After finishing Bryce Canyon , we drove to Zion National park.
Geology and History
I must brief you on some features of Zion so that the essence of this national park can be savoured in full .The prominent part of this park is the Zion Canyon which is 29 km long and 800mt deep .The canyon has been carved out of the red and tan coloured cliffs of Navajo sandstone by the Virgin River.
The road to Zion is 6 miles long and ends at the Temple of Sinawava…a deity of the natives. The road then leads to The Narrows which is a hiking trail only 20 feet wide. The east side of the canyon is approached by the Zion Mount Carmel Highway passing through the Carmel tunnel and ending at Mount Carmel.
Checker board Mesa and Crazy Quilt Mesa are two prominent sandstone peaks adjoining the Mount Carmel Road . They have a checker board pattern caused by contraction and expansion of the Navajo sandstone due to temperature changes. Some of this is believed to belong to the Jurassic age.The Mesa canyon sometimes holds water used by the the local sheep.
Apart from this, there is a slot canyon at Kolob terrace, Angels Landing …one of the most daring hiking trails, the sentinel and such other peaks. Most of these can be reached by hiking trails
The Virgin River; a tributary of the Colorado River , runs through the park.
1.One day tour from Vegas(like we did). Local tour operators from Vegas do this. We had booked online from India via Viator. This trip does not cover all parts of the park and limited time is allowed at the stops.
2.You can drive down to Zion and drive along all the roads (except Scenic drive in the Shuttle season). Private vehicles are not allowed on scenic drive during shuttle season(March to November) You have to check this online as the dates may vary. There are two shuttle routes
3. Shuttle route one starts from Zion canyon visitor centre to Scenic drive. It has various stops along scenic drive and one can go upto the temple of sinawava from where the hikers depart for The Narrows.
4. Shuttle route two is the Springdale or town shuttle to and from Springdale…a nearby town.
5. Springdale offers various accommodation options….this is probably the best way to see the park…stay at Springdale and do some hikes and tours.
We did a day tour from Las Vegas covering Bryce and Zion. After finishing Bryce( on which I had detailed in my last blog) we drove to Zion.
Contrary to our trip to Bryce where we had some walking and mild trekking to do, Zion was mostly covered in the vehicle itself.
Our First halt at Zion was at Checkerboard Mesa and Crazy Quilt Mesa and the Mesa Canyon
We had to do a short trek down from the road and found ourselves among horizontal, wavy rock formations. The upper areas had vertical line formations too.
The Wave formations at Mesa Canyon
A long shot of the wavelike Crazy Quilt Mesa
The Horizontal wavy rocks
It was a short photo halt and soon continued our drive through the national park. Then came some winding roads amid huge red sandstone cliffs. This is actually called the Scenic Drive.
At Scenic Drive
The sandstone cliffs of Zion
Driving along the scenic drive, we soon reached the Mount Carmel Tunnel…a real marvel. The Tunnel is around a mile in length and has windows at six locations through which one can see the cliffs as one drives on.
The Mount Carmel Tunnel
View through one of the tunnel windows
View through another tunnel window
The windows on the cliffside( through which we see the cliffs as we drive through the tunnel) as seen from below
Further down we reached the Virgin River. There was a large crowd assembled there. It was nearing sunset and most of the people had cameras on tripods ready to shoot the changing colours of Zion as the sun sets. I was told that this is a daily phenomenon and this spot was a favourite of photographers who stood patiently to get the colour changes on the sandstone as the angle of sun rays changed at sunset.We watched the setting sun for sometime soaking in the beauty of the river.
The Virgin River at sunset
Soon it was time to return to the van and we drove back to Vegas after a short halt at Panguitch town.
Before I leave, I must pay a tribute to the natives of this wonderful area….how else can I do that; but by sharing some pictures of their native artwork!
The typical Native Exhibits
I have just given you a sneak peek of the Park.
Suffice it to say that this is a park where you need to spend time. It is impossible to cover all of it in half a day as we did. Time constraint had made us do this tour. But for the more adventurous, there’s plenty awaitng you at Zion….If you have the luxury to do it, spend a couple of days here…hike around…soak in the beauty of this beautiful park…..
So friends, with this episode we bid goodbye to the canyons and move on to the Pacific Coast….San Francisco….see you next week at The Big Sur….
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