Things to see in Zion
Zion National Park outside of St. George Utah is one of the most geographically diverse areas in the world. It sits at the edge of the Mojave Desert and the Kaibab Plateau and shares all the best features. It is listed as the most popular park in all of the United States and has more international visitors than most other places combined. It also lives up to the hype. For the Kenneth Watrous family, Las Vegas is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from this place, so it’s a favorite.
I’ve been more than a few times to look at the combination of features. From waterfalls and glowing pools to slot canyons, arches, and incredible views from the top of mesas that overlook streams and valleys. There are a lot of things to see and even two different ways to drive into the park that give a very different first impression on the way in.
The north entrance tends to be the most popular, it comes from the more major highway and heads directly into the park. There is a little art and hippy town called Springdale on the way in. This is a place full of restaurants and gift shops. A few times in the summer, they have different street festivals that make for a fun introduction to the park.
The park also has a variety of different animals and it is possible to see. Outside of the squirrels, which are everywhere, especially early in the season you can see small herds of deer, even fawns with their mothers, along a lot of the trails. You can also see some bighorn sheep and some great birds that will glide overhead. Falcons and hawks are numerous and hide and nest in the cliff-sides, which can be really exciting to see, especially if you get to see them take down a squirrel or a rabbit.
The biggest attractions in the park are Angel’s Landing, a day hike through the most beautiful sections of the park that ends on top of a mesa that looks out over the whole area. The Emerald Pools, a group of ascending waterfalls and pools that have a moss or something in the bottom that in the right light make them look like they are filled with liquid emerald green. This can be a difficult feature to really get the full effect out of and is best hit after a light summer rain that will get the moss growing and also fill the pools up. On drought years this feature can almost dry up entirely, which isn’t great if it is something you are hoping to see. The last great attraction are the slot canyons known as “the Narrows” this is a whole series of small canyons cut through the sandstone that can be so thin that you can actually push yourself up the side by placing your feet on the other wall.
There are other attractions that work well for limited times. There’s Weeping Wall, which is a short, easy hike that even the kids enjoy. There’s numerous pull outs on the road through the park where you can just go off the beaten path. One of my favorites is Checkerboard Mesa. You can also go on a “choose your own length” hike like The Hidden Canyon trail. This one is basically just as long as you want it to be. Paved at first, then sand, then a bit of climbing. It just depends on what you want to see.
There are shuttles that go between some of the larger attractions, and you have to ride the shuttle during the busy season, so plan on taking up some amount of your day with a slow moving bus. There are also a number of day hikes that cut different paths and trails into sections that give different views of some of the areas. The hikes are listed in the visitors guide by length and difficulty. Some of the easier and quieter hikes go through a low area next to the river and can be a quiet and easy way to see a lot of the trees and flowers that bloom in the valley. This is also the best way to see a lot of the animals that come through. They have signs every now and then to warn against feeding the animals, which is good, but can be difficult to follow. The squirrels in the area are fairly used to having people around and like to get up close and seem intent on looking for handouts.
Zion National Park is also a place that you can spend a few weeks in and not see everything. It isn’t as large as the Grand Canyon, but it is diverse in what it offers and getting around the tough terrain to see a rare or specific formation can take a lot of time. This is especially true for areas that are limited as to motor travel and have to be reached by foot or occasionally helicopter.