Friends of Big Bend National Park
Big Bend Conservancy

Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

+-Calendar for sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!


Rocky Mountain (Colorado) or Zion (Utah) National Park? Which and why?

  • 23 Replies
  • 12536 Views
*

Offline stingrey

  • Animal Whisperer
  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 734
  • I play for keeps 'cause I might not make it back.
    • Mother Nature Framed
Just curious, but if you guys had the option which park would you go to? Keep in mind that this will begin as a road trip originating from San Antonio, TX. I’m pretty torn… With the Zion National Park option in Utah, we’d pass through New Mexico. We could stop a few places there on the way out/back… But the Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado is rated in the top 10 as far as wildlife sightings are concerned, plus it is about 300 miles closer, per MapQuest.

Only thing is that many people have told me that Zion is one of the coolest parks in the NPS system. I guess I shouldn’t really give that any credit, though, since we all know that Big Bend is actually THE coolest park in the NPS! :) To me it is, anyway… But mostly because it is so close that I’m able to visit it several times per year… And also because I see a good mix of wildlife almost every time I visit. Regardless, Colorado, or Utah… And why?
Get busy living, or get busy dying.

*

Offline jeffblaylock

  • Horned Frog
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2307
  • I'd rather be on the South Rim
ZION:











ROCKY MOUNTAIN:









Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

*

Offline homerboy2u

  • The Chipewa Cris tribe,Canada:
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 5103
WOW...this is what i call pictures, Zion...looks cool.
Stay thirsty, my friends.

*

Offline Roy

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1529
Personally, I'd pick RMNP.  Both are spectacular and both will be crowded, but Zion gets ridiculous, you'll have at least some (small) chance to get away from crowds at RMNP.  RMNP should also be cooler temp. wise.  If you're in shape, take the Long's Peak Trail.  TAkes you through forest, then alpine tundra, past the plant zone to a rocky scramble to the peak.  Over 14,000 ft. and off to the east of most of the other big peaks, so you actually get to look down on the Continental Divide.   

I'm assuming you're talking about a summer trip;  parts of RMNP can be closed with the first snow, which can come very early in the high country.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2008, 10:19:03 AM by Roy »

*

Offline mountaindocdanny

  • Diamondback
  • *
  • 262
    • http://griffisfamilyoutdoors.blogspot.com
Zion can be HOT! in the summer. Rocky is beautiful, but very crowded in the summer. Great wildlife in Rocky. We like to hit the "off season" at Rocky (October through May). They usually shut down Trail Ridge Road in early-mid October due to snow. Our favorite week to visit is the last week of September/first week of October. The elk are bugling and easily visible, there is still some fall color in the lower elevations, Trail Ridge Road is usually still open but the crowds have left. Usually you  can have the backcountry all to yourself.

*

Offline stingrey

  • Animal Whisperer
  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 734
  • I play for keeps 'cause I might not make it back.
    • Mother Nature Framed
I appreciate all the info! For reference, this will most likely fall during the latter half of the first full week in August... I didn't even think of the crowds @ either of these locations since the bend is pretty peaceful during said timeframe. This is exactly the type of info I'm after!

The pics of Zion have me pretty torn between the two locations. Either way, I'll bring some pics back for the boards. I am so torn between the two at this point. Palo Duro is on the way to Colorado, New Mexico & its parks are on the way to Zion... Decisions, decisions!
Get busy living, or get busy dying.

*

Offline okiehiker

  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 711
  • cryptantha crassipses
A lot of the answer depends upon how much walking you plan to do.  

RMNP has beautiful scenery, but there are 100 other places in the Rockies that you can see just as much or more.

Southern Utah on the other hand is southern Utah is southern Utah.  There is literally no place else on earth like it.  

I would go to Zion by way of Durango, Colorado.  

Durango is an hour or two closer to you than RMNP is.  Take the narrow gauge railroad from Durango to Silverton.  If you want to hike go in at Elk Park rather than Needleton and head up into the Grenadiers.

Going across from Durango you can do what you want, but there is Mesa Verde, Arches, Natural Bridges, Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon between you and Zion.  Each is amazing in its own way.  There also is an endless supply of slot canyons on the Colorado Plateau.  

The truth is that you can't go wrong either place.
Funny... I have a story about that...

*

Offline EdB

  • Coyote
  • *
  • 200
    • my blog
I've been to Zion once (last May) and ROMO 5 different times. I'd agree with what Okiehiker has to say - southern Utah is awesome and there are other sections of the Rockies that are better and less crowded than ROMO.

I still prefer ROMO to Zion, but I'm the kind of person that likes hiking with bigger views. I didn't think there was anything real spectacular about the main canyon in Zion. If you get up higher on the rims it's a different story, but even then I wasn't blown away.

Both parks have shuttles - the one at Zion is the only way to get into the main canyon unless you're staying at the Lodge, and the 2 in ROMO are almost a necessity (for the areas they serve) if you don't get to the parking lot/trailhead before 8 am or so. Lots more chances to see big wildlife in ROMO than Zion, and while it'll be cooler in ROMO you'll also have the typical afternoon thunderstorms rolling through on a daily basis.

You've got way more backpacking options in ROMO if you'll be doing that, and water sources are everywhere - definitely not the case in Zion. All in all, ROMO has a lot more hiking possibilities even if you're not backpacking. You can drive around and see a lot more there too.

So I guess my answer would be: if you're looking for one or the other as the main destination for this trip, I'd pick ROMO easily. If you're going to spend a lot of time on the getting there and back part, and just a couple days in the park, probably Zion as there are so many cool places on that route.

A few shots from Zion:










And a few from ROMO:











« Last Edit: June 04, 2008, 05:32:16 PM by EdB »

*

Offline mountaindocdanny

  • Diamondback
  • *
  • 262
    • http://griffisfamilyoutdoors.blogspot.com
EdB: I love the pictures. Is the third you have posted of RMNP Black Lake up in Glacier Gorge?

*

Offline jeffblaylock

  • Horned Frog
  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 2307
  • I'd rather be on the South Rim
In 1999, I did a tour of southern Utah from Arches to Zion. Honestly, I would put Zion at just about the bottom of the group. It's spectacular, but less spectacular than Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante NM, Cedar Breaks, and Bryce Canyon. My favorites out of the group are Canyonlands (especially the Needles district, though you can't beat the views from the Island in the Sky) and Capitol Reef (very beautiful, no crowds).

My favorite photo from the trip, from Panorama Point in Capitol Reef:



Photos from Arches
Photos from Bryce Canyon
Photos from Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, GSE, and others
Photos from Zion

Southern Utah will be hotter than the Rockies, though Bryce, Cedar Breaks, and the Wildcatter portion of Dixie NF are all over 8,000 feet. I agree with past commenters that the grandeur of the Rockies can be found elsewhere than RMNP. Area around Durango is terrific. You could explore the San Juan Mountains around Ouray, Silverton, or Telluride on your way to Moab (Arches/Canyonlands) and westward from there. That drive westward from Moab is one of the coolest in the country.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

*

Offline Roy

  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1529
EdB: I love the pictures. Is the third you have posted of RMNP Black Lake up in Glacier Gorge?

Looks like Black Lake to me.  I'm gonna have to find my pics from that trip.

*

Offline EdB

  • Coyote
  • *
  • 200
    • my blog
Yep, that's Black Lake in the 3rd shot.

Stingrey, I should add to my post that the past several years there's been a huge pine beetle outbreak in ROMO. Many trees are dead or dying, especially on the west side. I would recommend you get there before it gets any worse, if not this year then next year.

*

Offline beemerchef

  • Spirit's Chauffeur
  • Black Bear
  • *
  • 818
  • We are real Bender...
    • The Oasis of my Soul
There is really no answer to the question. You can check my Archives, two years in the making so far... Don't try to pick one... GO to the destination, enjoy it, feel it (If Zion, make sure you also go to the Northern entrance:Kolob Canyon). Next year do the other one... keep an open heart as that hesitation might spoil the Journey whith a bunch of "ifs...". This will be not your last trip? will it... embrace one... then the other... and by the way... After two years on the road you will be only seeing the tip of the Iceberg! Over two months now in Southern Utah and yet... so many of my destinations are still coming up!
Be well... I Sincerely hope this helps... Ara & Spirit

www.theoasisofmysou l.com

A Lifelong Journey on the road....

All Photos available on:

http://beemerchef.smugmug.com/

*

Offline tjavery

  • Golden Eagle
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 1508
  • foto nut
    • http://www.thomasjavery.com/proj_big_bend
Zion is an awesome place. I've not been to RMNP, so I cannot tell you what is best. But there probably is no best - I think you'll have an enjoyable and memorable time in either place. Getting to experience the great outdoors is really about getting outdoors, no matter where you go.

But, should you go to Zion, I would highly recommend two hikes: Angel's Landing and The Narrows.

Angel's Landing is like no other hike I've ever been on. The first 3/4 of it is steep and pretty interesting, but nothing terribly spectacular. The last 1/4 is the craziest, most interesting, scary hike I've taken in my life. It separates the brave from the faint of heart, the sure footed from the clumsy, and can surely filter your dumb a$$ out of the gene pool if you're not careful enough.



Yep, that's a chain bolted to the rock. And yep, you need to hold onto that sucker in some parts to pull yourself up to the summit of Angel's Landing. The cliff face you see there stands nearly 1500 feet above the canyon floor. Don't do it while it's raining, and certainly don't do it when you hear thunder, or you might just win a Darwin award  :icon_lol:

The views from the top of Angel's Landing are spectacular, and it puts you in the sweet spot of the intimate Zion canyon.





The Narrows (slot canyon) can be hiked in two main ways: 1) obtain one of the limited permits, catch a shuttle to carry you up river, and then hike one-way down the Virgin River (it's a long day hike or can be a one-night overnight hike), or 2) start at the Riverside Walk and "hike" upstream a couple of miles (no permit needed). The "hike" is not on a trail but in the river itself  :icon_lol: It's awesome.

Be sure to take a side-trip up Orderville Canyon for a little ways when hiking The Narrows. When hiking upstream in the Virgin River (from the end of the paved path of Riverside Walk), after about 1 to 1.5 miles you'll come to a branch in the canyon. A well defined corridor opens up to your right from the main canyon, and it's the only spot (when you're hiking just a couple of miles upstream from Riverside Walk) where you can turn out of the main canyon and walk easily onto a different canyon (Orderville).

Here are some shots of The Narrows:







There are many other hikes in Zion, and there's a lot of great stuff to see in that canyon. The canyon is small and massive at the same time. It has a feel of intimacy but is also grand. It's just a really neat place!

It can get pretty crowded. It might be best to hit it during the middle of the week if you can. Definitely avoid holiday weekends (e.g. Labor Day).
« Last Edit: June 06, 2008, 07:43:09 AM by tjavery »

*

Offline mule ears

  • Administrator
  • Mountain Lion
  • *
  • 4320
  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
    • 40 years of walking
Angel's Landing is like no other hike I've ever been on. The first 3/4 of it is steep and pretty interesting, but nothing terribly spectacular. The last 1/4 is the craziest, most interesting, scary hike I've taken in my life. It separates the brave from the faint of heart, the sure footed from the clumsy, and can surely filter your dumb a$$ out of the gene pool if you're not careful enough.
Definitely avoid holiday weekends (e.g. Labor Day).

Great pictures as always TJ.  Angel's Landing is crazy the first time I went up I thought "I can't believe the Park service lets people up here" as safety crazy as they normally are.  (This is where Presidio chimes in).  The second time I went up it was some kind of Utah school holiday and it was a conga line up and down the chains with tiny, tiny kids going up and down. Nuts.

Observation point is also an awesome walk with great views, both are around 2500' elevation gains.  One of best aspects of Zion is the shuttle system, you can get on and off anywhere and ten minutes later is comes along.  It makes it seem like not so many people are in the park because it is so quiet.  There is not a lot of big/long backpacking trips mostly 2-3 day affairs.  The North part at Kolob arches is very nice as beemerchef says, and a good trip can be had there.  We also have done the West Rim starting at Lava Point at nearly 8000' and hiking down into the canyon, amazing views. 

Having lived in Utah for awhile I agree there is nothing else like southern Utah.  It can be hot though.  And stingrey would probably see more wildlife in the Rockies too.  Don't forget the north rim of the Grand Canyon is not to far away either and it is high and cool, with fewer people.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

 


©COPYRIGHT NOTICE

All photographs and content posted by members are to be considered copyrighted by their respective owners and may not be used for any purposes, commercial or otherwise, without permission.

+-Calendar For Sale

 2019 BigBendChat Calendar on sale now!

Powered by EzPortal

Facebook Comments