Zion National Park
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Zion National Park

Zion National Park in Utah is one of the most beautiful

In 1880, the scientist Clarence Dutton declared, "Nothing can exceed the wondrous beauty of Zion. In its proportions it is about equal to Yosemite, but in the nobility and beauty of the sculptures there is no comparison. There is an eloquence in their forms which stirs the imagination with a singular power and kindles in the mind a glowing response."

Zion Canyon in Utah © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Comprising more than 147,000 acres (59.500 hectares), the park covers a wide range of elevations from 3,700 feet (1130 m) to 8,726 feet (2630 m) above sea level.

From the verdure of the expansive valley floors to the creamy sandstone of towering cliffs rising 2,000 feet (600 m) above, Zion is a wonderland of visual imagery. The monolithic stone sculptures, lush forests and roaring rivers are breathtaking, and the first-time visitor will be amazed by the diverse array of colors, a vibrant melange of magenta, azure, vermilion, and cyan. Zion National Park has become a popular destination for the tourist experiencing the American West for the first time and long-time denizens, alike.

Comprising more than 147,000 acres (59.500 hectares), the park covers a wide range of elevations from 3,700 feet (1130 m) to 8,726 feet (2630 m) above sea level. The terrain runs from desert to forest, with a dramatic river canyon known as the Narrows. The weather and temperature in the area is just as diverse, reaching over 100F (38 C) in the summer, while the higher elevations are often snow-capped during the winter months.

Mike's Zion Tip: Be sure not to miss the 37-minute film "Treasure of the Gods". The film is a mythical depiction of the history of Zion National Park and its inhabitants, including Anasazi and Paiute Native Americans, Spanish conquistadors, and Mormon settlers. It is shown daily at regular intervals on the huge screen of the Zion Canyon Theater, located at the entrance of the park. The film is full of adventure, including hang-gliding, rock-climbing, flash floods and award-winning cinematography that will leave you breathles!



Major attractions include hiking, backpacking and rock climbing

Angels Landing Pinnacle in Zion National Park Utah © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
A more strenuous day-hike is the popular Angels Landing Trail, which climbs 1,500 feet(457 m) to a summit that provides spectacular views into Zion Canyon.

While access roads provide a scenic route through much of the area, hiking is the best, and in many cases, the only way to see Zion National Park. There are a variety of trails available, from scenic strolls to challenging multi-day excursions. Popular day-hikes include the Emerald Pool Trail, which winds through a forest of maple, oak and cottonwood trees, past numerous waterfalls, to the picturesque Emerald Pools. A more strenuous day-hike is the popular Angels Landing Trail, which climbs 1,500 feet (457 m) to a summit that provides spectacular views into Zion Canyon.

Zion Park also provides many backpacking possibilities. A permit is required for all over-night hikes (available for $5 at the Tourism Office) and most of the terrain is rugged, but the scenery is definitely worth the effort.

Rock-Climbing is another popular pastime in the park. The tall sandstone cliffs throughout the canyon provide challenging routes and it has become a Mecca for technical climbers, though much of the rock is loose and requires the climbers to place their own protection. Because of this, rock climbing in Zion is most suited for expert climbers.

Riverside Walk and the Zion Narrows

Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park Utah © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
From the verdure of the expansive valley floors to the creamy sandstone of towering cliffs rising 2,000 feet (600 m) above, Zion is a wonderland of visual imagery.

To truly experience the magnificence of Zion National Park be sure to follow the Riverside Walk up the Virgin River. The paved trail is only about 2 miles long and there are many trailside exhibits and hanging wildflowers along the way. Following the Riverside Walk places you at the beginning of the Zion Canyon Narrows where the pavement ends. From this point, hikers can continue upstream where the canyon walls are only 24 feet (7 meters) apart and measure more than 1,000 feet (300 m) high! You will want to bring a good pair of hiking boots and be prepared to get wet. Much of the canyon is too narrow for side trails, forcing the hiker to wade into the river over slippery rocks. A permit is not required for day-hikers but you will want to check the weather forecast and speak to the park rangers before venturing into the canyon, as flash floods are common.

For the more adventurous hikers, a 16-mile trail through the Narrows is available. The Narrows is not your average backcountry hike. Located at the North Fork of the Virgin River, the Narrows trail is situated in a 1,000 foot-deep chasm that narrows to less than 25 feet in many places. This is truly an amazing hike that is highly recommended. The "trail" takes you through waterfalls, hanging gardens, and beautiful carved sandstone arches. The canyon is a cornucopia of sights, sounds, smells and colors that defy explanation.

Getting There

Zion Shuttle Buses © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Zion Canyon is closed to private motor vehicles, but there is adequate parking at the visitor center near the entrance and free shuttle busses to take you into the canyon.

Zion National Park is located in southwestern Utah 309 miles (515 km) south of Salt Lake City, and 43 miles (72 km) northeast of St. George. It is about 158 miles (263 km) northeast of Las Vegas Nevada. Most visitors enter the park through the south entrance near the town of Springdale by turning off Interstate 15 onto Hwy. 9 near St. George. Park entrance fee is $20 per vehicle or $10 per person. Annual passes are also available for $40.

Zion Canyon is closed to private motor vehicles, but there is adequate parking at the visitor center near the entrance and free shuttle busses to take you into the canyon. Free busses also depart from various locations in downtown Springdale to take you to the visitor's center. From the visitor center the free shuttle busses depart every few minutes for the scenic loop tour through Zion Canyon. They stop at ten locations throughout the canyon to allow you easy access to the various scenic vistas and the hiking trails. During the summer, the busses operate from 5:45 AM until 11:00 PM.

As with most National Parks, the busy season is during the summer months of June, July, and August. To avoid the crowds, it is recommended that you plan your trip for late spring or early fall. Although the park is open during the winter months, cold weather and very little snowfall limits the type of winter activity available.

Accommodations

The town of Springdale is located right outside of the southern entry to Zion National Park. It has a good selection of hotels, motels, guest cabins and bed and breakfast homes. Most of them are very nice but tend to be moderate to somewhat expensive. It also offers several restaurants, service stations and convenience stores. The town of Hurricane is 15 miles west of the park entrance. It offers a variety of restaurants, a supermarket, several convenience stores, a shopping center and several moderate to budget priced motels. The town of St. George is 30 miles west of the entrance. It offers a wide variety of motels in all price ranges, several shopping centers plus many restaurants and service stations.

On the eastern side of Zion National Park, the small town of Mount Carmel Junction offers a limited number of accommodations including some moderately priced motels and some more expensive guest ranches. It also offers a few service stations and convenience stores.

There is a guest lodge and two campgrounds located within the park with several private campgrounds located in the nearby vicinity of the park.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Guy Cazalet
Photo Description: Zion National Park