The Not to Be Missed National Park

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Wasatch on May 27, 2009

Zion National Park is one of 18 National Parks within a one day drive of our home in Northern Utah. We have been to them all several times, but Zion is where we go most often. Attendance figures for Utah’s National Parks show that Zion has as many visitors as the other four combined. At first view, Zion impresses, but not as much as Bryce Canyon or the Grand Canyon. But Zion grows on you until you realize that there is nowhere better to be, if its not too hot.

Although set in a desert, the diverse topography of Zion supports a remarkable range of life. Over 800 different species have been identified, more than in the Hawaiian Islands. You are likely to see deer and wild turkeys near Zion Lodge and lizards on the trails. The most spectacular wildflowers are cactus in bloom and Indian Paint Brush(see photo).

There are several motels in Springdale, right at the entrance to the park and one lodge inside the park. Since Zion Canyon extends through Springdale, the setting is much the same. From May-November, a free shuttle bus runs thorough Springdale to take visitors to the park entrance.

Springdale offers choices of places to eat while there is only one restaurant and one fast food place at Zion Park Lodge inside the park. Don’t miss trying a buffalo meat burger at the Sol Market, located at the transfer point between the Springdale shuttle bus and the park shuttle bus just outside the pedestrian entrance to Zion National Park. Eat on the terrace behind the Sol Market.

Zion has five distinct areas: 1] Kolob Canyons, on the west side of the park off I-15, about 80km from Zion Canyon. An 8 km (one way) scenic road. leads into the heart of the Kolob Canyons region. The road and its many pullovers provide endless views of great the red rock cliffs lining several side canyons, sometimes topped with a frosting of fresh snow, and almost always crowned the bluest blue sky we have ever seen.

2] Kolob Terrace high country encompasses most of the park’s area. One road, mostly paved, provides access to the park’s long trails atop the plateau 600m above Zion Canyon, but the scenery from the road itself, while it would make a grand sight most anywhere else, is third class for Zion.

3] The rim country, accessible by a long hike from Kolob Terrace or by climbing 600-950m straight up from Zion Canyon, has grand views of the Canyon and of the high country. The easiest access to the rim is from the Canyon Overlook Trail which starts just. outside the uphill end of the -tunnel on UT Rt 9. There is no bus parking and limited car parking.

4] Zion Canyon, a 14 km long road (one way) along the Virgin River is what Zion is the hear of the park. The canyon is a great gash in the white, yellow, and red sandstone carved by the river. Widening to ½ mile at Zion Lodge, the canyon closes in to only 30 yards wide at The Start of the Narrows. Since 5,000 cars a day compete for the 420 canyon parking spaces in summer, everybody has to ride shuttle busses from the park entrance at Springdale, from April 1 to November. The road is open from November thru March, which is a great time to visit because the climate is at its best. The average high temperature for June, July, and August is 39C. The best way to beat the heat is to get out early in the morning when the temperature will be 10-15 degrees cooler (the coolest time of the day comes about one hour after sun rise).

5] UT Rt 9 from US 89 to I-15-- 84 km-- is one of the most scenic roads in the world.

Zion has a wonderful collection of hikes and walks. Some are flat and paved, some involve moderate climbs, and some— well, the Angles Landing Trail climbs 450m in 1.5 km . The last 140m includes a chain for you hang on to. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Boy Scouts seem particularly apt at taking the fatal plunge.

Zion is open all year. Summer is most popular, but summers are the worst time to visit as it is hot, crowded, and the waterfalls are at minimum flow. Fall brings nice colors to the leaves in the canyon floor. Spring is best for waterfalls and wild flowers. Even winter can be stunning. We have hiked in Zion on Dec. 27 wearing shorts and tee shirts after skiing in Northern Utah on Christmas Day. Lucky visitors will experience a rare snowfall frosting the ledges, or low clouds in the canyon shrouding the great cliffs in a aura of mystery.

THE TRAILS OF ZION CANYON FLOOR. Three flat trails, two paved, on the canyon floor are not much more of a strain than walking a city sidewalk. Start of the Narrows and Pa’rus are suitable for wheelchairs. We have also seen wheelchair visitors on the Lower Emerald Pool Trail. 1] The park calls it "River Walk". We call it the trail to The Start of the Narrows. Here, at the upper end of Zion Canyon, the canyon rim is 600m above the trail, but the canyon narrows rapidly to only 9m wide at the end of the paved trail,producing an unmistakable feeling of claustrophobia. The adventurous can continue another 21 km through the narrows, a hike involving considerable wading in the river, and you must arranged for a pick up at the upstream end, or walk back. The Narrows narrows down to a canyon only 3m wide, with 300m cliffs soaring above. There is no exit from start to finish.

2] Pa’rus Trail (walking, bicycles, wheelchairs, and pets) runs up canyon for about 2 km from the the Visitor’s Center to a shuttle bus stop just the other side of where the trail goes under the highway bridge. Walk round trip or ride back. River Walk is in the narrowest part of the canyon, Pa’rus at the widest. We found Pa’rus Trail to be the best place in the Park to see flowering cactus in the spring (May- early June).

3] The Grotto Trail connects Zion Lodge and The Grotto (picnic ground). Unlike most park trails, Grotto Trail runs close to the road, but traffic is sparse.

Moderate Hikes : 1] Emerald Pools. The trip to Middle Emerald Pool, a climb of 50m, is our favorite hike in Zion, especially near sunset and in the spring or fall. Spring, May-June, brings wild flowers to the scree the trail crosses to Lower Emerald Pool. Around the first of November, the fall foliage changes, and the Lower Emerald Pool Trail runs under a canopy of red and yellow leaves.

2] Watchman Trail. 3 km rt. Climbs 300m Excellent open views of the entrance to Zion Canyon. A very gradual climb.

3] Weeping Rock, where water oozes out of the cliff. 1.5 km rt. Climbs 30m. Moderately steep, about like climbing stairs.

4] The Court of the Patriarchs view point. A very short hike climbing about one flight of stairs from the east side of the bus stop to a better view of this side canyon than is seen from the road.

There is one rim trail that is easy to get to, the Canyon Overlook Trial. There is climb of 20m from the road just above the tunnel on Rt 9, then the trail is fairly flat to the overlook on the top of the cliff above the Great Arch of Zion.

Zion National Park
Zion Boulevard
Zion National Park, Utah, 84767
(435) 772-3256

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