the wandering chick
If you think that if you've seen one national park in Utah, you've seen them all, you're sadly mistaken.
The only common ground I found was the intense beauty and the fact that all the parks have wonderful and numerous hiking trails.
Welcome to Zion...like no other.
Utah's oldest national park
The unique pattern to this mountain of Navajo Sandstone has earned it the name the Checkboard Mesa. The horizontal lines are made of layers of wind-blown sand that built up into sand dunes. The vertical lines, less common, are actually very shallow cracks caused by erosion and by stress. Stress can be caused by changes in temperature, by expansion and contraction, and by wetness and dryness of the soil.
Zion has two main tunnels along the Zion - Mt. Carmel Highway. One is a very short tunnel (pictured in a photo above), but the second is quite long. It offers an occasional window such as this one seen from the outside.
The Great Arch, along the Zion - Mt. Carmel Highway (Highway 9).
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This rock formation is called The Pulpit and is located at the very top shuttle stop, The Temple of Sinawava. Surrounded by the walls of the box canyon, aka, The Temple, the pulpit, taking center stage, is appropriately named. The two pictures on the right, top and bottom, are also of The Pulpit.
The Temple of Sinawava is a wonderful location in Zion, where the massive walls surround you, offering breath-taking beauty.
One of the easiest walks in the park is the River Walk. It parallels the Virgin River on a clean, smooth paved path and ends where The Narrows begin. The Narrows is a hike into the slot canyon of the Virgin River.
In the Spring, Golden Columbine can be seen growing along the rocks of the River Walk trail.
The paved path of the River Walk ends here. Special shoes are recommended for walking the Narrows since much of it is through ankle-deep (or higher) water. Also, check at the visitor center for potential rains and flash floods before entering the Narrows.
A scenic view at the Weeping Rock stop.
Weeping Rock has a spring above it that seeps water year-round. It's a short but uphill walk to see the phenomenon.
Big horn sheep can be seen on the east side of Zion. We came across about six of them, including this baby lamb jaunting across the Highway 9.
On the Canyon Overlook Trail, near the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.
The Emerald Pools Trail is one of the more popular hikes and excellent for seeing good scenery. Don't expect much water in the pools, depending on the time of year, and the water certainly is not emerald in color. Nonetheless, it's a hike worth taking. To keep from back tracking, take the Kayenta Trail at The Grotto stop, follow the signs to the pools, then exit at the Zion Lodge stop. The next several shots were taken along these trails.
This little gal was doing a grand job of keeeping up wih Mom and Dad on the trail.
It didn't matter that there was little water in the pools. Often, the journery is better than the destination.
You can catch gorgeous views of the Virgin River just about anywhere in the park.
Another scenic and fun hike is the Watchman Trail. It ascends some 300 feet to the base of a cliff that overlooks the Visitor Center at the southern entrance to Zion Park. The trail begins near the overflow parking lot, hugs the river for a short distance, then begins its gradual ascent up the side of the mountain. This is a moderate three-mile roundtrip hike filled with small patches of flowers and cacti. It ends at a level sprawl of land, the loop, that overlooks Springdale, the Watchman campground and offers a grand view of The Watchman Mountain.
The view from the Watchman Trail, looking north into Zion.
As you get to the south loop of the trail, the Watchman Mountain comes into full view.
You don't see fields of wildflowers on the side of a cliff, but we saw patches that stood out happily against the red stone and dirt of the trail. After a brief rain, the flowers were even more colorful, such as this Indian paintbrush and the vibrant yellow desert marigold (right, bottom).
The pink blooms of prickly pear cactus grace the cliffside.
The Temple of Sinawava and its massive rock walls
This photo, taken at the Temple of Sinawava, makes it pretty obvious there's a scenic view in every direction.
A robin stayed perched on a tree trunk long enough for me to get this shot.
Another shot of The Pulpit at the Temple of Sinawava
Kolob Canyons is a portion of Zion less visited, but equal in beauty to the main parts of the park. Located in the northwest section of the park, it's accessed by Kolob Canyons Road outside the south entrance. There are several hiking trails there, and the one I did is the Middle Fork of the Taylor Creek, a 5-mile roundtrip easy to moderate hike with stream crossings. In the spring, the streams were little more than trickles of water. The trail ends at the Double Arch Alcove. Pictures of that trail follow.
This is a view of the double arch alcove. It's so massive at the end of the canyon, there's not even room to back up to get a shot of the whole thing. In a few hundred years, I guess it will be a true double arch, as the weather erodes the soft stone.
A family of Mom and Dad and two young boys were counting the lizards they had seen on the trail. The last shout-out I heard was 99.
There are two cabins on the Middle Fork Taylor Creek trail. They were both owned by professors in nearby colleges in the early 193os. In the summer months, Gustive O. Larson and Arthur Fife built their cabins from logs in the canyon and dragging them to the construction sites with horses. Roofing and flooring material was hauled in from Cedar City via the creek bed. Each of the men claimed 160 acres of land, but separately, over time, lost it or gave it up. The cabin pictured here belonged to Fife.
This collection of stones was found on the very rock where my hiking companion and I decided to have lunch.
The Timber Creek Overlook is another trail in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion. A short, easy hike, its roundtrip mileage is less than a mile, and the 100-foot ascent (approximately) is gradual. The overlook at the end of the road is a nice reward. This and the next four pictures were taken on the trail or on the road leading up to the trailhead.
The end of the Timber Creek Overlook Trail
Well, you might have to look close, but a rainbow appeared over the moutains on the rainy day we did the Watchman Trail. We were just heading out of the park for the day when it appeared.
Scenic views are not just inside Zion National Park. A drive in any direction will have you pulling over to take in the beauty. The following shots were taken along Highway 9 between Springdale and Virgin.
Another location outside the park that is worth a visit is the Sandy Hollow State Park. It's a right-hand turn off Highway 9 (south) as you're heading toward Zion, near the town of Hurricane.