Zion National Park, Utah
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The rugged wilderness that comprises Zion National Park is
situated in the southwest corner of Utah. An easy 2.5 hour drive from Las Vegas,
or 4 hours from Salt Lake City, it is an accessible park for all seasons
Turning off the Interstate 15 from St George, the drive is
spectacular all the way to the small town of Springdale, gateway to the park.
Huge rock formations and massive flat-topped mountains known as ‘mesas’ loom in
the distance, and for a lot of the journey you follow the meandering Virgin
I visited in mid winter when despite the temperatures
staying below freezing, the sun shone and the air was crystal clear and still.
Of all the National Parks in Southern Utah, Zion is one of the most accessible
during the winter months.
In the summer it is so popular that the park service run a
shuttle bus service along the canyon with many drop off points for hikers and
sightseers. This restricts private vehicles and prevents the hideous traffic
jams of the past.
But in the winter it is much quieter, the shuttle is put
away until the spring and visitors can self-drive along the scenic routes.
As always with US National parks a stop at the Visitor
Centre just inside the gate is a must. Here you can study maps, pick up
leaflets, talk to rangers and generally get your bearings.
There is a selection of ‘must do’ hikes for different
abilities and most include a steep climb, resulting in breathtaking views and
the beauty of frozen waterfalls along the way. When I was there paths were very
icy, and some were closed, so I enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the banks of
the Virgin river, watching the mule deer graze and revelling in the peace and
tranquillity. As the sun moves through the sky, so the mountains take on a
rainbow of different colours and shadows.
For a short visit I can recommend a jeep safari into the mountains behind
Not strictly in the National Park, but still within the Zion
ecosystem, this was a great way to learn about the area from a knowledgeable
guide and to get to see places we would never have found on our own. We stopped
by the deserted Mormon settlement of Grafton, which has been the location for
many films, including Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. A few of the
remaining buildings are slowly being renovated to become a lasting memorial to
the early Mormon settlers. We stopped to admire the view from Gooseberry Mesa
and wondered at the tenacity of the early pioneers who had made their way on
foot and horseback across such an unforgiving landscape.
Back in the present day we had the comfort of the Desert Pearl Inn in
Springdale. Ideally situated alongside the Virgin River, a river side room with
a sheltered deck was the perfect place to enjoy the view.
Springdale is an artist’s community with a selection of
galleries showcasing painting, sculptures and photographs inspired by the
canyon. There are a variety of good restaurants and snack bars, as well as a
small supermarket if you are looking to make a picnic. My favourites were
Wildcat Willy’s for a delicious burger, and The Spotted Dog for American fine
dining at it’s best.
Having enjoyed Zion is such harsh weather I am keen to
return when it is warmer and experience some of the recommended hikes.
For more information about Zion National Park visit:
American Sky has a selection of tours and fly drive packages including:
Parks of America’ where you can tour the American West, visiting six
national parks including Zion National Park, a breakfast cruise on Lake Powell
and a scenic drive through the Bighorn Mountains before seeing Mount Rushmore.
- Canyon Country
- Scenic Parks Explorer
For more information, visit American Sky.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends American Sky
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