There is just something magical about visiting Zion National Park. You have the warmth from the desert, the rich colors of sandstone, deep blue skies and lush green trees and vegetation. Zion National Park was Utah’s first National Park!
Man made features are subtle yet stand out in your mind. The parks visitor center practically blends into its surroundings with its environmentally friendly design. The roads are built from the local rock providing a dark red surface unlike anywhere else you have ever seen. The 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel provides access to the East end of the park with features like Checkerboard Mesa and leads you to other great parks like Bryce Canyon and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The real attraction to Zion is the Virgin River. This seemingly calm river has carved out the Zion Canyon that millions of visitors each year come to see and explore. It seems impossible for this river to have carved a canyon with sheer red cliffs on both sides reaching hundreds of feet in the air.
You quickly learn that this area is prone to flash flooding. Warning signs are posted everywhere warning park visitors of its dangers and what to watch out for. Flash floods occur when it rains further upstream and there is no where for the water to absorb into the ground. The water runs off to the closest river and can cause this seemingly peaceful river to turn into a massive river with virtually no advance warning. Thousands of years of flash floods have created the Zion Canyon as sandstone is a soft rock that is easily susceptible to erosion.
These floods has created one of the best hiking trails in the world! I mean this is one you will tell everyone about and how they must go and visit. I have personally drug numerous friends and family members to share this experience with them. This could possibly be a bit extreme, or perhaps its the Park Ranger in me that is passionate about sharing these type of life experiences with the people I care about. This is one of my favorite photos of me and my sister at the entrance of the Zion Narrows hike.
To get to the Zion Narrows simply take the shuttle bus from the visitor center to the Temple of Sinawava. You start off with a easy 1.1 mile hike on the Riverside Walk. Now the fun begins as its now time to get wet. The trail is the river as you follow it upstream. It is much tougher to hike upstream against the flow of the river but the cool water is refreshing on a hot day. The water gets deeper and depending on the water level you could be swimming to the next piece of dry land. The canyon walls continue to get taller above you. Eventually you find yourself hiking in nothing but water with nothing but sheer red cliffs towering above as you only see a sliver of blue sky above. Nowhere else on earth have I felt as one with nature, feeling its power and seeing its beauty. You turn around with a new vigor and perspective in life. The hike back is much quicker as the river helps push you back down. Congratulations! you have now just explored the true essence of Zion and now have the bug to come back again and again.
One more tip….Keep an eye out for fury friends along the trail
Have you visited Zion? What is your favorite part of the park?
~ Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
~ Haleakala National Park, Maui
~ Everglades National Park, Florida
~ Virgin Islands National Park, St John
~ Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee