Written by callen60 on 07 Sep, 2006
Red Zion instead of white, this is a smaller and much less visited part of the park. Kolob has to be one of the few National Park areas reached directly from an expressway off-ramp, but by the time the scenic drive curves away and heads…Read More
Red Zion instead of white, this is a smaller and much less visited part of the park. Kolob has to be one of the few National Park areas reached directly from an expressway off-ramp, but by the time the scenic drive curves away and heads east up Taylor Creek, I-15 could be a light-year away. This area was set aside as Zion National Monument in the mid-thirties, and incorporated into the park two decades later. Although only 20 miles from Zion Canyon, it’s an hour drive from Springdale. Given that separation between the two canyons, Kolob is still essentially its own place. It was easiest for us to visit as we returned to Vegas on the last leg of our trip, eight days after leaving Zion Canyon. We arrived near 9am, and stopped first at the small visitor center just inside the park. Only a few exhibits are housed here, but three rangers and a bookstore representative gave us plenty of attention. With a Junior Ranger booklet in hand for my youngest daughter, we were ready to go.We barely passed another car on the scenic drive. In a nice touch, the 5-mile route is paved with red asphalt, matching the surrounding rock. At the drive’s end, a large overlook points east across the canyon at the red cliffs. The view was similar to Court of the Patriarchs in Zion Canyon, but here—between 10 am and noon on a beautiful summer day—there was just one other family. The overlook also holds the trailhead for the only short day hike in Kolob—Timber Creek trail is an easy mile roundtrip along a ridgetop, paralleling the red walls to the east. It ends with a nearly vertical view down to the small creek below, and a beautiful panorama of the region and the plateau to the south. Despite the different color scheme, both Zion and Kolob Canyons are carved from Navajo Sandstone. The red color here marks this stone as the lower regions of these compressed ancient sand dunes, where the iron oxide from higher layers eventually settled. It’s impressive to think that erosion has completely removed and swept to the sea the paler upper layers so prominent in the Virgin’s canyon, but it’s mind boggling to realize that the entire landscape of the Colorado was once composed of such vanished rock, leaving only occasional evidence of that earlier period (Monument Valley is perhaps the best place to contemplate this).After hiking, we returned to the visitor center, where the veteran ranger swore in my daughter as Zion’s newest junior member of the profession. He insisted that she wear his hat—she pretended to be embarrassed, but I know she enjoyed this addition, the first and only such occurrence in 20 ranger ceremonies.Kolob is a beautiful place—it would easily attract its own crowd if not for the main attraction to the southeast. It also requires more effort to explore beyond the scenic drive than does Zion Canyon: after Timber Creek, the hikes all needed more time than our morning stop could provide. (For example, Kolob Arch—the world’s largest freestanding arch—is a demanding 14-mile roundtrip; the other option is a 5-mile roundtrip along Taylor Creek). Morning was not the best time to visit, either—with the sun rising over the red peaks to the east, washing out their color, it occurred to me that late afternoon would be the ideal time to experience the solitude of Kolob’s finger canyons. Close
Narrow canyon… flash flood danger… a family adventure? After a lot of reading, I proposed to our crew that we make this our major outing in Zion. After some conversation and additional looking around, we decided to devote an afternoon to hiking the Narrows of…Read More
Narrow canyon… flash flood danger… a family adventure? After a lot of reading, I proposed to our crew that we make this our major outing in Zion. After some conversation and additional looking around, we decided to devote an afternoon to hiking the Narrows of the Virgin River. We were very glad we did. Looking back on our whole trip on the Plateau, this was one of everyone’s favorite experiences. Chances are, you’ve never done anything like this: the whole hike takes place in the river, at the bottom of a small-scale version of Zion’s vertical sandstone canyons. Zion is a pretty intimate place, but there’s a whole ‘nother level of intimacy here, as you lean on those walls for support against the water that carved them into this canyon. The walls are never more than a few dozen feet apart, and as you make your way through the twists and turns, in the water or along the stretches of sandy, pebble-covered shore, you aren’t just seeing this amazing landscape, you’re a part of it.Checking it out:There are several good places to get a feeling for this unique experience, and get help matching it against your group’s comfort level and capabilities. Start at the Narrows link from National Park Service’s ‘in depth’ site for Zion. There’s three ways to hike the narrows (from most to least difficult):
Zion Lodge sits in a beautiful spot, where the canyon floor widens enough to allow the river, a road, and a suite of buildings to occupy nearly the same ground. Since the canyon is still, and will forever be, prone to landslides, there are plenty…Read More
Zion Lodge sits in a beautiful spot, where the canyon floor widens enough to allow the river, a road, and a suite of buildings to occupy nearly the same ground. Since the canyon is still, and will forever be, prone to landslides, there are plenty of places where rock formerly resident on the vertical faces is now filling in the floor below. What makes this spot even more beautiful is its location opposite one of the prettiest cliffs: if you land a restaurant table by the windows or on the patio (which you should), you look right at it—and if your neck muscles can handle it, up it.Like the lodge at the North Rim, this one is a replacement. Gilbert Stanley Underwood designed the original—one of his classic National Park Lodges, completed after Yosemite’s Ahwahnee and the Bryce Canyon Lodge—and construction was completed in 1928. A 1966 fire destroyed the original building, and a hurried rebuild during the Park Service’s Mission 66 era produced a building fundamentally different from the original, eventually resulting in a 1990 restoration to the original look. You can feel that renovation, too: this lodge is more similar in character to Bryce Lodge than the Grand Canyon. The central lobby, although largely done in wood, does feel 1960-ish, with less grace and more nondescript functionality than the high-ceilinged Grand Canyon Lodge, or the homey fireplace and hearth at Bryce.Nonetheless, Zion Lodge would be a great place to stay—it’s truly in the center of things, with easy access to many of the park’s main features. That’s always an attraction for in-the-park lodging, but particularly so here, with the balcony of your unit looking at the west rim of the canyon (unlike the accommodations at Bryce, or most of the cabins at the North Rim). It’s set back a little ways from the Scenic Drive, and the shuttle system, traffic noise is even more minimal than it used to be.Unfortunately, Zion was the only location where we couldn’t score in-park reservations. It’s a little more expensive here ($150 for a motel-style room, vs. $135 for similar accommodations at Bryce and $95 for our North Rim Cabin). The best we could do was breakfast here, and hang out for a while on the lawn as we ate a late lunch after a full day of hiking. We parked at the Junction and took the early shuttle to Zion Lodge for breakfast, arriving just before 7 am; a reward to kids who got going early. Guests were just starting to trickle into the Red Rock Grill, and the Sun was just starting to work its way up the eastern sky and down the western wall. The Grill runs along the front of the second floor of Zion Lodge, maximizing the number of tables with a view. The setting was fantastic, but the only choice for breakfast was the expansive buffet, which may be more food and more expense than you’re planning for a morning meal ($9 for the full buffet; $6 for kids; $5 for the cold items only; beverages are included). The cafeteria-style Castle Dome Cafe is north of the lodge, in a separate building that doesn’t fit the style of the lodge or its cabins. We had a late lunch here after our hike in the Narrows; the menu offered adequate versions of burgers, sandwiches, etc., at reasonable prices. I had a hearty bowl of red beans and rice, which did a good job of replacing all the starches I’d burned so far that day. There are a few picnic tables and seats outside, allowing you to continue enjoying the setting. Best of all, just sit on the rock wall that edges the patio, allowing you to face the canyon wall. Close
Written by btwood2 on 07 Dec, 2005
Here are a few more highlights that should not be missed! Court of the Patriarchs, three pyramid-shaped peaks standing side by side, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are easily viewed from Court of the Patriarchs Viewpoint, up a short paved path along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.…Read More
Here are a few more highlights that should not be missed!
Court of the Patriarchs, three pyramid-shaped peaks standing side by side, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are easily viewed from Court of the Patriarchs Viewpoint, up a short paved path along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Hop off the shuttle to take it in before catching the next shuttle up or down-canyon.
The full Emerald Pools Loop Trail to all three Emerald pools may be a thing of the past with continuous trail closures, repairs, and more closures. Following the extremely rainy season of winter 2004-05, rockslides and mudslides covered portions of these trails to such an extent that the park service is considering allowing them to return to their natural (trail-less) state. While we were at Zion in October 2005, Lower Emerald Pool could still be accessed from Zion Lodge, while Middle and Upper Emerald Pools were attainable from Kayenta Trail, across the river from the Grotto.
The Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel is an engineering marvel, especially considering it was planned and built in the 1920’s and completed in 1930. Just over one mile in length, it climbs over 2000 feet from the canyon floor to a plateau on its east side. Implemented by the Bureau of Public Roads and financed by the Park Service, the tunnel (and road) aimed to connect Zion with nearby national parks and attractions such as Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. As the tunnel is 24 feet wide and arched on top, vehicles over 13 feet tall or longer than 40 feet are prohibited from passing through it. RVs sized between 11’4” and 13’1” tall and/or wider than 7’10” require a tunnel escort for a $15 fee. Our motor home met these criteria, so Bob got the fun of driving through the tunnel in it while I drove the car ahead. Amazingly, the tunnel contains arched windows or “galleries” for viewing (and light and ventilation) along its length.
While driving up the switchbacks towards the tunnel from Zion Canyon, one cannot help but notice theGreat Arch of Zion, a huge blind arch (doesn’t go all the way through) spectacularly perched against the mountainside. Eventually, given enough time, erosion and weathering will eliminate the inside of the arch and it will stand apart and alone.
Highly eye-catching Checkerboard Mesa, east of the tunnel, about a mile west of the east entrance, is created by a combination of what geologists call crossbedding and jointing. These result from erosion and pressure, and weathering (rain-freeze-thaw cycles) further serves to accentuate the horizontal and vertical grooves. Another visual double-take in this park of superlatives.
In case you need a break from all the breath-taking beauty, or the weather’s too hot midday in summer, pay a visit to Springdale’s Giant Screen Theatre. Zion Canyon: Treasure of the Gods plays on the odd hours, along with other features, and Hollywood movies on the big screen after 7PM. Written and directed by Kieth Merrill, the 40 minute documentary (Treasure) portrays Zion Canyon’s history, with some embellishment and cliffhangers, including a flash flood and a climber dangling from ropes after a dizzying fall. Since this is an IMAX-type film, hang on to your seat. Out in the lobby, there are displays related to the feature film, and lots of historical photos.
Kolob Canyonsand Kolob Terrace are lesser known sections of Zion National Park that we didn’t visit this time. Exit 40 off the I-15 will take you to the small visitor center and Kolob “finger” canyons. Much less visited than Zion Canyon, these canyons are reportedly rugged, narrow, colorful and spectacular. I want to go visit them next time we’re in the area. Kolob Terrace can be accessed from the town of Virgin, about 15 miles south of the park. Follow the signs to Kolob Reservoir. Numerous viewing, camping and hiking opportunities can be found in both Kolob Canyons and on the Kolob Terrace, without Zion Canyon’s usual tourist crowds.
Length round trip: 2.6 miles Ascent/descent: 368 feet It’s still dark when I get up and dressed, but faint daylight is discernable as I quietly exit our motor home half an hour later. By 6:30AM at the trailhead, it’s light enough for me to clearly…Read More
Length round trip: 2.6 miles Ascent/descent: 368 feet
It’s still dark when I get up and dressed, but faint daylight is discernable as I quietly exit our motor home half an hour later. By 6:30AM at the trailhead, it’s light enough for me to clearly see where I’m going. The day is cloudless, but it will be several hours later before sunlight reaches the floor of steep-walled Zion Canyon. My route begins on the east side of the Virgin River, but the trail soon veers away from the river, east across a meadow and past some park employee housing.
As I cross a staff-only road, a blue dumpster and piles of red gravel probably used for road paving are quickly left behind. A sign where the well-packed red dirt trail begins again warns that pets and bicycles are prohibited. Crossing over some old cement canals perhaps built for irrigation and flood control by earlier settlers, I spot yet another sign where Watchman trail is intersected by a thinner trail: deer access route – please stay on main trails to minimize resource impact. Again I’m reminded how Zion’s heavy visitation and high popularity stresses its natural inhabitants.
Once I gain some elevation, I turn and view the sunlight washing the top of West Temple. Still in shadow, the redness of the mountains is reflected in the Virgin River, which I’m now high enough to see again. Dark green vegetation with a smattering of gold from turning leaves lines the river on both sides. The trail ascends gently into a side canyon, and I begin to hear, but not see, a small creek gurgling down to the river. I have no opportunity to get out of breath, although the ascent is steady. Not because I’m in such good shape, but because photo ops keep presenting themselves, forcing me to stop frequently. As the trail switches 180 degrees around and climbing, I’m amazed to see a sign warning people not to throw rocks down because there could be hikers below. Jeez, could people really be that dumb? Sadly I answer myself, yes.
There’s enough moisture in the porous sandstone walls that line one side of the trail for plants to take root, not in any obvious cracks, but straight out of the rock. In one area, a man-made brick retaining wall matches the white and dark pink sandstone perfectly. As I continue climbing, I try to recall the geological layers I’m passing through. Some are rigid and blocklike, others softer and yielding. I come across huge fallen boulders on either side of and partially obstructing the trail; I’d want to be far away from such a rockfall when it happens. I’m surprised to find some blooming wildflowers, mostly red ones, this late in the season. Later I learn that some, such as Indian paintbrush, bloom twice a year.
Sooner than expected, I’ve reached the point where the trail splits, looping around the top of the bluff but still far below Watchman Peak. Even though I’m less than 400 feet above the canyon floor, the vistas are impressive. I take my time, savoring the views upcanyon and down, leisurely wandering around the loop. Sun is lighting the pointy tan tip of the Watchman. Beneath it, shaded crags of gray, black and pink angulate sharply down to where the rocky part of the mountain emerges from a softer-looking bed of light green, dotted with dark greens of piñon and juniper.
Below, on the canyon floor, winds the Virgin River, in some stretches lined by trees, in others flowing next to open meadow. Paths, reddish roads, and tiny structures are visible far below, and further down-canyon, the cluster of buildings signifying the town of Springdale. The entire canyon floor is still shrouded in shade. Straight across the canyon though, the top half of massive West Temple mesa glows brilliant orange in sunlight, and the clear shadow of a mountain, which I believe to be Bridge Mountain, appears on its face. Minutes later the angle changes and the pointy shadow is gone. West Temple wears a broad hat of maroon, with dark green tree and bush hatband. Its distinctive top has been visible from below, but is seen more clearly from my present vantage point.
So far, I’ve met no one on the trail. Regretfully I decide to begin down, almost certain I’ll meet hikers on the way up. As I descend, I’m accompanied by the sound of gurgling brook and vision of sunlight spreading increasingly down the opposite canyon walls. Apparently Halloween Monday turns out not to be a popular hiking day, and I’ve had the trail to myself all the way back to its origin across from the Visitor Center!
This hike is classified in the Zion Map and Guide as “moderate”, but I would call it easy. The ascent/descent, although steady, is quite gradual. There are some minor drop-offs, but nothing very abrupt or steep. On the other hand, there were still moist sections three days following rain; in rain or soon afterwards the trail could be muddy or slippery. With the exception of this past year, though, Zion’s annual rainfall is scant, averaging less than 15 inches precipitation per year. Time for the hike is listed as 2 hours; with all my stops and extra time spent on the bluff, that’s exactly what it took me.
Length round trip: 2.0 miles Ascent/descent: 57 feet This walk alongside the Virgin River up to the Narrows offers spectacular geological features, lush hanging gardens, wildlife, and people-watching opportunities on busier days. In 1990, when we first took this walk, there were less people, and…Read More
Length round trip: 2.0 miles Ascent/descent: 57 feet
This walk alongside the Virgin River up to the Narrows offers spectacular geological features, lush hanging gardens, wildlife, and people-watching opportunities on busier days. In 1990, when we first took this walk, there were less people, and the path wasn’t paved or fenced.
Riverside Walk, beginning at the Temple of Sinawava, endpoint of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, is a perfect follow-up to the shuttle drive from the Visitor Center. Alighting from the shuttle, our attentions were divided between two climbers struggling along a crack above a tiny ledge in an impossibly sheer east cliffs wall, and the Pulpit of Sinawava, a stark, angular rock tower emerging from yellowing cottonwoods across the river. Sinawava is the name of a Paiute wolf god, but both pulpit and temple were actually named by a publicity agent for Union Pacific Railroad in 1913. Bob and I watched the climbers for a while, reaffirming to one another that never in a million years or any next lifetimes would either of us be so inclined to tempt disaster, adrenalin rushes notwithstanding.
The wide, paved Riverside path easily allows three walking abreast, and as we made our way along, we spotted baby strollers, grandma in a wheelchair, and all ages in between. Walking sticks were popular; these are recommended if one progresses beyond this walk into the Narrows. River temperature of 52 degrees F probably discouraged anyone venturing into the water this day.
The large sign at path’s onset cautions about dangers of flash floods, cold water, and strong currents, and reminds us that our safety is our responsibility. Other informational displays illustrate Zion Canyon formation, and how the hanging gardens further down the path developed, growing on lime-based travertine deposits. Also of interest is the Zion Narrows rock snail, found only in Zion National Park, evolving smaller shell and bigger foot than its ancestors, so as to better cling to the sheer canyon walls.
Cottonwoods dressed in bright green and yellowing foliage, interspersed with the occasional red maple, provided colorful contrast to the looming multi-colored cliffs and deep blue sky with floating wispy white clouds. Though the path is fenced, there are many accesses to the river. Partly hidden in the bushes by the river, a mule deer family grazed. I was struck by the bony appearance of the does. A ranger told me this isn’t unusual at the end of a summer of providing for a fawn. However, somewhere else I read that deer high on the Colorado Plateau are better nourished than canyon-dwelling deer.
The canyon narrows as we progress. Glossy desert-varnished walls topped with pines on the west contrast with the eastern walls, moister and more verdant with each step. We’ve entered the remarkable hanging gardens portion of the walk. I remembered the pool under a nascent arch from 15 years ago, the canyon walls dripping and lush with ferns, mosses and grasses. Bob took a photo of me then, sitting on a rock in this pool (below). Now, this area is fenced off, for visual enjoyment only. Indeed, all along the trail we’re reminded of Zion’s extreme fragility as an ecosystem. Their meaning clear, signs topped with a symbol of hiking boot sole slashed by diagonal red line designate riparian protection and restoration areas.
Navajo sandstone was born in Jurassic times of the ancient duned Navajo desert, sometimes compared to the Sahara, but even larger and deeper. Spreading over large portions of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming, sand depth was over 1000 feet, and this desert contained many oases. Today’s hanging gardens spring from remnants of those oases, within the now-solidified sandstone cliffs.
Up the walk from the gardens is the site of a 1981 rockfall. Boulders from the fall lie in the river below, and the statistics from this event (obtained from a sign) are staggering. After 1.8 inches of rain on July 16, 1981, 15,000 tons of the western cliff wall crashed into the river. Estimated winds of up to 100 mph forced mud and debris onto the trail and 20 feet up the opposite canyon wall, bending and breaking trees, bushes and anything else in its way. I find myself thinking I’m glad it’s October, but then recall a ranger at the Visitor Center saying these events can happen anytime; and it did rain pretty good here yesterday morning before our arrival…
The path ends a bit further, at a gravelly beach and brick-ledged overlook; beyond, the famous Narrows, and this is where we turn around and walk back. However, here begins the quintessential Zion experience, hiking the Narrows. Read Philly_Girl’s account of her daring March 2002 adventure, wading the Narrows with snowmelt at its highest. A ranger told me his favorite time for the Narrows is mid- to late May, when the water is usually warm enough not to require special dry-suits and gear, the summer crowds haven’t arrived yet, and the danger of flash floods is not yet at its peak (August).
Written by LA guy on 14 Nov, 2005
Zion was the first destination in my Grand Circle road trip. We drove in from St. George, and as we got closer to Zion, those towering pink mountains became larger in the horizon. Then, as we reached Springdale, the tourist town located just outside of Zion,…Read More
Zion was the first destination in my Grand Circle road trip. We drove in from St. George, and as we got closer to Zion, those towering pink mountains became larger in the horizon. Then, as we reached Springdale, the tourist town located just outside of Zion, those mountain ranges dominated the horizon. It was also in Springdale where we came across a few rock vendors selling locally produced rock, gems, and jewelry. Apparently the honor system works in this part of America. Since it was still early, the vendor we stopped at was still closed. However, they opened up their mail slot and posted a sign on the window stating "Please weigh your rock and pay the price according to the dollar amount per lb on the sign beside each of the rock pile." We picked up a few interesting rocks and placed the appropriate amount of money in the mail slot before heading over to Zion. After paying for the entrance fee, we proceeded into the park. Last time I was at Zion, it was snowing and everything looked white. However, on this charming November day, the sun was out and the sky was clear, which accentuated the pink/white towering cliffs on both sides of the road and made Zion much more beautiful that I remembered. As we drove through the scenic road, the cliffs actually reminded me a lot of Sedona, although Zion is on a much grander scale. As we took in the sight from the inside of our car, we arrived at our first stop, the Three Patriachs. The name describes the three monolithic peaks on the west side of the road. We took the short trail up the mountain and got a great view of the three peaks together. Then we drove down the road and arrived at the mile-long Emerald Pool Trailhead. The trail actually started out quite boring, with the usual trees and bushes along side trail. Then, gradually, as we reached the Emerald Pool, the scenery improved dramatically. With changing leaves, wild flowers, evergreens, and the sprinkling waterfalls surrounding the emerald pool, this place is easily one of the most beautiful sights in the Grand Circle. Next, we proceeded to the Walter's Wiggle trailhead a few miles down the road (part of Angels' Landing trail) and hiked the 1000 feet up the trail. It was quite nerve-racking, as part of the trail was located on the side of a cliff. The trail at this point was barely wide enough to fit two people walking side by side! Nevertheless, we made it to Walter's Wiggle and took a few photos of it before heading back down the trail. By now it was noon, and we had planned on visiting Bryce this afternoon. So we decided skip the “Weeping Rock” and headed straight to Zion's northern most section, the Temple of Sinavawa, as our last stop in Zion. The name “temple” describes the isolated feel of this region, as once inside, we were surrounded by thousand-feet-high Zion cliffs on all sides. But in reality, these cliffs made this place more breathtaking than isolated. We took in the sight and shot a few pictures of the "narrows" (a narrow canyon at the north tip of the temple with the Virgin River running through it) and the two interesting nearby rock pillars called "the pulpits" before heading out the scenic road. However, in order to leave Zion and go to Bryce, all visitors need to drive through the 1.5-mile Zion Tunnel and then go past eastern Zion. And once out of the tunnel into eastern Zion, the scenery suddenly changes. Where Zion proper had towering cliffs, now eastern Zion is about sheets of red rocks stacked on one another. As we drove through the winding road, passing by one area of stacked rocks after another, we came across the Checkerboard Rocks and took a few pictures from the viewpoint. Since it wasn’t snowing that day, those rocks look slightly different than what I remembered. Now it did look much more like the petrified sand dunes formed millions of years ago. Close
Written by Wasatch on 01 Apr, 2005
After reading in the paper about 2005's outburst of wild flowers in Death Valley, we decided to go see them. Our route to Death Valley took us within 40 miles of Zion, and Zion being our favorite place to visit on the continent, it…Read More
After reading in the paper about 2005's outburst of wild flowers in Death Valley, we decided to go see them. Our route to Death Valley took us within 40 miles of Zion, and Zion being our favorite place to visit on the continent, it was a no-brainer to detour for an afternoon in Zion. That turned out to be a smart decision, as Zion is a spectacular place anytime. It outdid itself in the spring of 2005. The same rare winter-weather pattern that brought enough rain to Death Valley to produce an unprecedented crop of wildflowers also brought heavy snows to the mountains around Zion Canyon. In January, the snow pack was 300% above normal. At the end of March, it was 270%. The melting snow with the warmer spring temperatures creates a lot of water that has to go somewhere, and a lot of it goes over the cliffs of Zion Canyon, forming waterfalls where there is usually only bare rock.
Typically, the only waterfalls in the park are Upper and Lower Emerald Falls, mere trickles most of the time. There was so much water this year that the paved trail to Lower Emerald Pool was washed out. This trail runs about 30 feet above the normal creek bed. Lower Emerald Falls, the park's biggest, was our target, but the trail was closed for repairs (the expected opening is sometime in April). It was a good thing too, or we might have missed what was on down the road.
As the mandatory shuttle bus approached the Weeping Rock stop, we could see, high up the cliff, mighty waterfalls where we had never seen even a trickle before. We got off the bus and walked up the Weeping Rock trail, with constant views of the temporary falls in sight all the time. Upon reaching the foot bridge at the end of the small parking lot, we looked to our right and saw a second falls falling from even higher up the cliff face.
On returning from Weeping Rock, we turned left at the fork in the trail toward Hidden Canyon and climbed about 100 yards uphill for a spectacular view of both the waterfalls and the multicolored cliffs across the valley topped with brilliant white snow fields - one of the most outstanding sights we have ever seen is this, the best of the national parks.
We got off the bus again at the Temple of Sinawava, where the tallest waterfalls greeted us on the other side of the now very narrow canyon, falling from the very top of the cliff about 1,800 feet above. A short walk across the parking lot to the edge of the Virgin River opened up the view of the falls all the way from top to bottom. Unfortunately, night was fast approaching, and we didn't have time to take the trail to the start of the narrows, which should have offered other fine views of this, and maybe other, waterfalls.
We returned to Zion Lodge, and I took a short walk up canyon on the road to the side of a temporary pond created by the excess water, where there was a stunning view of the sunset-lit cliffs reflected in the still water of the pond - a great photo-op. Across the road, Upper Emerald Falls was in plain sight, an uncommon event, and obviously flowing at an unprecedented rate.
On the bus back to the parking lot, we had glimpses of other large falls coming down the side canyon of the Court of the Patriarchies. We decided to return in a couple weeks, when we would have more time, to see waterfalls of Zion at a more leisurely pace.
Upper Emerald Falls cannot be reached via the Lower Emerald Pool trail (turn right after crossing the bridge at the parking lot across the street from Zion Lodge), but it can be reached by the trail found by turning LEFT after crossing the bridge at the parking lot across the street from Zion Lodge. This trail will fork, but do not follow the lower Sand Bench trail, instead heading uphill on the Emerald Pool trail. Also, it may be possible to get there via a trail from the Grotto. I would go up by Emerald Pool trail and return by Grotto if it's possible to get across the creek.
The Court of the Patriarchies falls can be approached by an unmarked trail that starts directly across the street from the bus stop. Soon, you will come to some park maintenance buildings. Follow the path past them, keeping the buildings on your left. You will come to several forks and intersections with other unmarked trials - just keep heading straight into the side of the canyon.
In this rare year of the wet desert, the wildflowers of Death Valley are not to missed. Neither are the waterfalls of Zion. Start planning, and be sure to check with the parks, for it will soon end. Also, like Death Valley, Zion should have an unusual outbreak of wildflowers starting in early May and lasting until mid-June.
Written by Wasatch on 29 Apr, 2005
A visit to Zion can be very strenuous or as easy as a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park. Here are some suggestions for visitors who are not into mountain climbing levels of exercise, and on a midsummer day, everybody will appreciate taking it…Read More
A visit to Zion can be very strenuous or as easy as a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park. Here are some suggestions for visitors who are not into mountain climbing levels of exercise, and on a midsummer day, everybody will appreciate taking it easy when the temperature reaches 110°F.
Get out at all the bus stops. Each offers surprisingly different views of cliffs and canyon, and all are flat. April to October (when cars are not allowed on the road), walk on the road to the next bus stop or take a short round-trip from each bus stop.
Visit the visitor center and the museum (the old visitor center), which has great views from the back porch.
The Court of the Patriarchs Viewpoint: A very short hike climbs about one flight of stairs from the east side of the bus stop to a better view of the side canyon than is seen from the road.
Sit awhile on the benches on the Great Lawn of Zion Lodge.
Eat outdoors at the snack bar near Zion Lodge or at Oscar’s Café or Café Sol in Springdale.
Two paved flat trails on the canyon floor are not much more of a strain than walking a city sidewalk and suitable for wheelchairs. We have also seen wheelchair visitors on the Lower Emerald Pool Trail (see entry).
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 only 1,800 feet above the trail, but the canyon narrows rapidly to only 30 yards wide at the end of the paved trail, leaving an unmistakable feeling of claustrophobia. The adventurous can continue another 16 miles 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 16 feet wide, with 1,500-foot-high cliffs soaring above, and there is no exit from start to finish.
2) Pa’rus Trail (walking, bicycles, wheelchairs, and pets) runs up the canyon for about 1.25 miles from the visitor center to a shuttle bus stop just on 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 (okay, technically, Zion Lodge is at the widest, but the steeper cliffs around the lodge make the visitor center area look more open). We found Pa’rus Trail to be the best place in the park to see flowering cactus in the spring (May to early June).
Drive the Kolob Canyon road and visit its pullovers, especially the parking lot at the end of the road. There is a flat, easy trail from the parking lot at the end of the road and the trail head near the restrooms runs across the top of the hill to a viewpoint providing a panorama including Hurricane Gap, mountains in three states, and of the Towers of Zion.
Have lunch on the patio at Café del Sol (see entry) or Oscar’s Café in Springdale, where the slow, slow service provides lots of time to take in the scenery, which is no less impressive than in the park itself.
The next easiest trails, no more than 1-mile round-trip, with climbs of 2 to 3 flights of stairs:
1) Lower Emerald Pool (see entry)
2) Weeping Rock
3) Canyon Overlook– the only way to look down into Zion Canyon from a considerable height without having to take really killer hikes, like Angel’s Landing’s climb of 1,500 feet, straight up.
Drive Route 9 (see entry). East of the tunnel, visit the pullovers. Several offer easy access to short walks on the "slick rock." Don’t be put off by the name. Walking on slick rock is like walking on coarse sandpaper. It got its name when the early explorers tried crossing it on horseback. Iron horseshoes don’t grip well on bare rock – they slide like the rock is "slick," but unless you are a horse, you will have very steady footing. Slick rock is a rough sandstone with very little vegetation created by sand dunes that was later buried under the sea, where it was transformed into rock. Study the rock surface carefully and you can trace the various layers of wind-blown sand that were laid down in different directions as the wind changed direction millions of years ago.
The best views on Route 9 are seen driving from the east park entrance to Zion Canyon, so if you start in the canyon, go all the way to the east entrance station and turn around. You won’t regret doubling back.
East of the tunnel, Indian Paintbrush can be seen in bloom in late spring. Indian Paintbrush is a spectacular red high-desert flower.
CAUTION: There is very little vegetation growing on the slick rock, but what is there is fragile, so watch your step and stay off the grass.
Written by Wasatch on 23 Apr, 2005
Route 9 connects I-15 on the west and US 189 on the east. Like any great scenic road, it should be driven in both directions to fully appreciate the scenery, as the views are different depending which way you are going. Unlike most…Read More
Route 9 connects I-15 on the west and US 189 on the east. Like any great scenic road, it should be driven in both directions to fully appreciate the scenery, as the views are different depending which way you are going. Unlike most scenic roads, Route 9 should also be driven a total of four times, each direction once in the early morning and again near sunset, as the direction of the sun radically changes the scenery (see Zion and the Sun – a study in light and shadow for a discussion of the importance of the sun direction in canyon country).
From the east, Route 9 climbs to the Zion Plateau, with views of mountains and red-rock canyons below. If you, when you reach the summit, look back the way you came, you can see the White Cliffs, one of the steps of the Grand Staircase. Shortly after entering Zion National Park, the road enters its most scenic stretch – an odd landscape of red, white, orange, and brown petrified sand dunes. Expect to go about 15 miles an hour here to fully appreciate the view and take advantage of the many turnouts for closer views and to let faster traffic pass.
Next, the road enters Zion Tunnel for the decent into Zion Canyon. RVs should expect delays and a $15 to $25 toll for a tunnel escort. When you see bright spots on the road ahead inside the tunnel, slow down and look to the right out the tunnel widows, one of which provides the only close-up view in the park of the Great Arch of Zion.
Exiting the tunnel, the road commences a steep decent with sharp turns along the face of a red-rock cliff of Navajo Sandstone, the basic building material of Zion Canyon. Upon reaching the canyon floor, the road heads out the mouth of Zion Canyon and begins its passage across the plateau country, with the Pine Mountains (up to 10,000 feet of elevation) looming ahead at the end of Route 9. From time to time, there are deposits of lumpy black rock mixed in the red, white, and orange rock of the plateaus. This black rock is a volcanic lava flow that intruded into the sandstone millennia ago. The short 1.5-mile, one-way dirt road leading to the La Verkin or Hurricane Overlook is worth the detour. Perched about 1,500 feet above the floor of the Hurricane Gap, a rift valley, you look across the gap to the Pine Mountains soaring almost 8,000 feet above the valley floor. At the bottom of the hill, the rock becomes almost blood-red in color.
Route 9 ends at I-15, about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas. You might see some Joshua Trees and an odd cactus near the end of Route 9.
Notable features seen driving west to east that are not seen going from east to west:
After reaching the top of the hill above La Verkin, there are occasional views of the Towers of Zion as you approach the park. About at Rockville, the road reaches the entrance of Zion Canyon, and the great cliffs gradually and grandly close in on the highway. Entering Springdale, the skyline to the southeast is dominated by the Watchman, one of Zion’s most notable formations.
Leaving the park’s east entrance, a panorama of cliffs and mountains appears ahead, with good but distant views of the White Cliffs, one of the steps of the Grand Staircase. Upon reaching US 189 and the end of Route 9, the Grand Canyon is 2 hours to the right, Bryce Canyon is 1 hour to the left, and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park & Federal Recreation Area (ATVs) is about a half-hour to the right.