“ZION NATIONAL PARK IS A SANCTUARY. A REFUGE. A PLACE THAT CAN NOT BE ADEQUATELY CAPTURED AND DESCRIBED.”
Zion National Park, located near St. George and Springdale Utah, is 30 miles in length and 15 miles across at its widest point, totaling 148,000 acres. Elevations range from 4,000 to 8,700 feet yet there are plenty of ways to access and enjoy the park. The drastic elevation difference in Zion National Park provides many types of habitat including grassland, desert, wetland, riparian, and forest. These habitats support many species of plants and animals. There are 67 species of mammals found in Zion National Park, 13 species of snakes, 291 species of birds, 4 fish species native to the area, and 900 species of plants.
When first enter Zion you will experience a feeling that won’t quite fit inside your camera. Your eyes will search to take it all in; your voice will louder as you try to express the emotion. The only place you will truly comprehend it is in your heart. Zion will change you from inside out. The colors will astound you. The perspective will humble you. The immensity will leave you in awe.
The first humans known to have settled in the region were small groups of hunter/gatherers in around 6,000 B.C.. Though little is known about these people, some artifacts such as baskets, sandals and knives have been found in caves. Around 300 B.C., people began to plant corn and squash. This rudimentary farming allowed them to settle in more permanently, building small dwelling. Between 500 and 1300 A.D., the Virgin Anasazi and the Parowan Freemont lived in the area. These peoples built pueblos, hunted, farmed, created artistic pots and formed social relationships. Droughts in the 11th and 12th centuries may have pushed these Native Americans out of the region, in search of water. Southern Paiute and Ute tribes inhabited the area seasonally. They hunted and planted corn, squash and sunflowers, and gathered seeds and local plants.
WHAT DO I SEE AND DO IN ZION NATIONAL PARK?
Hiking is probably the most popular of activities in Zion. The more active hiker will love trails such as Angels Landing (5-mi. round-trip), the Watchman (2.7-mi. Round-trip) and Observation Point (8-mi. round-trip).
Bikes can be rented locally in Springdale and visitors can ride the Pa’rus trail within the park. This may be one of the best ways to see the main canyon of Zion National Park in a relatively short time. Take all the time you want and bring your camera, water and some snacks in your day-pack.
Climbing, canyoneering, and photography are also activities in the area. Don’t miss out on the Zion Canyon Theatre for relaxing and watching movies in the evening.
The trail to Angels Landing is 2.4 miles long. It begins at the Grotto drop off point on the park’s shuttle system. After a series of steep switchbacks, the trail goes through the area between Angels Landing and the Zion Canyon. The next section – Walter’s Wiggles, a series of 21 steep switchbacks, is the final paved section before the real work begins. “Scout Lookout” is generally the turnaround point for those who are unwilling to make the final summit push to the top of Angels Landing. The last half-mile of the trail is strenuous and has sharp drop offs and narrow paths on both sides. Chains to grip are provided for portions of the last half-mile to the top at 5,790 feet.
The Narrows Hike comes in at #2 on our list of most popular hikes in Zion National Park. It probably ranks that high in the world too! A super fun hike can be tailored to suit any ability level. The Virgin River is essentially the entire trail, so plan on being wet. The best time to make this trek is in the hot summer months. Canyons are typically shaded, so the hotter it is outside the better for a hike like this! Most people hike in casually from the bottom, going as far as they feel comfortable or have time and then turning back. Serious hikers start at the top and do the entire 16 miles as a long day hike or an overnight backpack. (Permits are required if you start at the top.
Emerald Pools is one of Zion’s sweetest signature trails. With breathtaking scenery, this trail is one that children and adults alike will have fun hiking. Waterfalls fall overhead onto the trail, pools gleam, and a dazzling display of monoliths create the Emerald Pools Trail System. Each “pool” has a unique feel and offers multiple areas to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. You can choose to visit one or all three of these pools named for the vivid green-colored water that characterized them when first discovered. Make sure and get to all 3 pools!
Zion National Park receives nearly 3 million visitors every year. These guests enjoy a beautiful, ecologically friendly visitor center, shuttle service, campsites and friendly park rangers to provide direction and education. Steep cliffs, narrow canyons, and unpredictable weather add to the challenge and adventure of a visit. It’s important to plan carefully for your stay.