Kyle Kotajarvi

Day 16: Valley of Fire + Zion

Goals for today: Valley of Fire State Park and Zion National Park.  We had a lot of ground to cover and not a whole lot of daylight to work with.  We woke up as early as we could in Vegas, made ourselves look as presentable as possible and quickly departed towards our first destination.  Valley of Fire State Park was about 45 minutes away, so it was a quick jaunt from Vegas.  The interstate took us most of the way there and then we turned off on a winding road that took us 15 miles south into the park.  

We didn’t really have an itinerary for the park, or a map, so just drove until we found a turnoff that simply said "Arch."  We followed that road for a bit until we found this incredible mini-arch out in the middle of nowhere.   I think my favorite thing about that portion of the park was how quiet it was.  It just felt so isolated and untouched from the rest of the world.  

We stayed in that area for about 30 minutes before we decided to move on. We stopped at the Visitor Center to grab some maps and then headed to Mouse's Tank.  Not entirely sure what Mouse's Tank is, or if we were actually there, but we were in the area.  Kassidy and I ventured on a short climb up the face of a massive boulder.  That was really exciting and thrilling. I’m not the best climber and have a huge fear of heights, so to dominate those fears for a short time was quite fulfilling.  

After our short climb, Kassidy and I headed towards the Rainbow Trail, which led a bit further into the valley.  Valley of Fire really showed its color along this trail.  The rocks were such an intense hue of dark orange.  It was truly an incredible experience that I completely blew my expectations.  

We moved on from Valley of Fire at about 1, but not before snapping some photos of the most beautiful road there is.   This one was taken with my iPhone while we were on our way out of the park.

Zion was about 2 and half hours away from Valley of Fire, which wasn’t too bad considering the length of the drives we had already completed.  The drive was beautiful.  We cut through Arizona for a short time and also had our last In-N-Out experience at a stop in Utah.  I think our drive through Arizona was the most beautiful part of that trip.  

The mountains were just massive and it was exciting to see signage for the Grand Canyon…someday, someday.  We hopped off the Interstate a short distance after Saint George and headed east towards Zion.  We passed through the town of Hurricane and the village of Springdale (where we were staying that night) before getting to the ranger station at the gates of Zion.  We flashed our pass and headed into the park.  I would try and describe the beauty of Zion, but there’s no way to do so.  It was the most beautiful place I had ever been.  The sun had already dipped down below the West Rim, so the valley was filled with soft, gorgeous light.  It was incredibly photogenic.  It would be hard to take a bad photo there.  

We drove as far north into the park as the road went and made a handful of pitstops before the light faded completely.  We were incredibly pumped to see it in the light the next day.  After the sun had set, we made our way back to Pioneer Lodge in Springdale, where we would be staying for the night.  The lodge was very comfortable, and was well worth the money.  We got settled in and hung out for awhile, before we decided we needed food.  Clancy and I headed out to explore the town for some food, and not joking, everything closed at 8 p.m.. It was so strange.  There was literally nothing open, so we headed back to our room, grabbed the keys and drove to Taco Bell in Hurricane. We grabbed food at Walgreens for our hike the next morning and then headed back to the lodge to crash.  It was a very long day. Probably wasn’t until 11:30 that I actually fell asleep.