Zion National Park ~ Utah!
It is best to do a little research before setting sights on a National Park or State Park destination in the Southwest, because not every government managed wilderness area offers the comforts of home. Many State Parks and places like Canyonlands National Park or Grand Staircase-Escalante can only be accessed by driving long stretches of dirt road or hiking. Not everybody seeks a rough outdoor venture that involves driving on a bumpy dirt roads out in the middle of nowhere. There are plenty of destinations to choose from in the Southwest that offer a high level of comfort. Many of the State Parks and National Parks offer paved roads, adequate parking, camping facilities, RV hook ups, cel phone service, gas stations, general stores, restaurants and lodging. Zion National Park is one such place!
Zion National Park is located in Southwest Utah about 160 miles northeast of Las Vegas. I-15 runs close by and the Utah State Roads leading to Zion are easy to navigate. There are plenty of lodges, restaurants and fun tourist traps on either side of Zion National Park.
Utah SR 9 is the scenic byway that runs through Zion and this is a smooth paved road. There are an endless amount of scenic view overlooks, trailhead parking lots and wayside parking spaces along the way. The National Park Service placed the parking zones in areas that offer majestic views of the landscape, so the scenic drive through Zion is a photographer’s dream come true!
Zion National Park covers a vast expanse of land and most of this park can only be accessed by hikers. Zion trail maps are provided at the gatehouse entrances and the trailheads are easy to find. Some of the back country trails and dangerous trails do require registration as a sfety measure. On busy holiday weekends the parking might be an issue at the trailhead parking areas, but patience is a virtue, because most folks that venture through Zion are only temporarily parking to take a few photos during their scenic drive.
The prime attraction at Zion is the huge slot canyon with a stream and green vegetation in the basin. The slot canyon is surrounded by colorful towering rock formations. Some of the slot canyon walls are sheer vertical cliffs that reach up to the clouds. One can also see the start of several natural limestone arches on the canyon walls. The effect of light and shadow in the slot canyon creates dramatic effects and viewers will notice something new as the shadows move throughout the day.
The landscape at Zion dramatically changes from one section to the next. In a stretch of one mile one can see ancient ocean sedimentary deposits, towering cliffs, extreme erosive forces, streams, ponds, volcanic cinder cones and some of the most colorful limestone outcrops in the Southwest. Zion truly is a geologists dream come true, because this desert landscape is so diverse.
One look at the photo slide show in today’s article is all it takes to see just how indescribably beautiful that Zion National Park really is. I shot the photos after driving 3,000 miles from the east coast on my way to Las Vegas a few years ago. I traveled east to west during the drive through Zion on Scenic Byway Utah SR 9. I was dead tired and hiking was not really an option that day. The photos from the scenic overlooks turned out pretty good. This goes to show why the road through Zion is one of the best scenic drives on earth!
Packing the car with camping and hiking gear for an extended stay in this National Park is the best way to experience the full spectrum of what Zion has to offer. One simply cannot go wrong by just planning to do a leisurely scenic drive through Zion too. Either way, Zion National Park certainly belongs on the bucket list of travel destinations to visit at least once in a lifetime. Zion National Park is one of the most captivatingly beautiful places on earth!