Zion National Park
While many enjoy the top-down view of nearby Grand Canyon, Zion is best experienced from the bottom up. In sheer magnitude and color, Zion is very likely one of the most awe-inspiring national parks in the world with the annual number of visitors ranging over 3 million.
The new Zion National Park Visitors Center offers a state of the art visitor experience. Most notable is the outstanding outdoor interpretative center.
Throughout the national park iron oxide has colored the sandstone myriad shades of red, while white or ochre hues have remained in other sections and layers. Water from rain and river has etched through the rock and created twisted and convoluted deep chasms. During storms, large boulders and trees crash down these canyons more rapidly eroding the deepening gorges. Collecting rains on Zion's massive plateaus rage to central gathering points and gush over precipices descending hundreds and sometimes one-thousand feet in awe-inspiring waterfalls, disappearing within minutes of the conclusion of a storm. Elevations in Zion National Park range from 4,000 feet in the valley floors to nearly 9,000 feet at the highest points. Rock climbers and hiking enthusiast from around the world come here to experience the vertical climbs and zig-zagging trails which ascend to pinnacles, domes, arches and spires. The upper layers of porous sandstone allow water to seep thousands of feet through the rock, but the more dense lower layers force the water to exit and pour down the faces of sheer walls. Where the water leaves the rock, hanging gardens and natural stains line the walls, creating a tropical paradise in the midst of the otherwise arid desert surroundings.
This is the main and most popular section of the national park. The visitor center museum and lodge are found in this part of the national park. Popular trail-heads for Weeping Rock, Emerald Pools, Angels Landing, the Narrows, and others are all found in this area.
Wildlife & Biology:
Mountain Lions, ring-tailed cats, kangaroo rats, deer and big-horned sheep are just some 75 species of mammals within the national park. Peregrine falcons, eagles, wild turkeys, and owls are found in the canyons along with 265 other types of birds. You'll also find a large variety of reptiles on land, along with 8 different fish in the waters of Zion National Park. The great variations of elevations, and formations create very diverse environments and with nearly 800 native species of plants, Zion National Park has the greatest botanical diversity in all of Utah.
Park Interpretive Programs:
Each day in summer, Zion National Park rangers present a series of special talks, guided walks, and evening programs. Copies of schedules are posted at visitor centers and on bulletin boards throughout Zion National Park. All programs are free.
Park Junior Ranger Program:
For children age 6-12, this program is held during the summer. The programs are fun explorations of the secrets of Zion National Park's plants and animals, its geology (why are the rocks red?) and its human history.
Day & Overnight Hikes:
Zion Canyon features some of the most dramatic hikes and scenery in the world. Among the classic trails of Zion National Park are Angels Landing (West Rim), East Rim, Weeping Rock, Pa'rus, Watchman, Emerald Pools, Hidden Canyon, Observation Point, and The Narrows. National park rangers urge prospective hikers to be prepared by having the right equipment; but most of all, hikers need to have current trail information and know what their personal limitations are. Permits are required for The Narrows and other back country hikes. Call (435)772-0170 for information on back country hikes.
Perhaps the most famous and one of the most challenging areas of Zion National Park is The Narrows. The Virgin River gathers its waters from several tributaries which continue to carve deep gorges in Zion's sandstone. Intrepid hikers may follow the river's path, but plan on walking through water most of the day. The full length of the main The Narrows is a 12.5 mile trek. Permit required.
Storms, Flash Floods, Temperatures:
Weather is an important factor in Zion National Park's backcountry areas. Stay away from narrow or slot canyons on bad weather days to avoid the dangers of high water levels and flash floods. Water temperatures are generally fine during the summer months, but shaded canyons are less likely to keep you warm as you spend significant amounts of time in the water. Special preparations are required to enter the narrows in the colder months of the year. Check with Zion National Park to obtain details.