26823Zion National Park in Utah is one of the most beautiful
- May 1, 2004In 1880, the scientist Clarence Dutton declared, "Nothing can exceed the wondrous beauty
of Zion. In its proportions it is about equal to Yosemite, but in the nobility and beauty of
the sculptures there is no comparison. There is an eloquence in their forms which stirs the
imagination with a singular power and kindles in the mind a glowing response."
From the verdure of the expansive valley floors to the creamy sandstone of towering cliffs
rising 2,000 feet above, Zion is a wonderland of visual imagery. The monolithic stone
sculptures, lush forests and roaring rivers are breathtaking, and the first-time visitor will
be amazed by the diverse array of colors, a vibrant melange of magenta, azure, vermilion,
and cyan. Zion National Park has become a popular destination for the tourist
experiencing the American West for the first time and long-time denizens, alike.
Comprising more than 147,000 acres, the park covers a wide range of elevations from
3,700 feet to 8,726 feet above sea level. The terrain runs from desert to forest, with a
dramatic river canyon known as the Narrows. The weather and temperature in the area is
just as diverse, reaching over 100F in the summer, while the higher elevations are often
snow-capped during the winter months.
Major attractions include hiking, backpacking and rock climbing
While access roads provide a scenic route through much of the area, hiking is the best,
and in many cases, the only way to see Zion National Park. There are a variety of trails
available, from scenic strolls to challenging multi-day excursions. Popular day-hikes
include the Emerald Pool Trail, which winds through a forest of maple, oak and
cottonwood trees, past numerous waterfalls, to the picturesque Emerald Pools. A more
strenuous day-hike is the popular Angels Landing Trail, which climbs 1,500 feet to a
summit that provides spectacular views into Zion Canyon.
Zion Park also provides many backpacking possibilities. A permit is required for all over-
night hikes (available for $5 at the Tourism Office) and most of the terrain is rugged, but
the scenery is definitely worth the effort.
Rock-Climbing is another popular pastime in the park. The tall sandstone cliffs
throughout the canyon provide challenging routes and it has become a Mecca for technical
climbers, though much of the rock is loose and requires the climbers to place their own
protection. Because of this, rock climbing in Zion is most suited for expert climbers.
Riverside Walk and the Zion Narrows
To truly experience the magnificence of Zion National Park be sure to follow the Riverside
Walk up the Virgin River. The paved trail is only about 2 miles long and there are many
trailside exhibits and hanging wildflowers along the way. Following the Riverside Walk
places you at the beginning of the Zion Canyon Narrows where the pavement ends. From
this point, hikers can continue upstream where the canyon walls are only 24 feet apart and
measure more than 1,000 feet high! You will want to bring a good pair of hiking boots and
be prepared to get wet. Much of the canyon is too narrow for side trails, forcing the hiker
to wade into the river over slippery rocks. A permit is not required for day-hikers but you
will want to check the weather forecast and speak to the park rangers before venturing
into the canyon, as flash floods are common.
For the more adventurous hikers, a 16-mile trail through the Narrows is available. The
Narrows is not your average backcountry hike. Located at the North Fork of the Virgin
River, the Narrows trail is situated in a 1,000 foot-deep chasm that narrows to less than
25 feet in many places. This is truly an amazing hike that is highly recommended. The
"trail" takes you through waterfalls, hanging gardens, and beautiful carved sandstone
arches. The canyon is a cornucopia of sights, sounds, smells and colors that defy
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