You have to hand it to the tourism bureau the past few years in Utah; they have really made a push to make their National Parks (The Mighty Five) a destination. I can’t say that I had any idea of what Utah had to offer, but those TV commercials really grabbed our interest. In fact, as we were thinking of places we may want to visit in our travels, Chris made sure that Utah made the list. And yes, Utah has quickly become one of our favorite places, and we only hit four of The Mighty Five!
First impressions can be the most memorable, and we have found that one of the most special moments of visiting national parks is our first entrance into the park and our first glimpses at its unique glory. Zion’s first impressions are saturated in salmon and warm hues with stunning spires and steep slick rock. In contrast to the dry rock, the Virgin River runs through Zion Canyon adding its pale, sediment-filled refreshing flow to the coarse landscape.
The East entrance also allows you to experience the two tunnels. The first is a quick introduction to prepare you for the second tunnel, which is over a mile long and was built in the 30s (you can imagine how narrow the road is, as it was built for the first vehicles). Upon exiting the second tunnel, you have a grand view of the Canyon and Pine Creek which runs along the East entrance (it was mostly dry until the flash flood occurred)… Once you reach Canyon Junction and the Virgin River, it is time to park the vehicle and take the obligatory shuttle. The shuttle is the only transport through Zion Canyon during the summer months (which includes September). The shuttle runs on the green route above on the Zion map. It is a lot of fun to take the shuttle, but you have to be prepared and make sure you take food and plenty of water with you, because you won’t be able to go back to your car between hikes. Also, it was in the upper 90s while we were there, and there is no air conditioning on those shuttles (this probably accounts for Chris’ crazed look).
That is a quick intro to Zion, and I hope that gives you a little glimpse of the first impression that Zion makes. If you are interested, here is a little bit of information on the area’s settlement and its growth as a national park. Locals explained that Zion has really taken off in popularity over the past few years, which has necessitated the shuttle-only access. In 2014, Zion saw 3.19 million visitors! Our shuttle driver told us that this year is definitely going to break that record! Up next, we will take a look at the amazing hikes Zion offers!