Thursday, May 10, 2012

Zion National Park ~ Utah

We love rv’ing and we are snowbirds which means we are so fortunate and we can do as many other Canadians do and go south for the winter.  Making our way home in the spring then gives us the opportunity to travel different routes and have adventures that we haven’t had before.  Last year we visited the Grand Canyon on our way home and it was spectacular so this year we have our sights set on other places in Utah.

A cabin on the hillside in Zion National Park
Zion National Park in Utah

Zion National Park in the southwest corner of Utah is one of the incredible sights you will find in the Grand Circle, known to have several spectacular canyons.  We travelled with friends and for our Zion visit we parked the RV's in Hurricane, Utah and followed Hwy 9, the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway for a beautiful scenic drive that took us through the Park.
the reddy brown road meanders through the sandstone mountains
 Zion - Mount Carmel Hwy in Zion National Park
Zion National Park was designated by Congress in 1919 and is the oldest and most visited National Park in Utah.  The entrance fee is $25.00 per vehicle for 7 days and as many visits in that time as you wish.  There are two campgrounds in the park with varied amenities, check out their webpage for details if you’re going to stay in the park. 
There is an opening in the side of the mountain which is part of the tunnel
The window of the Tunnel in Zion National Park
 A tunnel was built during the1920’s to gain access through to Bryce and Grand Canyons and that was completed in 1930.  This photo shows one of four windows in the tunnel which is how construction began.  These openings were a source for air and light and work was done from the middle to each end.  The crews worked 30-36’ per day.
the road takes us into the tunnel
Opening to the Zion tunnel
 The tunnel is 1.8 km (1.1 mi) long and does not have the room for the big RV’s of today and semi-trucks to pass through it.  They will allow big pick-up trucks to pass through but there is a $15.00 additional cost for this as they stop oncoming traffic so that allows you to travel down the center of the tunnel. This extra fee pays for two times to pass through the tunnel and we did!
the view you would see if looking through the tunnel window
View through the tunnel window 
There were only our headlights to see with so as you can imagine, it is pretty dark travelling through the winding tunnel. With no places to stop or pullover, the photos I took through the windows as we passed weren’t great but this one shows the quick view we had. 
rock formations on a tree covered hillside
Formations in the rocks
 There was nowhere to look that there wasn’t something fascinating to look at, I see the profile of a yawning animal here, but others might just call it a rock.  There are many places to park so you can get out and walk along the many trails and see the sights.
markings on the hillside look like lines drawn across the mountain
Windswept lines in the sandstone
Some of these formations were amazing to see.  The Navajo sandstone show lines that sweep across in different colors and these show the movements of the sandstone over the thousands and thousands of years.  It is hard to comprehend how this has evolved over all those years but these rocks do tell the story. 
The lines criss cross on the mesa making it look like a checkerboard
Checkerboard Mesa
Checkerboard Mesa is 2033 metres (6620’) high and is a great demonstration of the lines of time.  The crossbedding, which are the horizontal lines represent layers of windblown sand and the vertical lines are shallow cracks from erosion and changes in temperatures as the cold contracts and heat expands so stressing the sandstone. 
the bright orange plant grows from the rocks
Indian Paintbrush in bloom
 Our visit was in April so we were lucky to get great weather in these high elevations.  It was still early for spring growth but we did see signs of new growth happening.  The Indian Paintbrush plant, which we also see at home, was growing out of rocks along the road and soaking up the sun that did appear part way through our day.

A young sheep stands on the rocky bank watching the cars go by
Desert Bighorn Sheep

The Desert Bighorn Sheep can often be seen on the east side of the Park, and this young one was quite curious about the traffic passing by.  Mountain lions are also known to inhabit the Park but rarely seen and there has never been an attack by one.

We saw some beautiful scenery through the Zion National Park; the sandstone rocks were so many different colors, the Ponderosa pine and mesquite dot the hills and we left the Park looking forward to seeing the Zion Canyon on our next day of this adventure.  Can it get any more beautiful and fascinating than it already is? 


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