Experiencing Zion National Park in Two and a Half Days

Last weekend, I did something I have never done before – I camped overnight with my boyfriend in Zion National Park, located in Southern Utah. After spending only two nights, and two and a half days in Zion, it was nothing short of majestic, incredible, and completely awe-inspiring.

Though it was a bit of a last minute trip, every second of it worked out perfectly in our favor. Him and I were able to gain the full experience that we were hoping for, despite the short time frame. And that was mainly because we did our research, made smart decisions, and came prepared.

To give some context, my boyfriend lives in Northern Arizona and we’ve been in a 2,500 mile long-distance relationship for nearly a year, so we’ve been used to traveling back and forth to see each other.

We had been talking about doing some sort of trip together instead of just taking turns to visit each other in the states we live in. Eventually, we decided on a camping trip. This trip had only been in the works for about a month, so as we were coming down to the wire, we really had to nail down the logistics of the trip.

The one main concern was where to stay. Since this was so last minute, we narrowed it down to a few different campgrounds that didn’t require reservations ahead of time and finally chose South Campground, which is located near the South Entrance of the park.

We initially planned on driving out early Sunday morning, but it really turned out to be late Saturday night. We were in Sedona, AZ on Saturday night and didn’t arrive back to his place in Flagstaff, AZ until around 11:30PM. Once we got back, we packed everything ahead of time so that it would be ready to go once we left the apartment.

DAY ONE: Getting to South Campground and Hiking Angels Landing

We left Flagstaff around 1:30AM and finally arrived in the park around 6AM. It was still pitch black and the park rangers weren’t even there yet to collect entrance fees as we were driving in. The drive through the park to get to our campground was about 10-15 minutes. As we pulled up to the parking lot for South Campground, there were already 15 cars ahead of us. We weren’t assigned our campground until about 8:30AM. Once we pitched our tent, we took a quick nap and woke up around 10:00AM.

From there, we had to decide on what we would do that day. We headed to the Visitor Center to ask for recommendations and were initially deterred from doing Angels Landing that day since it was already late morning and the sun would be at its peak. We did it anyways.

We took the shuttle bus from the Visitor Center and arrived at the trail leading to Angels Landing around noon. The woman at the Visitor Center was right in the sense that it was blistering hot, but it was completely worth it. The entire hike took us around 5 hours, as we stopped several times and took our time up and back. We went to the very top of Angels Landing.

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What I can say about this hike is that it was truly strenuous, as listed on the brochure. Even as a long distance runner, this was still a challenge for me. At a certain point of the hike, you are holding onto links of chains in order to climb up to top and it hardly ever plateaus, so you are continuously going up hill with very little footing surrounding you. It’s especially hard when it’s crowded because people are constantly going up and down and you have to navigate your way around them. However, as long as you are cognizant of your movements, you’ll be fine. If you are deathly afraid of heights, this will be a huge challenge for you, but it’s certainly not impossible.

After we got to the bottom of the Angels Landing trail, where we began, we dipped our feet in the Virgin River and got a little taste of what to expect for the next day.

DAY 2: The Narrows

We woke up around 7:30AM and had planned on meeting up to hike The Narrows with two new friends that we had met along the way while hiking Angels Landing. The trail that led to The Narrows is the very last stop on the shuttle bus from the Visitor Center. We arrived at the entrance of The Narrows around 10AM and finally started our journey around 10:30AM. The very first step that we took was already up to my calves in water. We started out slow and the water levels only got higher as we continued through.

Our mission was to get to the point of The Narrows where there was a fork in the trail. Someone had recommended this to us and we had to go quite far until we arrived at that point. If you are afraid of deep water or can’t swim, I’d first be wary to recommend this hike. But, if you are adventurous, want to get away from the crowds, and don’t mind doing some climbing, then I’d recommend going all the way until the point that we hiked to.

It took an army to climb over certain areas. We were with our two new friends, a married couple, and a family of four when we were getting through some of the obstacles that we had to surpass. What I can say is that it was definitely not for the faint of heart, but it’s truly an unreal experience.

We didn’t get back to the beginning of the trail until around 4:30PM – That’s about six full hours doing this hike.

Fortunately, you can turn around at any point, but again, if you want the full experience, I’d dedicate an entire day to doing this.

DAY 3: Winding down and heading out

After two very strenuous hikes, we decided to keep our third day fairly open. We still wanted to get another trail under our belts, but we wanted to do an easier, shorter one, so we decided on the Lower Emerald Pool trail. This trail was definitely more for beginners, families, or those who are interested in a beautiful walk through nature. Though it was listed as an easy trail, there are still points that are slightly uphill, but that’s to be expected for any of the trails in Zion.

Once we finished this trail, we grabbed lunch at the Zion Lodge and laid out on the grass with other tourists who were also enjoying the scenery.

We left Zion around 1:30PM and arrived back in Flagstaff a little before 6PM. The views driving through Utah were gorgeous enough to make the drive go by very quickly.

Overall, this trip was truly unforgettable and one that I would absolutely do again with more time blocked out. I’d highly recommend putting Zion National Park on the top of your list of National Parks or even just as a vacation idea if you enjoy sightseeing, hiking, and camping.

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4 Days Spent in Barcelona

A little over 24 hours ago, I arrived back in New York City after spending 4 days in Barcelona, Spain. It was my very first time traveling to Europe, and most certainly not my last. In the short amount of time that I was there, I can say that Barcelona has risen to my list of top favorite cities that I have traveled to thus far. With it’s vibrant culture, rich history, and wonderful experiences, I am in awe of how much this city has to offer.

I traveled with two of my best friends from high school. We departed for Barcelona from JFK airport on Tuesday, February 23rd around 5pm. We took Aer Lingus where we had one stop in Dublin, Ireland both ways there and back for only $667 round-trip. The flight was seamless and extremely prompt. Our planes were clean, the staff was great, and the food was actually pretty tasty. My overall rating for this airline was 5/5.

We arrived in Barcelona around 10:00AM on Wednesday, February 24th and had no trouble getting our luggage after we got off the plane. We were out of the airport and in a taxi on our way to our Airbnb which was right across the street from la Sagrada Familia. The Airbnb was perfect. It was clean, cozy, and most importantly, it was in an amazing location which was around the corner from the L2 metro.

Day 1:

The first thing we did on the day one was getting most of our shopping done. We took the metro to the Passeig de Gracia stop where all of the high-end stores were located which reminded me of SoHo in Manhattan. We spent hours walking up and down the street and visiting the different stores. In between shopping, we took a break and ate at TapaTapa restaurant where we, of course, ordered multiple tapas and a pitcher of Sangria. After we finished shopping, we stopped and got a close look at Casa Battlo without going inside. We then walked over to the Arc de Triomf which reminded me of Washington Square Park in Manhattan. It’s crazy how many parallels I can make for Barcelona and New York City.

Day 2:

On Day 2, we ventured to the Gothic Quarter which was Barcelona’s version of Old City, and my personal favorite part of the trip. There, we visited the Picasso Museum, took a look around the flea market, and ate a late lunch near the water. This part of Barcelona had the most beautiful architecture and such a strong sense of history, met with modern restaurants and cafes. Later in the evening, we went out to a bar near the water where we had our lunch which was surprisingly quiet for a Thursday evening which is typically a big night to go out here in New York City.

Day 3:

Time flew by quick and all of a sudden it was already Friday. On Friday, we woke early to visit Parc Guell which was one of our most anticipated sight-seeing experiences. We walked throughout the entire park and avoided paying the fee to go inside of the area where the mosaic architecture resided. In Parc Guell, we enjoyed the beautiful view overlooking the city and experienced hearing some authentic Spanish music where musicians would play for the huge crowds of tourists. After a long day of walking, we went back home to rest before our real night of going out where we headed to Opium night club which was the most recommended place we heard about. It was definitely a touristy club which didn’t get actually crowded until around 1:30AM. We ended the night there and were exhasted by morning.

Day 4:

On our very last full day in Barcelona, we finally went inside of la Sagrada Familia. (My recommendation is to buy the tickets online first to avoid the lines, especially on a weekend to avoid the crowds. This was a tip we actually received from another American tourist we met while at Parc Guell.) The church was absolutely astonishing and completely worth paying to go inside. After nearly an hour inside of the church, we headed to Camp Nou to see none other than the amazing field that FB Barcelona plays. The field was amazing, and unfortunately, we didn’t get to catch a game (but they actually played on the same day that we left Barcelona). On the last night, we had dinner at a local restaurant near our Airbnb and packed up our suitcases and mentally prepared to leave our perfect trip.

Overall, we were able to do so much in only 4 days. There was still so much to see, but we enjoyed every minute of every hour that we experienced. Not a second was wasted and we took advantage of every opportunity despite how tired we may have been.

It was an unforgettable trip and I would go back in a heartbeat.