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Zion/Bryce Hike Early April
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Mark Davis
(markadavis) - MLife

Locale: Upper Midwest
Zion/Bryce Hike Early April on 02/27/2011 15:05:17 MST Print View

I am looking for help/guidance for a trip in the Zion/Bryce area. My family is taking a spring break vacation in the Zion/Bryce area from April 1-9. I've been granted permission for an overnight hike, maybe two nights at the most. I am absolutely unfamilar with this area other than what I have researched, which indicates that, for me, this is not the best time of year to hike this area as the water levels are high in the canyons and there will likely be snow on top.

I tend to be a late-spring to fall hiker when hiking in the mountains. I have no mountaineering experience. The only snow I've hiked on in the mountains is early spring snow on established trails, which includes the occassional post-holeing for a few hundred yard. I have no canyon-hiking experience.

I will be hiking with a friend. We can easily hike 15 miles a day once acclimated. Not really interested in doing more than 20 a day.

Because of the water levels in the canyons, we were looking to do a hike mostly along the top of the canyons. However, it is hard for me to get a sense of the amount of snow that I will run into, if any. If anyone has first hand knowledge, it would be much appreciated.

I would also welcome any recommendations on a 30ish mile 2-day hike or maybe a 40ish mile 3-day hike.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
BE PREPARED!! on 02/28/2011 19:50:38 MST Print View

Early April in Zion and particularly Bryce (it's higher) could mean a real snowstorm. Carry appropriate clothing and gaiters if snow gets deep. Be sure your clothes (like a light down jacket and polyester long johns) can extend the comfort range of your sleeping bag)

Several years ago our local Sierra Club backpacking trip to Zion in LATE May met a freak snowstorm and the leader nearly died of hypothermia. When they did get back to the parking lot all cars were totally snowed in. Friends and relatives had to come up from Las Vegas to get everyone. Cars were retrieved two weeks later.

Edited by Danepacker on 02/28/2011 19:51:20 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Zions on 02/28/2011 19:54:59 MST Print View

Sounds awesome. I am there April 6th to the 10th. Let the inclement weather come!

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Zion/Bryce Hike Early April on 03/01/2011 12:46:19 MST Print View

Maybe check out Buckskin Gulch or something over in Escalante at lower elevations.

Mark Davis
(markadavis) - MLife

Locale: Upper Midwest
Zions on 03/02/2011 13:15:16 MST Print View

Eric, thanks for the heads up. We will make sure to bring warm clothing. Based on what we had read, it looked like we should be prepared for below freezing temps at the worst. Although I probably won't bring the snowshoes.

David, I am hoping for an awesome trip. We are planning on doing a lot of family day hikes, which are fun in their own way. However, those hikes don't always satisfy what I am looking for.

We do have the luxury of two cars and someone to drop us off and pick us up as we like. While I prefer some overnight hikes for my personal enjoyment. If need be, given all of the road crossings that I am seeing, we could break many of the possible overnight hikes into day hikes. We have thought about that with respect to the "Zion Traverse" hike, which is one we are contemplating. We might just overnight for one night from Lee Pass/Hop Valley/Wildcat Canyon/West Rim. That was just under 40 miles. That is two 20 mile days, which is about the limit that we'd want to do.

We may just play it by ear and wait until we arrive to decide where to hike. From looking at the reservation system, it does no appear that the backcountry sites will fill up on us. I could be wrong about that and disappointed if all of he sites are full.

Cola, thanks for the alternative suggestions. I was not even thinking that direction. I take a look at those.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
SW Ut early April on 03/02/2011 13:27:56 MST Print View

Mark, the main part of the Zion traverse would be a good trip that fits your time frame. However, snow is likely to be problematic that time of year, at least in spots. It might be worth it anyway, depending on how much postholing you think you'll have to do. For reference, a friend and I did the Subway in late January a few years ago and had sustained knee deep postholing at elevations a bit lower than much of the West Rim trail.

For early April backpacking, I'd head to the Escalante, though depending on snow parts of the Below The Rim trail in Bryce might be fun. If there's just enough snow, you might even be able to find easy water. In fact, Bryce could be a solid option for a nice overnighter.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
COYOTE GULCH on 03/02/2011 14:46:40 MST Print View

Also in the Escalante area is Coyote Gulch, truly a great southwesterh U.S. hike. I backpacked it last summer and felt it was a prettier and better hike than the Paria River Canyon. Fantastic rock formations in Coyote Gulch and good water available in creekside "drip springs". Plus BLM solar lit self-mulching toilets placed at two popular campsites.

(The human excrement buildup in the "no-toilet" Buckskin Gulch camping area, just off the Paria canyon, had a constant stench all its own.) :(~

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
Buckskin Gulch on 03/02/2011 18:12:10 MST Print View


Good call on Coyote though didn't know composting "helicopter" toilets had been installed..uptown!

I spent one of the prettiest nights out in my life so far ... at that camping spot at the intersection of Buckskin and Paria about 10 years ago. Early May and the one other group at the site had packed in a guitar and the guy could really play! Then after that the frogs lit up by the thousands and it was just an amazing evening.

About 2:00 AM there were a couple of lightning bolts and big thunder...the way sounds reverberate in those deep canyons.....sounded like the world was cracking open and boy was there a lot of scrambling for rain flys and etc in our camp ( we'd gone to sleep under stars) but no rain

Too bad it's getting trashed but when you consider the total lack of flat land versus vertical rock in Buckskin; That spot is's not really surprising.

Chad Helmke
(the-gear-recycler) - MLife

Locale: High Rockies
Buckskin on 03/02/2011 18:58:18 MST Print View

Surprised at the negativity for Buckskin-when we went 2 springs ago and hiked the entire length of Buckskin and went out via Paria, it was one of the best trips I've done. Permitted so no overcrowding, and wag bags mandatory. Never noticed any odor whatsoever at any of the campsites and we stayed 3 nights. Would recommend it highly as we went early May just after the mud in the canyon had dried and as we hiked out the dry Paria wash, it turned into a lightly babbling creek as the snowmelt somewhere high in the mountains made its way down the river-pretty epic to see. Best of luck and if you're contemplating Buckskin, check now to secure the permits. Be safe!

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Buckskin on 03/02/2011 21:26:43 MST Print View

+1 on Buckskin/Paria. I've done it twice now, and it's one of the most beautiful places in the world. As for the OP's question, early April is not the best time to go in there because it can still be damned cold, and you might have to wade some spots depending on the year. But, an overnight hike from Wire Pass to the Buckskin/Paria confluence and back would make for a memorable trip even if the weather isn't perfect.

Mark Davis
(markadavis) - MLife

Locale: Upper Midwest
Thanks on 03/03/2011 10:25:01 MST Print View

Thanks everyone for your comments and insight. They are very helpful. I will look into Coyote Gulch and Buckskin. However, I am already pushing on the limits of my "family vacation" freedom, so I may be resigned to do what I can within Zion and Bryce (David, the Below The Rim trail was the other hike that we were looking at).