Why was Zion National Park Created
Utah’s first National Park, Zion is renowned for its towering cliffs and awesome slot canyons. The unique sandstone formations in Zion National Park are various shades of pink, red and cream, which add to their extraordinary beauty. From sightseeing and hiking to rock climbing and canyoneering, Zion is one of the best parks in the Country.
How do you get to Zion
Zion Airports- The closest major airport to Zion National Park is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. St George UT a little over an hour away also has daily flights from Los Angeles and Salt Lake City.
Zion Car Rentals- Although there is a shuttle in the park, if you want to visit other National Parks like the Grand Canyon, or Bryce its is best to have your own vehicle. You can pick up a car in Vegas, St. George, Cedar City, Kanab or any other major city you are traveling from.
Zion Shuttles- There is a free shuttle in Zion National Park as well as several private companies that run shuttles in the area.
Zion Fees and Other Costs
Zion National Park charges a $25 entry fee for private vehicles. Camping and hiking have additional fees. Like most National Parks fees for food, lodging and others services are high.
Zion Weather and Climate
Zion’s weather is known to be unpredictable, especially in the spring when storms are common. Summers are hot and dry with temperatures over 100 degrees, but it will cool down at night. Like most of the Southwest, fall weather is dry and pleasant with cool evening temperatures. Winter in Zion is fairly mild, and although the park gets snow, clear sunny days in the 50’s are not uncommon.
When to Visit Zion
With an average annual visitation of over 2.6 million people, Zion is definitely a busy park. The spring and fall seasons are the best times to visit Zion, but summer can be a great time too, especially if you plan on doing some canyoneering. Just keep in mind summer is hot and school is out so the Park is very busy. Winter is very slow and the weather can be great, but no matter what you’re sure to have more solitude during the low season.
Environment of Zion National Park
At 150,000 acres Zion isn’t one of the west’s larger national parks, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty. Zion National Park is a landscape of colorful canyons and step cliffs, leaving much of the park inaccessible. The main road follows Zion Canyon through the Southern end of the park, and from here you can see how the creative power of water carved out this landscape. Zion sits on the edge of the Colorado Plateau and uplift of the sedimentary rock in this area created the conditions water, wind and ice needed to carve out the Navajo Sandstone and other sedimentary rock formations that formed the Zion we know today.
Zion Flora and Fauna
Zion National Park’s location on the edge of the Colorado Plateau and close proximity to the Great Basin, Mojave Desert and Basin Range as well as a 5,000-foot variation in elevation give this area a great diversity of plant and animal life. Zion has over 40 species of retiles and amphibians, 78 species of mammals, and almost 300 species of birds including the Mexican spotted owl, mountain lions, and desert tortoises. This variation in landscape also means local life zones include flora from desert scrub, arid grasslands, pinyon-juniper and ponderosa pine, and mixed conifer forests, as well as riparian areas along the parks many perennial water sources.
Zion Lodge is the only accommodation within Zion National Park and reservations fill up well in advance during the high season. Outside of the Park’s south entrance in Springdale, Utah there are many lodging options. If you leave Zion from the east entrance en route to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon or Bryce Canyon National there are a few lodges outside the park and in Mt Carmel Junction. There are three campgrounds in Zion National Park. Watchman and South Campgrounds are located near the South Entrance, while Lava Point campground is located at the north end of the park on Kolob Terrace Rd. For people with RV’s there are several RV parks outside the south entrance and one smaller park outside the east entrance.
Zion National Park is more than just a scenic drive and some designated campgrounds. Hiking through Zion is an awesome experience and some of the parks best hikes include a step accent up Angel’s Landing or a hike through the Zion Narrows. Canyoneering is also a popular past time, and Zion National Park has many technical slot canyons to choose from. Just keep in mind most of Zion’s hikes require a permit, which you can get in advance or at the visitor center. Zion is also well know for it rock climbing routes, and you can see climbers ascending its big walls while you drive though the park.
Zion Food and Drink
Inside Zion National Park the only place to eat is the Zion Lodge. Springdale, Utah right outside is your best bet close to the Park, or Mt Carmel Junction if you are headed towards the North Rim or Bryce Canyon.
Zion Health, Safety and Hazards
One of the biggest dangers in Zion are flash floods that are not uncommon during the summer monsoon season in the parks many narrow canyons. Check in with the Backcountry Permit office and make sure its safe if you aren’t familiar with the local conditions. The summer heat can also be an issue and it is important to stay hydrated, wear sun block and get out of the sun when the temperature is just to hot. Although you probably won’t see one there are rattlesnakes so be aware.
Zion Culture and History
Although human history began in Zion nearly 12,000 years ago, permanent settlements started about 2,500 years ago when the Anasazi started growing crops and making permanent settlements in Zion. Due most likely to drought the Anasazi left the area which was later settled by the Paiute Indians who thrived in the area until the arrival of Europeans and Mormon Pioneers.