemaking our way to our next stop in Zion.
Since you aren't allowed to drive throughout the park itself, a free shuttle is offered to give visitors access to each hike, trail, and viewpoint in the park. Just jump on and go! On each shuttle there are numbered stops with names of the hikes provided, so it’s extremely easy to find your way around. We boarded and took our seats for the twenty minute ride through the towering orange cliffs until stop #7, also known as Hidden Canyon. Although Hidden Canyon was not what we expected at all, it was still a nice leisurely hike with some really unique features. As the signs on the trail were a little misleading, we estimated that the hike was 2 1/2 - 3 miles round trip, and it took us about three hours to complete. We loved that the hike was unique, however we were slightly bummed that there is no view…no summit… no overlook… the trail just…ends! You will walk through vine covered narrows and scale small little cliffs with chains provided for your comfort (which I very much appreciated), however when walking the trail of the prehistoric looking slot canyon for which Hidden Canyon is name, it just comes to an end. Once we realized we couldn't walk any further, we turned around and headed back for some much needed “hydration”.
The picture on the left is a section of the Hidden Canyon hike, the picture on the right is the turnaround point.
Once we got back to Springdale (the adorable town at the base of Zion), we made a necessary stop at the Zion Brew Pub. We had a couple beers and ordered some appetizers, which we would've gone without except in Utah you're not allowed to order alcohol at a restaurant without ordering food as well. Needless to say we had a few baskets of fries and called it a day! After we ate we paid a couple bucks for some short but necessary five-minute showers at the Zion Outfitters store just next door to the Brew Pub. After showers and washing some clothes in the sinks, we drove to public land to set up camp.
When we arrived at Smithsonian Butte Public Land, we were a little weary. However, once we drove a little ways down the isolated red dirt road, we came upon multiple worn in campsites with incredible views! We liked it so much we ended up staying there every night while we explored Zion, which ended up being three awesome nights and four incredible days! We made a campfire, Mandy led us in some yoga, Alex and Kim reenacted their first dance, and we sang songs until the fire died out and we all made our ways into our tents to bunker down and get ready for our next day at Zion, which would be one of our most strenuous.