Zion National Park near Springdale in southwest Utah is part of the Grand Staircase, that forms the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau. The park is distinguished by the red cliffs in Zion Canyon.
The park has instituted the shuttle system to eliminate traffic, parking issues and ecological interference. This system has been in place since 1997.
Note: Spring through fall, the Zion Scenic Drive is open to shuttle buses only.
Zion National Park Human History Museum
The Ancestral Puebloans evolved over 1,500 years into a community of farmers. Crops need an elevation between 5,000 to 7,000 feet for ideal growth, which made Zion Canyon a good location. But drought, resource depletion and migrations decreased the dominance of the Ancestral Puebloans. This gave way to the more resilient Southern Paiutes, who were then followed in the 1860s by the Mormon Pioneers.
Angels Landing Trail
Take the free shuttle bus to The Grotto shuttle stop. There are restrooms available here. The 2.4 mile trail climbs 1,488 feet above the Virgin River and comprises of sand, switchbacks and slickrock. It can take up to four hours roundtrip, so pace yourself in Zion National Park.
The Virgin River traverses the Mohave Desert and joins the Colorado River in Lake Mead, the largest reservoir by volume in the United States. Despite the meager annual precipitation (around 15 inches), the river helps sustain a diverse range of flaura and fauna including elk, mountain lions, Peregrine falcons, Colorado columbine, canyon treefrogs, pallid bats and Fremont cottonwood.
Over time, rainwater has eroded the layers of sedimentary rock to give rise to fantastic shapes, contours and mini caves.
In 1925, these 21 steep switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles were carved out to allow hikers to get up to Angel’s Landing.
Scout Lookout is where most visitors to Zion National Park end their hike. From here hikers can continue onto the final half mile up to Angel’s Landing or go on the West Rim trail.
The last half mile follows a steep and narrow ridge, and involves holding onto chains for support. It is not for the faint hearted, those afraid of heights or suffering from vertigo. People have fallen to their deaths from this part of the hike.
With walls as high as a thousand feet and the Virgin River sometimes twenty to thirty feet wide, this is the narrowest part of Zion National Park. The last stop on the shuttle system is the Temple of Sinawava. From here, visitors can hike an easy 20 minute trail called the Riverside Walk until you come to the banks of the Virgin River.
We went in mid September when the tide was not too high, about knee height. We had paid $25 for a 24 hour rental of waterproof boots and a hiking stick from Zion Outfitters in Springdale (returns are by 7pm). You can also get waterproof pouches for any valuables and electronic devices.
The easy 0.5 mile hike in Zion National Park takes visitors past lush greenery and hanging gardens. The continuous dripping of water gives the impression of “weeping”. These makes the end of the trail slippery both from being wet and the moss growth.
The water comes from the Echo Canyon above the Weeping Rock alcove. An impermeable shale (Kayenta) makes up the floor of the canyon, thus preventing water from getting absorbed by the rock. As a result, water has to find some outlet such as the Weeping Rock. The water in these rocks has been around for more than 1,200 years.
Dining Spotlight: Thai Sapa
Located in Springdale, Utah near the entrance of Zion National Park, Thai Sapa has already created a sensation for its exotic inclusion of Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese cuisines. It also caters to vegan and gluten free diets. The name ‘Sapa’ comes from the hill tribe community that dwell 5,000 feet in extreme North Vietnam, 30 miles from the Chinese border.The restaurant is committed to environmental efforts. It follows an aggressive recycling program, including the conversion of vegetable oil into biodiesel.
Tom Yum Soup: The classic homemade sweet and sour Thai soup with broccoli and mushrooms. I had the individual bowl with a choice of tofu. Hot, spicy and just what you need as a “pick-me-up” after a long day of hiking in Zion!
Yellow Koh Samui Curry:This is the only vegan/ vegetarian curry option. It came cooked with tofu and vegetables such as broccoli, peppers, potato and eggplant in rich coconut milk and spices. Together with the jasmine rice, the fresh salad and dressing, this entree taste was as delightful as it looked.