Zion National Park offers a glimpse of heaven
Zion National Park offers a glimpse of heavenThe Three Patriarchs, sandstone cliffs named Abraham (from left), Isaac and Jacob, were dubbed by Methodist minister Frederick Vining Fisher in 1916.
ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah | Jane and Dave Ford had expected this to be a quick stop.Were snowbirds, said Jane, resting on a bench after a summer afternoon trail ride. Weve been in Scottsdale, and were on our way home. We normally zip back as fast as we can.But the Fords, who live in West Vancouver, British Columbia, found themselves transfixed by the beauty of Zion National Park.Its gorgeous. Its spectacular, Dave said. I used to be a tour bus driver herding people through the Canadian Rockies. We used to show off things (we described) as spectacular, and they were nothing like this. These sandstone cliffs are spectacular.It certainly makes you feel small, Jane said. How insignificant you are.Its easy to plan a trip of only a few hours to Zion National Park. Many of the show-stopping attractions are accessible from the parks main road, served by an efficient shuttle system. Whats more, Zion is within a few hours drive of other national park gems such as Utahs Bryce Canyon or Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, or even the Grand Canyon in Arizona.But watch out. As you begin to climb the steep trails, dip your feet into cool pools and explore the narrow canyons, a few hours may stretch into days.Getting religionIts not a stretch to say the Mormon pioneers were awed when they settled this part of Utah back in the 1860s. Theyre the ones who decided that Zion, a name with roots in the Bible, was an appropriate name for the entire area.Its almost impossible not to cast your eyes heavenward. Zion is home to some of the worlds tallest monoliths, red sandstone cliffs rising 2,000 feet or more above the Virgin River.And once youre looking up, well, thoughts of heaven may just follow.The names of many of the landmark formations are reminders of the parks genesis: Angels Landing, the Great White Throne, the Altar of Sacrifice and the Court of the Patriarchs, a monolith trio named for the biblical figures Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.With that in mind, I laced up my hiking shoes one summer morning, slipped on my backpack and started looking for trails to explore.Zion is one of the nations most-visited parks 2.6 million people arrived last year but on the trails it feels much less crowded. Hit the snack shop at Zion Lodge in midafternoon and the line stretches out the door. But on the winding trail that climbs past Weeping Rock you may find yourself looking for company.Summer days can be hot 90s and even 100s so an early start is smart. On my first morning I was in search of the Emerald Pools, three crystal-clear ponds accessed by a climb thats just steep enough to make you appreciate chances to rest.As the trail snakes up the mountain, it becomes difficult to decide whether to look down or up. Below meanders the North Fork of the Virgin River, responsible for excavating Zion Canyon many millions of years ago. Above, the vermilion cliffs rise at angles that seem impossibly steep.After a mile or so the first of the pools appears, and the rewards are immediate refreshing water to soak your feet, great slabs of red rock to rest upon and thick forest cover for shade. Water seeps from the rocky walls. A narrow waterfall sprays from high above.The pools are a pretty easy climb, but dont let them be your gauge. Other trails offer significantly greater challenges.
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