Canyons are deep, narrow valleys associated with cliffs on their sides. They are formed through thousands of years of water flow, weathering, erosion, and tectonic activities. The most famous familiar types of canyons are the river canyon. River canyons are caused by the water pressure that cuts a deep and narrow channel through the riverbed. The river sediments were then carried downstream carving the watercourse. One of the world’s most expansive canyon is situated in the southwestern corner of Utah – the 15-mile long canyon of Zion National Park.
Zion National Park boasts dramatic landscapes of scarlet canyons, towering cliffs, and sandstone plateaus. The highlight of the park, Zion Canyon, is continuously shaped by the Virgin River. This Virgin River drops at 7,800 feet and annually transports nearly one million tons of sediment. During flash floods, the canyon continues to widen as the channel continues to deepen. The Park also flaunts its world-renowned 2000-foot cliffs and subway route that requires you to swim and rappel aside from canyons.
Four life zones thrive within the park: the coniferous and deciduous woodland, the desert, and the riparian. The park’s fauna supports 800 native plant species – including a flower that scientists thought to be a hybrid of two penstemon varieties. There are also poisonous plants littering along Zion’s desert. An example of which is the sacred datura that contains hallucinogenic properties. Meanwhile, 289 species of birds, 79 species of mammals, 32 species of reptiles and amphibians, and eight fish species are living inside the park. The endangered California Condor also resides there.
ZION NATIONAL PARK HISTORY
As per records, Europeans first explored the region in 1776. A century later, Mormon farmers settled the area near the Virgin River. They were overwhelmed with the natural beauty of the place that they named it “Zion,” which means the holy city where Yahweh resides. The original occupants of Zion were believed to be the Anasazis. Their rock arts and dwelling evidence, measured to be 800-1500 years old, are still present in some places of the park. President William Howard Taft officially established the park in 1909.
EXPERIENCES YOU SHOULD NOT MISS
Visit the Human History Museum – The Museum is the first stop of the shuttle bus. This warm-up tour presents Zion’s cultural history in its large displays and huge models of the park. The museum collection includes facts about the American Indian culture, the canyon’s early settlers, and the park’s establishment. An AVP runs every 30 minutes, and tour guides are available to cater to questions.
Drive along the Zion Canyon – this scenic drive runs along the canyon floor between the cliff walls and provides the best view for Zion’s famous site. You can also opt to ride the park’s shuttle bus or bike this route. The road ends at the Narrows, the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, where the river only measures twenty feet wide.
Trek the Trails on a Day Hike – there are many hikes available to choose from. The famous ones were the Angels Landing and the Narrows. The trail of Angel’s Landing leads you to a spectacular viewpoint of over the canyon. It involves narrow ridges along long drop-offs, which is certainly not for the faint-hearted. The Narrows trail is where things get wet, although Virgin River’s cold water may do well amidst scorching heat on summer hikes. Other more accessible hikes are the Riverside Walk, Weeping Rock Trail, and the Lower Emerald Pools trail.
Do Canyoneering and Rock Climbing – The sandstone cliffs of Zion is famous for big wall climbs. No worries if you have zero rappelling experience since a beginner and advanced courses are being offered. Note that the best time for climbing is from March to May and September to November.
Prepare for Camping – Spending the night at the park is also something you would not miss. Experience more to nature when watching the birds under the blue skies and listening to the trees at midnight. There is two main camping ground in the park: the Watchman Campground and the South Campground. A third mini camping area is the Lava Point Campground located on the Kolob Terrace Road and is an hour away from Zion Canyon.
Drop off to Archeological Sites – Get a glimpse of the Zion’s pioneering groups who first maintained the place’s majesty. People have inhabited the park for over 10,000 years and left remnants of their existence in various places. However, since artifacts are meant to be preserved, only a portion of these sites are open for public viewing.
Photograph the Kolob Arch – this hidden arch is one of the largest freestanding arches in the world. It measures about 287 long and sits high above a canyon wall. You can locate this arch deep in the backcountry of Kolob Canyons District, which happens to be park’s highest point of elevation at 8726 feet.