I decided to do the (mostly) Trans-Zion Trek while I was in Southwest Utah–hiking from the northwest corner of the park across to Zion Canyon. This was an impromptu point-to-point hike meaning I’d have to leave my vehicle behind, leading me into my first time hitchhiking which was almost a disaster.
After two full days of hiking, I finally began hiking adjacent to the rim where I set up camp for an absolutely gorgeous sunset.
The next day I started the descent into the canyon and it was actually my first time in the canyon proper of Zion National Park, an amazingly beautiful place from Angel’s Landing, to the famous Moonlight Buttress climb.
It was also a somewhat overwhelming experience to have almost complete and utter isolation at the far corner of the park and then to enter into the chaos of crowds around Angel’s Landing and then even more-so down in the canyon itself.
The (mostly) Trans-Zion Trek is definitely a worthwhile way to see the park, I highly recommend it! This was, undoubtedly, one of the best hikes in Zion National Park, and was an incredible way to experience Zion Valley for the first time.
Stranded in Zion National Park
The bigger problem for me was that I was now stuck in Zion National Park and somewhat stranded from my vehicle on the other side of the park.
Now, there is a shuttle service that exists, but it is expensive and I didn’t plan in advance thus I would’ve had to spend the night (covertly) somewhere in the park in order to catch the next morning shuttle, or I would’ve had to pay considerably more money to get a special ride at that time.
I wasn’t going to pay a bunch of money.
So I grabbed a pen and paper from the ranger station and made my hitchhiking sign… The ranger advised me that it was illegal to hitchhike on Utah roads but there was no regulation against it on Park Service land.
Then proceeded to stand right by the park exit and wait… and wait… and wait.
And wait some more.
First Time Hitchhiking
This is the first time in my life I have ever tried hitchhiking and I will say it was a terribly demoralizing experience standing there and being passed by 100s of cars in the hot sun, just wanting to get back to my car after hiking for days.
I got a few shouts of encouragement from people who said they’d love to give me a lift but they weren’t heading that way. Or a couple of people who offered to take me into the town–but I wasn’t sure that’d help.
In the end, as a last-ditch, hail mary sort of attempt, an employee leaving work for the day offered to take me as far as the freeway. I hopped in!
Kind of strange hopping into a car with a stranger and chatting about random things, especially after emerging from a few days of solo hiking.
He dropped me off at the on ramp to the freeway–now it was only 10 miles or so to the park exit that I needed up at Kolob Canyon.
Unfortunately, there weren’t many cars at all coming onto this ramp on the ramp. The few I tried to hitch with just sped by me. There were dozens of cars passing with much more frequency on the freeway…
It’s definitely illegal to hitchhike on the freeway, but by now there were only a few hours before dark. And here I was in the middle of nowhere, with no other road but the Interstate to take me back.
Hitchhiking in Utah
I walked up the on ramp and stuck out my thumb.
Car after car, semi after semi sped by me at 70+ miles per hour. The speed limit is fast here in Utah. Nobody even slowed down. I tried this unsuccessfully for some time before opting to start walking down the freeway (there is no other road).
I walked a couple of miles on the shoulder and saw all manner of strange things littering the side of the road.
Frustrated, tired, and concerned about what I was going to do as nightfall was quickly approaching and I had no food left from my hike and only a bit of water, I decided to take the next off ramp.
I had all my camping gear obviously. I could find somewhere to sleep for the night in a thicket of bushes if the roar of semis didn’t keep me awake. I had a granola bar or two left over from the hike but I was running low on water.
There was nothing around. No stores, no shops. Nothing.
The next exit and on ramp that I reached really didn’t have any cars using it. It was like a ghost town.
Just about when I was going to give up for the night and find a place to camp, ONE car came around the corner and I wildly flagged them down, walking into the road and then explaining my situation.
They were a nice couple with their car loaded to the gills with food from Wal-Mart and heading up north for a few weeks. The boyfriend was insistent that they had to help me out and shuffled the bags around in the back so I could get in.
I was SO thankful to have a ride. They were super friendly and outgoing. I just wanted a ride to my exit (which would still have entailed a multi-mile walk up hill to get back to the trailhead, but they insisted on going out of their way and driving me all the way up to my truck.
I finally made it back to my precious home on wheels just after the sun went down.
Thank you, random strangers, your kindness was most welcome. I paid it back later in California for some thruhikers. Next time I will pay it forward though.
The Trans-Zion Trek is an amazing hike, but the journey back to my truck was a FAR more challenging endeavor.
Photo taken with my Sony Nex-6.
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