Zion National Park
For the past 15 million years, the North Fork of the Virgin River has been carving Zion Canyon out of the Navajo sandstone that colors its walls. At the Grand Canyon, some of the best views are from above; here they’re from below. Indeed, the rugged terrain, sprawling 229 square miles of high plateau country, is a hiker’s paradise, with everything from forests of piñon and juniper pine to red rock canyons that shelter springs, waterfalls, and hanging wildflower gardens. Peregrine falcons, golden eagles, mountain lions, and mule deer are among the creatures that find refuge here.
Exhibits at the Zion National Park Visitor Center, in Springdale on the park’s southern end, introduce you to the geology, flora, and fauna. Rangers here give talks, lead guided walks, and help plan independent hikes and drives. Just north is the Zion Human History Museum, where you can learn more about early area inhabitants. Nearby you’ll also find the only in-park hotel, the Zion Lodge, which has rooms, suites, and cabins, as well as the South Campground (tent and primitive RV sites) and the Watchman’s Campground (tent and electric-hookup RV sites).
Although you can drive along the park’s main highway year round, during the busy April through October season, park shuttles—mandatory for all except hikers and bikers—take you from the Springdale visitors center along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to the upper canyon. You can also drive between the Springdale and the East entrances along the Zion–Mt. Carmel Highway, which runs through two man-made tunnels, one over a mile long. On the long tunnel’s west side are sheer canyon walls almost 3,000 feet high; on its east side are white-, rose-, and salmon-colored slick rocks. Note that bikers, hikers, and vehicles taller than 13 feet aren’t allowed along this road.
Zion’s northern reaches consist mostly of scenic backcountry, characterized by the Finger Canyons of the Kolob, accessible from Exit 40 off I-15 and along Kolob Canyons Road, which takes you to a scenic viewpoint. The Kolob Canyons Visitor Center offers information on backcountry hiking and camping as well as the primitive sites available at the seasonal Lava Point Campground.
State Rte. 9
- Springdale, Utah 84767
- 37.20197300, -112.98831500
- Zion Canyon Visitor Center: daily 8--5, with extended summer hrs.
- Visit Website
- (435) 772-3256