Zion is one of the famous National Parks in Utah. Only a 2 1/2 drive from Las Vegas, it is an easy destination for a weekend. We had talked about going on a girls camping trip, so we decided to go hiking and canyoneering Zion National Park. Moonlight Oasis
On a Friday evening in September, we land in Las Vegas. There are 7 of us and we are here for a girl’s weekend of hiking and canyoneering Zion. To avoid having to carry all our camping gear with us, we have booked 4 tents in Moonlight Oasis. Unfortunately our flights are delayed so our plans to arrive at our campsite before it is dark are not working out. We decide that one car will drive straight to the campsite, the other will stop for groceries on the way.
Not Camping not Glamping
In the pitch dark night, we almost miss the dirt road that is supposed to get us to our camp. We turn of the road at the little sign that says “Moonlight Oasis”. From there we drive on, trying to avoid potholes and rocks until eventually we find our tents. Although this is advertised as glamping, when we enter our tents,we realize that this is a bit of an overstatement. There are 12 tents, all well equipped with beds and or blow up mattresses and LED lamps. Every tent has a BBQ, fire pit and all the basic equipment. However, that’s about it. Nobody is there to check you in. A porta potty or the bush are the restroom. The shower is of the open air shower kind: a bucket of water heated during the day by the sun.
Wine by the campfire
We are glad that we have finally arrived. We start setting up camp and light a fire while waiting for the second car to arrive with the groceries. We have a quick midnight snack and glass of wine, after all this is supposed to be glamping. Then we all retire to our tents for a good night sleep.
Hiking Angel’s landing
We get up early the next morning and over breakfast we decide to go hike Angels Landing in the morning and go canyoneering in the afternoon. We hike to Angels Landing with a little detour to the emerald pools. It’s the end of September and it is still hot. Angels Landing is supposedly one of the World’s most renowned hikes. We make it all the way to Scout look out. From there you have a clear view over Zion’s Canyon’s 270 million year old rock layers. We decide against doing the final stretch across the a little hang-bridge and cables to the top. There are too many people and we want to go back to pick up the others to go canyoneering.
Canyoneering Mecca of the World
This afternoon we go canyoneering. We are picked up in town by our guide Eric from Red Rock Adventure who drives us to the starting place for our adventure. We all get decked out in harnesses and helmets and follow Eric on a short hike with beautiful views. We are all both excited and a little nervous as we have never done this before. Our hike turns into some challenging climbing through narrow rock foundations before we get to the bottom of a big rock wall. Eric tells us he will secure the line and then we will be clipped in one by one. Once we are all at the top, we now have to one by one move over a little ledge to the top of our first rappel.
Rappelling down the canyon
The first one is a broad and open cliff, still a bit scary but a good one to start. And although a bit jittery, we all make it down. The second one is more narrow and a lot higher. For the final one, we have to get through a very narrow hole on the top before the canyon opens up. Its steep, its high and not for people who are claustrophobic. We all get down and agree that this was an amazing experience. That night we eat in town and roll into our tents for a long night sleep.
Hiking the narrows
We leave early again the next morning to hike the narrows. We want to beat the crowds as September is still tourist season. Last time I hiked the narrows it was early January and no other people were brave enough to get into the freezing water. It’s still a bit chilly when we take of in our rented water shoes and hiking poles. We wade through the first part of the river and it slowly starts warming up. We climb over rocks and through little waterfalls and take a ton of pictures. The views and the colors are magnificent. We hike for several hours, it’s getting more crowded, but we find a little side stream of the main river. After some challenging climbing to get into it, but once in it, it is worth the effort. We have the river almost to ourselves.
Steaks by the campfire
We turn around and we get back to town were we treat ourselves to a late light lunch. We agree that after our awesome hiking experience we deserve a good steak with a nice bottle of red wine. So after lunch we go shopping for groceries. Then we realize we are in Utah and it is Sunday which means the liquor stores are closed. Therefore we find ourselves in a major crisis. We need to find to back up plan. Then we remember that there is another camp not far from ours, that has a restaurant. We cross our fingers that they can will sell us a bottle. This plan works and we arrive back at our camp with our food and wine, ready to start a fire and cook.
Meet the locals: Cowboy Bill
We cook our steak and potatoes and sit around the campfire enjoying a beautiful sunset while sipping our wine, when a car pulls up. The man coming out of the car introduces himself as Bill. We introduce ourselves and ask him if he is the famous Cowboy Bill mentioned in our confirmation papers as the person living on the premises and the person we can contact if we need anything. Cowboy Bill proudly tells us that indeed he lives on the premises and that in fact he owns all the land including our campsite. We chat with him for a while sharing our stories with him and in return he tells us his life story. It’s a brilliant end of a brilliant day and weekend.
The beautiful West
Zion is one of the many beautiful national parks in the West. If you don’t mind a more basic camping experience, Moonlight Oasis is fine, if you really want to go glamping, the next door “Under Canvas” camp is a better option. Above all, if you are adventurous enough, I highly recommend hiking the narrows and canyoneering.