Zion National Park Stories and Tips

In the Neighborhood of Zion

In the Neighborhood of Zion
* denotes a scenic road; ** denotes a very scenic road Scenic Circle Drive 1

West on Ut Rt 9** to I-15*, then north to Ut Rt 14** to Cedar Breaks National Monument with a stop at Kolob Canyon, part of Zion NP. From Cedar Breaks, Ut Rt 143* (spectacular yellow Aspen foliage in the fall) or Ut Rt 14* to US 89* to Ut Rt 12** to Bryce Canyon National Park. Return on Rt 12** to US 89* to Ut Rt 9** back to Zion (1-3 days).

Gas is 10-20 cents a gallon cheaper in Cedar City than around the park.

Scenic Circle Drive # 2

West on Ut Rt 9** to Hurricane (hot springs at the bridge over the Virgin River), then southeast on Ut Rt 59* to Pipe Springs National Monument, a well preserved real old west ranch, and not at all like what you see in the movies. On the way, we passed through Hildale, UT, and Arizona City, AZ, the largest polygamist settlement in the world. Technically, polygamy is illegal in both states (Utah promised to get rid of polygamy in exchange for statehood, but today, there are 5-6 times more polygamists in the state than there were at the time of statehood). The community straddles the state line as precaution should the cops ever happen to decide to enforce the law in one state or the other. If Utah cops show up, everyone heads for Arizona, and vice versa. Note the very large houses. We’ve never stopped here, but reports are the natives are not friendly.

As a percentage of the population, Hildale gets more welfare payments than any other place in the nation. With scant employment opportunities, the polygamist wives support their clans on welfare– legally, they are all single moms since the polygamist church’s marriages are recognized as a legal marriage.

Nearing Pipe Springs, the road traverses a broad valley. At the time Pipe Springs was settled, this valley was covered in lush prairie grass and Pipe Springs became the largest cattle ranch in the world. Too many cattle ate the grass faster than it could regrow and turned the once lush paradise into today’s dusty dry sagebrush desert. Overgrazing remade the landscape of the Southwest. At the time of settlement, the true natural sagebrush desert was very small, but overgrazing led to its expansion across the southwest. Today, the sagebrush is threatened by a foreign imported grass, Cheat grass, a fast-growing grass that sucks up all the water in the ground in the early summer, leaving the sage in big trouble later on.

Figure one day, skipping the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell, but at Fredonia, you can head south to the Grand Canyon, the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, and Lake Powell (Page, AZ) or return to Zion by US 89* to UT Rt 9**. There are two stops of interest along US 89*, Angel Canyon and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Angel Canyon is home to the Best Friends Animal Shelter, the largest no-kill animal shelter in the world. Visitors are welcome, and it is a pretty side canyon well worth a visit.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is where Utah killed actor John Wayne. Portraying Genghis Kahn, John Wayne filmed The Conqueror at Choral Pink Sand Dunes. There are lots of horses, lots of sand, and lots of dust. There is lots of radioactive fallout from the Nevada atomic bomb tests in the dust--lots of cancer. Half the movie cast and crew, including The Duke himself, died of lung cancer triggered by the radioactive sands of southern Utah. We never stay here too long, but it’s worth a look. The State Park ($5) has an interesting boardwalk out into the dunes, but the adjacent BLM Recreation Area is free.

Red Cliff Camp Ground, west of I-15 exit 25 or 27 (Leeds) is even a more pretty setting than the campground in Zion, and, being at a higher altitude, a little cooler. About 30 miles from Zion NP, it is worth considering as an alternative for campers.

St George is a mecca for golf and retired Mormons. Less than an hour further south on I-15, Mesquite, NV, has golf, gambling, and booze. I-15 runs through the impressive scenery of the Virgin River Canyon, land so rugged that the interstate highway was the first human travel route through the canyon.

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