cross country pan american drive - North America, Central America, South AmericaTrans-Americas Journey Logo - cross country pan american drive - North America, Central America, South America

PHOTO GALLERY INDEX > Condors and Camping

Zion National Park, UT   11/07-09/08 (Day 756-758)
Condors and Camping

Utah’s Zion National Park may be compact (less than 230 square miles), but it packs a lot in—from canyoneering to one of the most notorious hikes in the national park system to a crazy road and tunnel to abundant wildlife.

We’ve been through the park briefly before, but we make a return trip hoping it’ll be warm enough to hike The Narrows which requires some canyoneering through water. After moving our Airstream Safari SE into an enormous site in the Watchman Campground which, surprisingly, comes with an electrical hookup, we decide that the temperatures are already too cold for The Narrows (though other, heartier, souls are attempting it outfitted in insulated hip waders).

Airstream Watchman Campground in Zion National Park
Sunset over our Airstream home in the Watchman Campground in Zion National Park.

Instead, we focus on some of the park’s other hikes like Angels Landing which requires traversing a narrow spine of rock that turns some folks back. We’re even more tempted by the hike up to Observation Point which gains 2,000 feet in four miles of switchbacks pretty much straight uphill through a range of terrain, including some brief slot canyons and plenty of red rock, culminating in a great viewpoint over the park.

Observation Point trail Zion National Park
The trail that switchbacks up to Observation Point offers a great view of the Horseshoe bend in the Virgin River. Somehow this little river created Zion Canyon

The scenery is so gorgeous that before we know it we’re at the top munching on trail mix and enjoying the view. When someone points to the sky and hollers “condors” we are skeptical, but a quick check through binoculars reveals the giant endangered bird’s tell-tale wing markings and an identification number clamped to each animal’s wing.

Observation Point trail Zion National Park
Karen hikes through a partial tunnel blasted out to gain access to a
small slot canyon on the trail up to Observation Point.

For the next 15 minutes we watch three California condors slowly circle and swirl above us, ultimately getting so low that we can see their markings without binoculars. We’d just read that condors are so comfortable with humans because they’ve learned that mammals, like us, often leave food behind and we wonder if these birds are hoping for some leftover trail mix.

Condors Observation Point Zion National Park
Two of the three California condors that soared above us at
Observation Point before vanishing into thin air.

Then, as quickly as they appeared, the huge birds are gone. Vanished. As if they were never there. All of the hikers at Observation Point look at each other as if to confirm that we all just saw what we thought we saw. Buoyed by our condor sighting, we cover the four miles back down the trail in record time, almost like we’re flying ourselves.

(See video from Observation Point.)

Observation Point Zion National Park
Stunning views from Observation Point down into Zion Canyon.

The next morning we make a quick breakfast and head out to the Emerald Pools Trail which threads together three different natural pools. On a sunny day, the pools each exhibit a different brilliant color. In the gathering grayness on the morning we’re there, however, the colors are not quite apparent but it’s a pleasant walk nonetheless.

Our journey out of Zion National Park is also an adventure. In order to fit through the tunnel in the road that exits the park all RV drivers have to buy a special pass. When we reach the tunnel in our Airstream we show our pass and traffic in both directions is stopped so we can drive in the center of the tunnel, straddling the dividing line, through the tallest point in the tunnel. It’s definitely a first.

Virgin River
Fall colors along the Virgin River.



** This isn't a normal photo gallery with a slideshow because this post originally appeared on our Airstream blog. **

Contact Us: