December 9th, 2011
Zion National Park (established 1909) makes a great road trip from Las Vegas (a drive of under 3 hours). Taking in the mountains and arid scenery you leave Nevada, briefly cross a corner of Arizona and then before you know it you find yourself in the magnificent canyons and rock formations of Zion in Utah.
It was a beautiful blue sky day, the massive sandstone cliff faces and mountains are made up of so many colours from red, pink and brown to beige, white and grey, it really is a beautiful sight. The weather was chilly but not too bad, snow and ice were visible in shadowy parts of the canyon and on certain trails, which just made for a more unique experience (including chunks of ice falling from the cliffs above whilst hiking the trails). From time to time you would see Mule Deer grazing on the side of the roads and trails, some very close but they were not too worried about us and just went about their feeding with no fuss.
At this time of year you can self drive around the park. Other times of the year the only means of transport is by shuttle bus or on foot/bike. Although there were plenty of people about, the roads were relatively quiet, so you could enjoy the scenery without the crowds of the warmer months.
The drive up the winding Zion – Mount Carmel Highway provides great views and also involves travelling in a tunnel through a mountain until you arrive at the trail head for the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail. This is a great short hike that leads to the top of one of the massive cliffs and provides fantastic views of the canyon below and the unique rock formations and mountains that surround it.
Then we headed back down to the canyon floor to travel along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to take in all the sights along the way. These included the impressive Court of the Patriarchs (3 massive rocky outcrops named Abraham – 6990 feet, Isaac – 6825 feet and Jacob – 6831 feet), the Emerald Pools Trails, Big Bend, the Great White Throne and the Temple of Sinawava.
The massive mountains and cliff faces line the entire scenic drive which make for numerous photo opportunities until you reach the end of the road at the Temple of Sinawava (you hike from there on the Riverside Walk)! Some of the trails were closed due to snow and ice, but this didn’t inconvenience us too much.
A beautiful place. I just wish there had been more time to spend a couple of days there and hike on some more of the many trails. We barely scratched the surface of the park, but did see the most spectacular sights it has to offer. If you get a chance to go to Zion you will be very glad you made it!