Continental US

Failed Attempt at The Wave Lottery, A Day Exploring Zion National Park

Sunrise at 7 AM and breakfast starts at 7 so we rushed in as soon as breakfast starts, had a quick breakfast, and hit the road to Kanab. We had to drive through the zig-zag Zion-Mount Camel Highway again and this time, we could see the scenery! Early in the morning, Zion was quiet, even no one at the booth for us to pay (well we had our annual National Park Pass).

The sunray turned the rock into glowing orange! The huge contrast made it hard to pick the right exposure.

The narrow and dark tunnel upcoming!

Even though the sun hasn’t risen high enough to light up the rocks, you can see the colors and the stripe patterns.

After more than an hour drive, we arrived Kanab town, it was quiet:

The GPS had trouble locating the parking lot of Escalante National Monument Visitor Center so we just drove in and then hoping to find it. We found it, the building looked like a museum. We went inside and asked about the lottery, the staff pointed us to wait in front of that door:

We got there around 8 am so we waited half an hour and getting nervous as we saw more and more people came in for the lottery…decreasing our chance! For those who never heard of The Wave, it’s an incredible wave-like rock formation in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness area where it is limited to 20 people per day! You can see the photos on Google. In order to obtain a hiking permit (otherwise, you can be fined thousands of dollars if get caught and likely will be), there are two ways: 10 online and 10 by walk-in lottery which was the reason we came all the way here for. You can read more about the process at:

The door opened at a few minutes after 8:30 and we were guided to walk in and fill in the application. The room where the nerve-wrecking lottery held:

Ancient lottery system always reliable 😉

After we filled out the application, the guy assigned us a number, he’ll read the numbers again when all applications have been received. Each group is limited to one application only to be fair! The lottery started at exactly 9 AM! We got number 10! There were around 100 people in the room so the chance of winning: 10% which is already high compared to the online lottery!

The first number called was #1 of a group of two people…..2 down 8 more slots! Then, the second number called was a group of 4 OMG…down to 4 more slots left! Then, a group of 1 person phew, she jumped as her number was called; she did the lottery for a few times already I heard. Then, a group of 2 again. Only 2 spots left…..#10 please (my heart pumped)……and a group of 3 was called! They decided immediately they are not going because they can’t leave 1 behind. Before the lottery, we already decided if 1 slot left and our number is called, I will go to take the photos! One more chance……..but not us 🙁 On the way out of the lottery room, I saw a poster of White Pocket on the wall, it is beautiful!!! I did further research that there are so many hidden gems around Kanab area! We were thinking to come back next year to stay in Kanab area for at least a few days to try our luck couple times. Wish us luck!

I never have much luck in lotteries so I wasn’t too disappointed. We drove back to Zion via the Zion-Mount Camel Highway again, I lose count on how many times we passed this road LOL but each time we discovered something new. The rainbow colored mountains on the background…..

The Checkerboard Mesa but in shadow but you can see the checkerboard pattern and the colors:

We didn’t stop since the lighting wasn’t ideal. We saw a line patterned rock and there were parking spots so we decided to check it out!

Failed at the lottery to hike The Wave, this as a substitute hehe!

It was slanted…

The road was not busy at all at this time of the year 😀

And more carved rock that recorded the thousands of years of history in the making.

This one not too high 😀

So special!

A slide? The surface is too rough haha!

Next stop: Canyon Overlook Trail but the parking lot was full!!! We couldn’t turn back so had to drive through the dark tunnel again and turned back. When we turned back, someone was leaving so yay parked and start the trail.

The trail head is right in front of the tunnel:

Some areas of the trail are very narrow and no guardrails so you have to be careful!

Being afraid of height, I tried to be as further away from the cliff as I could awww scary!

I might be smiling but I sooooo scared!

Some dangerous turns have guardrails, thankfully!

Jealous of those people who are not afraid of height including Jason grrrrr!!!

OMG this turn around the rock, the “road” was nothing underneath except those two pieces of wood ahhhhh so scary!!! Will it break?

Made it!

A look back at that artifical road -.-

We reached the Canyon Overlook!!! We got there around 11 AM and the sun was not high enough to light up the whole canyon yet… half of it was in shadow….I wondered at this time of the year if the sun ever gets high enough to light up?

We didn’t stay long, there were a lot of people there! We hiked back and photos on the way:

That scary section again!!!

We headed straight for an early lunch so we don’t need to wait in line like the night before at Thai Sapa. We got a table immediately 🙂

I ordered Pho – Vietnamese noodle soup and it cost extra $2 for beef -.- The taste was okay, the noodle wasn’t the noodle that I typically had, and the beef was definitely good quality but too thick.

Jason ordered a fried noodle and it was more onions than noodle….it was not filling. Jason wished he had ordered a fried rice than this noodle.

The lunch was again $44 expensive!!!

After lunch, we parked our car at the visitor center and went in line for the shuttle bus to explore the park. First time I have seen so many people in the park!

Once the bus got full, you’ll need to wait for the next one and the frequency was quite fast, at least, from the visitor center into the park. My initial thinking was to stop at every stop to check it out starting the next one but then on the first stop, not bus people get off so the bus driver only left a few people at the bus stop to get on. Urgg…that changed my strategy; let’s go to the last stop and work backward! It took half an hour to get to the last stop: Temple of Sinawava where it is the stop to hike the infamous The Narrows! On the way, the bus driver pointed out different points of interest such as those freestyle rock climbers hanging on the cliff OMGGGGGG! Those climbers did the climb without robes so skilled and brave!

To hike The Narrows in Nov, you definitely need a wetsuit as the water is freezingly cold. Sokunna and Brian hiked The Narrows during the summer time which is the most popular time for the hike since the water is at its warmest and low water level. She said walking in The Narrows is slippery as you can’t see what’s underwater and there are uneven rocks! I don’t want to drop my DSLR camera in the water again!!! I didn’t even plan to hike The Narrows because I know I couldn’t handle physically challenging hikes 😉

The Riverside Walk Trail is very flat and easily accessible till the beginning of The Narrows so we did that walk. The area was beautiful even though the peak of the foliage just passed.


The colorful leaves covered the ground and matched the colors of the rocks!

As the name indicated, Riverside Walk, the trail wrapped around the river and some places you can walk down that was how we know the water was freezingly cold!

The walk was very pictureque!

Then, we reached The Narrows trailhead. Most of them had wetsuits and hiking stick. Their wetsuits looked the same so I think they rented from town!

We turned back and took more photos:

The colors were amazing!

We waited at the bus stop for the bus to come… beautiful!

We waited for only a few minutes and the bus came, very lucky! Then, we were on the lookout for the climbers, can you see them on the bottom?

We stopped at Weeping Rock to do the easy hike to Weeping Rock. I really like golden color of the leaves, they really pop in contrast of the orange-red-purple landscape!

I thought foliage in New England is spectacular, foliage out in the west can be spectacular too!

It was a short hike up the hill to Weeping Rock that’s constantly dripping water 😀

The sun angle was perfect that it light up the waterdrops, isn’t it cool?

We walked the shaded trail back down, a lot more easier going down hill!

The bus stop; one at each direction.

We made a stop at Canyon Junction hoping to find out the location of the postcard photo of the Watchman Tower at sunset. I asked the park ranger and she pointed us to the bridge that we passed by numerous time on our drive back and forth through the Zion-Mount Camel Highway. The view from the bridge is the iconic sunset spot! It was not sunset yet and we were the only ones on the bridge, yay this is the view!

We walked back to the bus stop to get back to the visitor center to pick up our car.

We went back to the visitor center and the sun started to set….

We picked up our car and drove back to the bridge and all the parking spots were filled…we kept driving down and eventually got a spot. Then, we walked toward the bridge, at this time half an hour before the sunset, the bridge was packed with photographers!!! Can you count how many?

It was unbelieve how we were the only ones there half an hour ago! The colors changed so fast as the sun started to set! I didn’t even bring my tripod so I placed my camera on the thick column for long exposures haha!

The icon shot of Watchman Tower and the rocky peaks turned fire colored.

Immediately after the sunset, we drove to Thai Sapa for our dinner so we don’t need to wait in line, we got a table almost without wait 😀 I ordered another type of curry that was spicy and I like it.

Jason learned his lesson and ordered fried rice. The bill was $47.5! We ran out of choices to order lol, luckily, it was our last meal inside Zion! My thoughts about Zion, it’s nice but I much preferred Bryce, perhaps, the crowds in Zion made a difference. I like the Bryce landscape and it has more easy hiking trails with spectacular views. In Zion, in order for spectacular views, you’ll need to hike those strenuous hikes and not afraid of height!!! Zion is not designed for me 🙁 While, for Sokunna, Brian, and friends who hiked Angel’s Landing, they said Zion is one of their favorite national parks!

5 thoughts on “Failed Attempt at The Wave Lottery, A Day Exploring Zion National Park

  1. That wave lottery is a pain.I was thinking of bringing my irish friend who wins everything and his 15 year old daughter who is too young to know failure.

    They are good hikers so it would not be a total loss if i lose again.

    1. Haha, I am planning to go back again this Nov, station there for few days and try again for a few more times! There are so many incredible places there too like the White Pockets!

  2. I liked April for the snow melt and remaining white color in the vista views.
    Lots of nice places to visit in Arizona ,Utah and 4 cornets area.
    Some great 4 wheel drive options like hells backbone,white pockets etc.

    I have a friend with his own plane in Zion Canyon,so that would be one way to see the wave.

    1. Wow seeing the wave from the plane must be different perspective! Have you been to the White Pockets? Tom, you should camp out there for a week, that’ll increase your chance of winning the lottery 🙂

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