On the last week of March 2017, we decided to make our way to three different destinations in three days across three states. From California, we drove across to Utah, then to Arizona in order to visit some of the prestigious national parks and scenic attractions in the nation: Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, and the Grand Canyon. After seeing these places, we hope that what we have presented to you will encourage you to venture out there yourselves, and possibly go even further then we have gotten.
Located at the southern end of Utah, Zion National Park places visitors and hikers at the bottom of a vast canyon, with a large variety of scenery from rivers to lush green forestry to all the way to the top of a mountain. Depending on which part of the park that you want to explore, Zion gives you the opportunity to experience the park for a day or venture into the wilderness for longer.
The Zion Canyon was first settled by various Native American tribes 6000 years ago, including the Anasazi until 800 years ago and the Paiute Indians who were the latest tribe to settle in the region.¹ Sometime later the Mormons led by Bridgam Young visited the region in 1849 and settled in the southern part of the park to grow cotton as well as establish towns such as Springdale, which still stands today.² Isaac Behunin built the first log cabin near what is now Zion Lodge in 1863, and named it ‘Zion.’ ¹*
In 1909, President William Howard Taft declared the canyon as a National Monument and named it Mukuntuweap National Monument, only for the Wilson administration to change the name to Zion in 1918. Currently, the park sees an annual visitor count of 2.5 million, and the Virgin River that runs through the canyon continues to erode and carve through the sediment as it had done for millions of years. ²**
The national park contains two areas that visitors go to frequently: the Zion Canyon (the main section of the park) and Kolob Canyon (a subsection that was included into the park in 1956).
The main entrance to the park can be accessed at the southern gate that you can reach by passing through Springdale, UT. The entrance fee is $30 per private vehicle and $15 per person if you plan on just walking/biking through the entrance station, and you may freely come in and out of the park for the next week. If you wish to visit the Kolob Canyon area, you can use that same ticket you got from the main canyon to enter Kolob, as it is part of Zion National Park.
The majority of the trails in the park can only be accessed via a shuttle bus that comes by every few minutes. In the winter, the road to the major trails are usually open to private vehicles due to the few number of visitors around that time so expect a lot of visitors and tourists in the other seasons. Bus fare is free all day for park visitors and the buses run from 7 a.m to 6:45 p.m., starting from the Visitor Center, so be mindful of the time that you will be spending that day in the park.
A good place to park for the day is the Zion National Park Human History Museum, which is past the Visitor Center after you enter the park. Not only parking is free all day, there is also a bus station located in front of the museum that you can take to the trailheads. Be mindful of the signs; there are two bus stops at the museum parking lot and one goes to the trails while the other one GOES BACK TO THE VISITOR CENTER and the entrance. The one that goes deeper into the park should not have a bus shelter behind the sign, whereas the one headed outside the park does have a bus shelter.
As you plan your trip to Zion National Park, be sure to consider the following: how long you plan to spend in the park, the trails you want to prioritize, housing/camping plans (if applicable,) food and emergency supplies, and maps of the park and of the trails (the main map and park information is provided to you already at the entrance station.)
Lastly, I want to quickly go over the small town of Springdale, which lies at the foot of the national park. There is plenty of places to get supplies, hotels, park merchandise and local restaurants to eat at. The restaurants here are pretty pricy as it frequently encounter tourists daily due to its convenient location, however I would highly recommend Oscar’s Cafe, as it provides good quality food with even better service (note: if you try to look at the menu online via Google, there is no longer a breakfast menu, as they serve a normal lunch/dinner menu at their respective times.)
With the enormous span of the park and the number of trails that we visited that day, this section will incorporate separate pages that outline each trail and how to get there, for each trail has their own characteristics, difficulty, and overall experience
1: Zion National Park History and Information, Utah’s Dixie, http://www.utahsdixie.com/zion_national_park.html
2: People – Zion National Park, National Park Service – Utah, https://www.nps.gov/zion/learn/historyculture/people.htm
1*: Zion National Park History and Information, Utah’s Dixie, http://www.utahsdixie.com/zion_national_park.html
2**: People – Zion National Park, National Park Service – Utah, https://www.nps.gov/zion/learn/historyculture/people.htm