Like a lion in Zion: the Hidden Canyon

After a good night’s sleep under the shadow of the Watchman, we were excited to set off on our hike… We’d decided to try the intriguing Hidden Canyon hike (btw, this guy’s guides to the Zion trails are amazing, with all the information you could possibly need, and some amazing pictures. I don’t know you Joe, but on behalf of all Zion hikers: thank you :-) ) – the Hidden Canyon is, well, a hidden canyon… it’s actually a hanging side canyon, whose entrance is at the end of quite a demanding hike. We hadn’t read Joe’s awesome guide before we did the hike, so we didn’t really know exactly what to expect – we’d sort of gathered that it was going to be exciting, but had no idea what was really coming (which of course made it all the more thrilling!).

We set off from the Weeping Rock trailhead, and started on a long and fairly demanding upward walk. The trail was full of abrupt switchbacks, but still well maintained, quite comfy and, i have to say, it felt relatively safe… But it was quite steep indeed – as we walked higher up the canyon wall, we started seeing signs of the previous night’s snowfall on the trees around us…

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There was also snow on the Great White Throne, across the canyon – it hadn’t been there the previous evening!

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As we walked higher and higher up, the views became more and more breathtaking and the hike more and more exciting.

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Can you see the parking lot down below? And the road??

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Needless to say, this hike is NOT for the faint of heart. The little path is carved on the face of the mountain, and part of it is very exposed. Sleek rocks, no rails, and amazing views. The cars at the bottom seem tiny, and looking back at the already completed (and supposedly easy!) part of the hike makes you realise with a shiver where you’ve been:

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If you squint a bit, you can see a tiny black speck about halfway down the path – that’s a hiker, and that’s where we’d come from! And now, the real fun was just about to start… As the path grew smaller, we had to hold on to the safety chains – our only protection on this exposed bit of trail. The path, hugging the rock about 300 m above the ground, was polished from all the hikers that have walked it, and partly covered in snow and ice from the night before. The little saddle at the end (you can see Chris chilling out there) offers some unbelievable views, but is probably also the most dangerous spot on that hike.

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The trail continues around the rock:

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See how i’m hugging the rock?? I don’t have a great fear of heights, but that was the only way i could be persuaded to move on. I was terrified on that part – my heart was beating so fast and i held on to the chain as if my life depended on it (and to be fair it probably did!!). Think i’m exaggerating? here’s an idea of what looking down from that spot feels like…

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We were so excited when we finally reached the little pools that mark the entrance of the hidden canyon (and also, truth be told, quite a bit relieved to step off the face of the mountain):

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The official trail ends there – but the hidden canyon is a little gem that is definitely worth exploring! We felt like we’d braved the elements to get there (yeah yeah ok i know, there are much more dangerous trails to be hiked, but still), and we weren’t about to turn back without going all the way… so we bravely (so to speak – it’s actually a very easy and pleasant hike in there, with only some scrambling required from time to time) walked into the secret canyon. And it was lovely! The sun was coming up, and the light shone warm on the red rocks. We walked up the rocks, then down again onto the hidden canyon floor.

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The colours were lovely, and i can only imagine how pretty this place looks in full bloom!  The hike was a lot of fun – we were all alone, it was warm and sunny and we felt like proper explorers.

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And then i put my thing-breaking skills to work (i am a master at breaking things, as anyone who knows me will tell you)… On that trip Chris carried his trusty G12 camera, and i carried his spare little camera. Well, i managed to drop this face down on the red sand. It didn’t seem to appreciate that fact, and proceeded to stop working. Just like that. (if you zoom in that picture you can see me perplexedly trying to figure out whether it could be persuaded to work again. It couldn’t).

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It spoiled the fun a little bit – i felt horrible about it (in Greece we say, for people as clumsy as me, that they have “clothespins instead of hands”, and that couldn’t be more accurate in my case). Chris was really cool about it though even though he was upset, which i really really appreciated. And happily, the rest of the hike was fun, exciting, and uneventful :-).

We hiked, climbed and scrambled as far as we could go – we only turned back when a big landslide blocked our way (we could have scrambled our way over it without too much effort, but it didn’t seem like we would be able to climb back down safely).

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We retraced our steps towards the exit of the canyon…

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It was the best hike we’d done so far, and we were so excited about it – that is, until we got back to the trail and realised we’d have to take the same steep, slippery, exposed path down! :-)

Hiking down was terrifying and awesome at the same time. The Hidden Canyon hike is definitely worth the effort – and looking back i can say it was our favourite hike on that trip! (but it needs good shoes and a good stomach, and is incompatible with even the tiniest fear of heights. Also, i’d say it’s completely incompatible with kids :-) – this is scary stuff, people. I’m pretty sure that if you fall you evaporate before you reach the ground. That’s how high it is).

We had a well deserved picnic after this brilliant hike (we felt like we’d cheated death :-) ), and decided it was time to move on – but it was really with a sad heart that we left Zion. The Park has so much to offer, and it seems to be perfect for any kind of vacation and for all sorts of people (well, except for people that hate nature, i guess. If you hate nature, don’t go there). I can’t wait to go back one day.

PS: As the title of these posts imply, yes, there are indeed mountain lions in Zion (when i told my sister, she said it reminded it her of this song, so now i can’t get it out of my head!), but no, we didn’t see any :-)

Tell us what you think!

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