Pine Bark Outfitters took a trip out West to visit some of the State and National parks in Nevada, Utah, and Arizona! One of our goals is to provide quality gear and apparel for our local community, but we also want to network and expand our reach to other parts of the US. We have roots in the Northeast, and currently live in South Carolina, so the desert seemed like the perfect place to get some more experience and meet some new people.
We flew into Las Vegas, because, of course.. why not stay in Las Vegas for a hiking trip? Our first stop was Hoover Dam and we were immediately blown away by the sheer size and magnitude of the effort it would have taken to create such a man-made wonder. We took the Power Tour which was an elevator tour to see some of the guts of the dam in the power room and lower tunnels. Our tour guide was great at cracking "dam" jokes to keeping things entertaining yet, was extremely knowledgeable.
From Hoover Dam, we went to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. We have a friend that briefly lived in Las Vegas who told us that this would be a MUST STOP for our trip, and we were not at all disappointed! The park had a small entrance fee ($7), which granted you access to the 13 mile paved road that meanders through the beautiful landscape of colorful rock and desert brush. There are several stops along the way where you can pause to take pictures or enjoy a hike. Along with your entrance fee, you are given a detailed park map, with suggestions of what attractions are available along with detailed descriptions of each. Without knowing many of the trails, and only a half a day, we decided to hike Keystone Thrust, and La Madre Springs trails. Keystone Thrust is a 2.2 mile hike that takes approximately 1.5 hours, and is rated at a moderate level. There were many different kinds and colors of rock, and it was a slight incline hike throughout. Next up was La Madre Springs Trail which ends with a crucial mountain springs pool that provides water to all surrounding wildlife. We were hoping to get a peak at some big-horned sheep, or other animals, but mostly just saw large birds and chipmunks. The springs were pretty dried up, and more of a trickling stream of water, than an actual pool of water, but a beautiful majestic halt nonetheless. This trail was 3.3 miles, on mostly gravel and rock and was rated at a difficulty level of moderate.
The next day, we left Las Vegas to head to Zion National Park. Along the way we decided to stop in St. George, Utah at the Red Cliffs Desert Reservation Area. If venturing this way we recommend researching trail heads better than we did, as we did not encounter a park office and GPS took us to a dirt road amongst many "red cliffs" with very little to see or do. It worked out well though to just stop by to check it out, as the real goal was to get to Zion National Park with enough time to explore a little bit before dusk.
We arrived at Holiday Inn Express Springdale just outside of Zion National Park. We were extremely impressed with the views from the hotel, and we had a very comfortable stay. (Holiday Inn is not compensating us in any way for this review. We just had a great time there).
Now on to Zion trails.. and let me tell you... one of the coolest places ever! Pictures don't even do justice to the magnificent views, as they cannot properly catch the way the light hits mountains, and shows off the true colors of the rock and foliage. The Virgin River was surprising larger than we expected for the time of year, and the fact that it runs mostly through desert.
Our first hike, and honestly the best hike we have been on thus far was Angel's Landing. Granted, we are still relatively early in our hiking careers, and we consider ourselves beginner to mediate level hikers, but this trail had it all! There were incredible views, awe inspiring rock and color, and an extremely creative and unique series of switchbacks to reach the top of the trail before the infamous last .5 miles to the top of Angel's Landing. There are several videos and pictures available on-line if you want to see what the last .5 mile was like, but basically there is a fear of falling to your death (as 6 have since 2004), while a chain that is bolted to the mountain is your main lifeline to reach the final destination. For those who haven't been to Zion, Angel's Landing is truly an amazing place to hike.
We really wanted to hike the Narrows, but unfortunately it was closed due to flooding prior to our arrival so we did not plan on hiking it. Instead we booked our day with many other highly ranked trails and we just didn't have enough time on the trip to squeeze it in once we found out it had opened. Luckily, this will give us an excuse to make a trip back to Zion. We took several other trails, including Emerald Springs, and for the sake of the length of this blog post, I'll spare the details of those hikes. We met some really great people on the trails in Zion, and it was an amazing place to visit.
Our last stop was the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. It truly looks like the desert rocks are on fire from the deep reds and orange colors in the rocks. We stopped at several of the trail sites to see everything from petrified logs, to ancient petroglyphs inscribed into the rock surfaces. Again we were hopeful to see some desert wildlife, but didn't see anything more than desert chipmunks.
Pine Bark had a great trip out west, and we hope that you enjoyed reading this blog. Let us know if you have been to any of these state parks, what your favorite trails were, and what you recommend for our next trip out west!