Southern Utah: Zion, Escalante, and Magic Mushrooms

In the mid-19th century, the Mormons left New York to escape religious persecution. They  kept going west until they found a place of peace in a spectacular canyon. They settled there and named the canyon Zion — a holy place of refuge. Before the Mormons, Native Americans believed Gods inhabited the canyon.

The River Walk to the Narrows.

My visit this week didn’t involve any deep spiritual awakenings, but I loved my two days on the trails. I hiked the River Walk, the Emerald Pools, and the easy part of West Rim (which goes to the terrifying but wildly popular Angel’s Landing). I stayed in the little town of Springdale near the park gate, full of charming hotels, organic-y cafes and craft shops.

Deep Creek Coffee Company

Deep Creek Coffee Company in Springdale has the BEST sweet potato muffins. Stock photo.

I’d planned to drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon today, but a snow storm is on the way, so I went east instead of north, and stopped briefly at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. When we hear the word “monument,” we usually think of a single discrete object. Escalante is not one thing at all, It’s almost 2 million acres of desert wilderness, with miles of hills, canyons, and creeks. Lots of sand. Its landscape is varied, but I only saw what was close to the highway, which is mostly hills like these that go on layer after layer to the horizon:

One of Escalante’s most accessible trails is 30 miles from anywhere. Today, Toadstool Hoodoos Trail became one of my favorite trails ever! It winds through and over all kinds rock formations, and then opens out into a valley of this:

And these:

The mushroom-y things are hoodoos, the remnants of giant rocks that eroded unevenly because they were like rock pancakes made of different types of rock materials that break down at different rates. I am not saying that right, but you know what I mean.

They remind me of Dr. Seuss!

This road trip has been day after day of deep gratitude for our federal government. I didn’t expect that at all.

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!


  1. Hi Kim, I didn’t expect to tour the US during the covid pandemic. You are making a trip I would never dare to do. I am really enjoying the photos and the commentary. You brave lady you, Judy Rosenthal

  2. Remarkable pictures of remarkable hikes!

    I’ve never been to Escalante, nor have I seen hoodoos which find intriguing and compelling. Great photos!

    Zion is my very favorite canyon park. I explored it and nearby surrounding lands quite intensively for a couple of weeks many years ago while doing my “Travels with Charlie” trip with my rescue pup Charlie and my rescue VW camper van. Your pictures brought back all sorts of memories.

    So thanks!

    1. Most of the parks and conservation areas I’ve been visiting were created by and are managed by the federal government. It gives me hope that our government recognizes the value of these natural treasures, and our access to them. One additional bonus: “seniors” can get an annual pass for $20 that is good in any national park or conservation area. In a week, my pass has already saved me more than $100. 🙂

  3. The hike up to Angel’s Landing is gorgeous and a decent work out. The trail connects to other good trails. It’s busy of course, even now in off-season. I did the Narrows many years ago — really fun! But it’s too cold for me right now. I noticed a lot of young people were doing it in light wet suits.

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