If you have been reading our recent posts, you know that we’ve been trying to convince you, the reader, to check out Utah’s five national parks this fall. Fall is one of the best times to go to any of the parks – they are cooler and less crowded. And to help you out we wrote our five-part mini series on each of the national parks – and what to do when you visit them. Since this is last post in our series, it is only fitting that we dedicate it to Zion National Park.
Zion is the crown jewel of Utah’s parks. It is arguably the most stunning, and definitely the most popular. A simple Web search will verify that there is already so much information on Zion. But we hope to offer a couple kernels of information to help make your visit be even more spectacular. Here’s what we suggest:
Take the Bus up Zion Canyon – this is the best way to cover the most ground. The bus takes you along side the Virgin River, under the shadow of the patriarchal monoliths. The bus ride also includes a spoken tour of the features of the park. Every stop along the way up the canyon has hiking trails. All of them are great, but you need to check out Emerald Pools, the Narrows, and Angels Landing. Emerald Pools is a fairly easy and very lush hike among green foliage. The Narrows is one of the most popular slot canyon hikes in the world. And the Angels Landing overlook is quite simply the best spot in the whole of Zion National Park.
Drive Highway 9 – this scenic highway cuts through one-mile of mountain rock by way of the Mount Caramel Tunnel. (The Tunnel is always popular with kids.) One the other side of the Tunnel is Checkerboard Mesa. The Mesa is a huge sandstone plateau scored with deep cracks that resemble a checkerboard. Most people just drive through this scenic area, but if you want to get into the backcountry, there is no better place.
See Kolob Canyon – while many guidebooks gloss over Kolob Canyon, we think it is a special place. Kolob Canyon is not accessible from the main section of Zion. It is a separate area that was annexed many years after Zion was formed. Look for the exit on Interstate 15. Kolob Canyon can be driven in a few minutes, but if you really want to experience something beautiful, take a few hours to explore. First and foremost, hike to the View Point at the summit of the canyon. The view across the desert is perfect. Then hike one of the other trails that take you into the finger canyons of Kolob. We like Taylor Creek Trail.
Take the Subway – if you want true adventure, head to the Subway. This is a slot canyon that often requires you to wade or swim, (and the water is cold.) You will also have to climb up or around various obstacles and down waterfalls. For your safety, permits are required. Since only a limited amount are issued each season, plan ahead. Even with the permits, we still recommend that you go with a guide or a experienced canyoneer.
This ends our suggestions for what to do in Utah’s five national parks. If these tips where enough to make you want to get out and see the parks, we’ve done our job. We hope you have an amazing journey in Southern Utah and in the Mighty Five.