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ILNP Park Review
In a Word “Breathtaking”
“From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth” -Psalms 50:2
Our Visit I’ve visited Zion twice, once for just an afternoon in March, and once for two days as part of a family vacation in June which included trips to the North rim of the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon. The family stayed in Cedar City, Utah, not too far from Zion on I-15. The park has a few, disconnected accesses, so the afternoon we arrived in Utah, we traveled to the Kolob Canyon area of the park, right of I-15. The next day, we spent our time in the main section of the park and spent some time in the quaint town of Springdale, Utah, just outside the park’s South entrance.
Our Weather Gorgeous both times. March was sunny and 60 degrees, and June was sunny and about 90 degrees.
Overall Impression Bottom line, Zion is one of the most spectacular parks in the country with breathtaking scenery around every corner! The dramatic red and white rocks, green trees and blue sky create a phenomenal contrast unmatched anywhere. Whether hiking to an overlook or staring up at the towering canyon walls through the skylights in the Park bus, Zion is incredible. The park’s geology is surprisingly different from east to west. On the west is the red cliffs, but the east side is dominated by strange rock formations known as “slickrock.” This area, while less dramatic, is fascinating in its own unique way.
Favorite Spot Temple of Sinawava
Minimum Time Required About 1-2 hours. Spending just an hour in Zion would be a shame, but if you’re just driving through on I-15, it’s worth the hour to detour through the Kolob Canyon area. If you’ve got a couple of hours and are driving through on I-15, consider taking highway 9 through the main part of the park where you can see massive formations like Checkerboard Mesa, the Great White Throne, and the Watchman. You’ll need more time if you want to get out and hike, but you’ll still be able to see much of the spectacular canyons and cliffs Zion is known for.
A Longer Visit If you’ve got a half day or more, you’ll want to spend most of it in the main area of the park. For starters, you can make the drive through the tunnel on highway 9 and take a couple of hikes. We recommend the hike to Canyon Overlook. After you’ve driven through the park at least as far as Checkerboard Mesa, head back to the visitors center and take the shuttle bus up Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
This area is phenomenal with a river and lush vegetation at the bottom and sheer red cliffs on either side. The drive is closed to cars, but the buses are available at no extra charge and stop at every point of interest. You can take all the time you want hiking and then wait for the next available bus when you’re finished. Unless you’ve got multiple days to spend here, you’ll have to choose which points to go to. We chose to hike the areas around Weeping Rock and Temple of Sinawava and weren’t disappointed! On the second trip, I hiked to Emerald Pools near Zion Lodge, and it was a nice hike, though I felt the time would have been better spent elsewhere. There are hikes of all lengths and difficulties in Zion Canyon, so make sure you get a trail map at the entrance station or visitor center to find a hike that’s right for you.
One of the park’s iconic hikes is to Angel’s Landing, but it’s not for the faint of heart or clumsy. The trail climbs nearly 1,500 feet up along narrow ledges and high cliffs, but if you’re up to the challenge, it offers incredible views of the valley. Another popular activity is wading through The Narrows at the end of the road in Zion Canyon, something I definitely plan to do on my next trip. If you have extra time (probably on your drive in or out of the area) take the detour to Kolob Canyon off I-15.
Suggestions I’d suggest driving through the park between the South to the East entrance, and through the tunnel, first. This will give you plenty of breathtaking views and a look at the geology on both sides. Also on the east side of the tunnel is the Canyon Overlook Trail. If you’ve got some time (about 1 hour), this is a worthwhile hike! You’ll be rewarded at the end with a breathtaking view looking back into the spectacular area you just drove through, but from here, the cars look like ants, and you’re at eye level with the top of the canyon.
Because most of Zion Canyon can only be reached via the bus, you’ll need to pack in your food and anything else you’ll need. A small and well-packed backpack will help you be mobile enough to hike without going hungry, and be sure and bring plenty of water as well.
Unlike many Parks which are far from civilization, the town of Springdale is right outside the South entrance, so you can take a break, tour the unique pottery and knick-knack shops, and recharge for your afternoon in Zion. If you go when the park is busy, be prepared to park in Springdale and either hike into the park or ride one of the shuttle buses to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center where you can catch the next bus up into Zion Canyon.
A final suggestion is to eat dinner at the Bit & Spur restaurant in Springdale. They serve delicious, nouveaux-Mexican cuisine, but whatever you do, SAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT! Between five of us, we tried 3 desserts, and they were all WORLD CLASS!!!
Nearby Towns Springdale, Hurricane, Cedar City, St. George (Utah)
Other Nearby Attractions Bryce Canyon National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument
Official NPS Website Zion NP
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