Zion National Park

Driving from Bryce Canyon we entered Zion National Park at the East Entrance following Highway 9. Coming in the East Entrance gave us immediate views of the Checkerboard Mesa with its criss cross patterns.

Notice that the Zion Mt. Carmel Road is actually paved in Red. Our shuttle bus driver told us that was done so that the highway did not distract from the colors of the Rock Formations.

Zion Mt. Carmel Road is a feat in itself. When the park was first established getting into the canyon was impossible from the East. Work began in the late1920’s on a 1.1 mile tunnel that cuts through the Vertical Sandstone Cliffs and was completed in 1930. This drive itself is a must do if you are visiting the park.

The East Rim Wilderness Trail is located on the east side of the tunnel. It is a 1 mile round trip rocky trail that takes you to an amazing overlook of Zion Canyon. Parking is extremely limited so we actually had to do several passes through the tunnel before we got lucky enough to get a parking space.

There are two significant views that I am going to show you with close up shots, but do look back at the picture above and see if you can pick them out. First is the West Temple. It sits in the background and seems to have a white flat top rising into the clouds. Do you see it?

Next is the Altar of Sacrifice. It is mostly white and seems to have bloody streaks running down the side of the rocks. Can you locate them now in the complete view of the Canyon overlook?

This hike in Zion was one of our favorite hikes. It is a moderately difficult trail and even though it was extremely windy and cold, the views at the end are simply amazing.

When you exit the tunnel there are series of switchbacks in the road so it is a pretty interesting drive to the South Entrance.

Although this scenic drive from the East Entrance to the South Entrance is a very rewarding drive it is actually the Zion Canyon that is the Main Attraction. There are over 4.3 million visitors each year to Zion National Park so the park has implemented a shuttle bus system to get you into Zion Canyon. It actually makes your visit that much easier because you park your car once and then just hop on or hop off the shuttle bus at your desired trailhead.

The next morning we would go into Zion Canyon but for the night we stayed in an Airbnb in Virgin, Utah which had the most amazing view of the Park and the West Temple. William and I sat out on the second floor deck and watched the sun set and the stars come out.

As always, we got up early and had coffee and a quick breakfast before heading into the park. To be quite honest we had one of those individual size apple pies that we picked up at the Gifford House in Capitol Reef and we both felt that should make a pretty good breakfast. We arrived at the South Entrance about 7AM and getting a parking space was a breeze. We walked straight onto the Shuttle Bus and rode into Zion Canyon all the way up to the Narrows. The Narrows is the most popular trail in the park. The gorge is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon with the walls more than a thousand feet tall and the Virgin River cutting through the bottom of the Gorge at only 20 some feet wide. Riverside Walk is a paved 1 mile trail where you can walk along the river. At the end of the trail you then step into the Virgin River and continue your hike between the narrow canyon walls. But you guessed it, the Narrows trail was closed because of the fast moving Virgin River.

You can see here how the Virgin River turns into the narrow canyon. You can also see that the river was too high for hiking. We guessed it was mostly due to the snow melt and after a bit of research we found our assumption to be correct.

Immediately once you step off the Shuttle Bus at the Temple of Sinawava to do the Riverside Walk you can see a beautiful water fall.

Here is another picture of the Virgin River. All the snow melt really raised the level of the river.

The Riverside Walk was beautiful. There was even a mule deer that jumped right across in front of me as we walked. If you plan to actually hike the Narrows make sure you wait until late Spring or Summer so the Narrows Trail will be open.

Our next stop was to see the largest flying land bird in North America, the California Condor. There was a volunteer ranger who had spotted a 3 year old female bird and he had his very powerful binoculars zoomed in so we could see too. The condor was almost extinct due mostly to lead poisoning but today there are 60 California Condors living in the wild.

Our last hike in Zion would be to the lower Emerald Pools. We rode the Shuttle Bus to the Lodge where we had lunch before beginning our hike. This trail is roughly paved but still considered a moderate hike. It takes about 1 to 2 hours to do complete the trail and see the waterfall and the emerald pool below.

In planning our trip to visit the National Parks in and around Utah we thought early April would be perfect. It was perfect weather and the parks were not crowded but in terms of snow removal, trail closings, and road damage due to a winter with heavy snow fall perhaps we were a few weeks early. We had planned to visit the northern section of Zion called Kolob Canyon. The road here had been damaged and ability to visit this district of Zion was not possible at this time. We are always flexible when we travel so we decided to leave Zion a bit early and head on to our next adventure – The Grand Canyon. We got to enjoy the views along the Scenic drive one more time as our route would take us out the East Entrance.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Edith Propst says:

    Wonderful photos, Rosa! And your descriptions, as always, are so informative. I wish everyone could experience Zion!

    If you are still at the Grand Canyon on Thursday, be on the look out for a backpacking couple and two little backpackers! I still can’t believe our youngest grandkids will be hiking down and back up, carrying their sleeping bags, at ages 7 and 9!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, Wish we could have met them there. You’ve got to be proud of them.


  2. Frances says:

    Thank you for sharing. Enjoyed the pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

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