Although a Grand Canyon rafting trip officially begins when you hit the water at Lees Ferry, it unofficially begins when you make your way to Las Vegas. There are options to fly from Las Vagas to Lees Ferry, but I would highly recommend renting a car and driving.
While it’s about a 5 to 6 hour drive from Las Vegas to Lees Ferry, the route allows you to drive through Zion National Park. Planning an extra day or two to explore and play in Zion before a Grand Canyon rafting trip would be an excellent way to begin the entire vacation (while it’s possible to do it after the rafting trip as well, you will have a lot more energy before the trip).
Even if you don’t have the time to give yourself a full day at Zion National Park, it’s still possible to do a short hike while passing through (what we ended up doing). A hike along the Riverside Walk path that takes you to The Narrows (Temple of Sinawava stop) is ideal in this situation since it also requires a trip on the shuttle bus which allows you to see the entire park and gives a quick guided overview of Zion.
The Riverside Walk is a relatively easy 2 mile round trip (about 1.5 hours) on a maintained path that is suitable for wheelchairs and strollers and gives some wonderful views of the North Fork Virgin River:
The end of the Riverside Walk path is at the North Fork Virgin River where the beginning of the The Narrows hike begins. This is a much more strenuous hike through the river and requires water shoes (these can be rented at a number of shops just outside the park’s south entrance). You can hike the first few miles of this without a permit, but the entire 16 mile hike up The Narrows does require a permit.
Zion National Park will begin offering its weekly drop-in volunteer program tomorrow, June 10, 2011 and will continue every Friday through the end of November. Volunteers are the unsung heroes of National Parks. If you love visiting National Parks, consider volunteering to help out in any way that you can.
The Zion National Park drop-in volunteer program is open to all. Anyone visiting Zion, as well as local residents, will have the opportunity to help with the many projects which help keep the park clean and beautiful. It’s a wonderful way to show your support for and to help preserve Zion National Park.
Those that are interested in volunteering should gather at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center Shuttle Stop at 9:00 a.m. each Friday. The volunteer projects will last approximately two to three hours and do not require prior knowledge or training. Examples of volunteer projects would include litter removal, minor trail maintenance, and the management of invasive plants. If you decide to volunteer, be sure to bring water, a hat, sunscreen and good walking shoes. You do not need to bring tools. Both gloves and tools will be supplied if necessary.
Everyone is welcome to participate in the Zion drop-in volunteer program. There is no registration required for individuals — just show up on time. For groups larger than 10 people who would like to volunteer, you do need to pre-register. Minors under the age of 18 must be joined by an adult. For any questions, more information or to pre-register a group, contact the Zion volunteer coordinator at 435-772-0184.
You may also be interested in other Zion Volunteer Programs
If you happen to be travelling to Zion National Park this month (or travelled there earlier this year), don’t forget to submit any photos you took to the Zion National Park photo contest. The 2010 winner was Virgin River Narrows by David Lenhert:
The 2011 Zion National Park photo contest is open to amateur photographers with the photos being judged by what “will make us and others want to visit Zion National Park.” The deadline for submitting photos is July 4, 2011. All entries must be print photos with both black and white and color photos acceptable (no photos on disc or through email will be accepted). It’s important to remember to write your name, address and email on the back of each photo submitted. There is no limit to the number of entries as you can submit. Winning photos will be announced on or before July 24, 2011. Photos should be mailed to:
East Zion Tourism Council
Mount Carmel, UT 84755
For more information on this contest, you can visit the photo contest page of the East Zion Tourism Council.