Friday, May 11, 2012

Zion Canyon ~ Zion National Park ~ Utah

Our crisp spring morning with sunshine and clear blue sky looked perfect for a day of sightseeing in Zion Canyon within Zion National Park, (see where we spent our previous afternoon).  Zion Canyon is only accessible by the shuttle bus service, which they offer as part of the park entrance fee, from April to November so we headed out to the Park early to get a parking spot and to spend our day seeing the sights. 

The sun shines on three peaks in the canyon.
Early morning sunshine in Zion Canyon

The name Zion was first used by Mormon settlers from Salt Lake City in the 1860’s who came to grow cotton in the warm climates and the name implies peaceful or heavenly and means “promised land”.  Many of the names given by the Paiutes and early settlers had religious origins, for example the Great White Throne, the Organ and Angel’s Landing. 
The sunny day shows the river lined with green budding trees
The Virgin River in Zion Canyon, Utah
There were Ancestral Puebloans dating back to 7000 BC inhabiting this area but it would not have looked like this then.  The Virgin River cuts down through the sandstone rather than the normal sideways pattern of rivers and the wind and rain are always changing the massive stone formations. 
Down at river level looking toward the narrow passageway in the river.
The Virgin River meanders between narrow canyon walls
We rode the shuttle to the last stop and then walked a path to the end which brought us to a part of the river where the canyons are only 20 ft. apart. Hikers were wading through the river and following the canyon further up the Virgin River to see sights that we would never see but for the appropriately dressed and more ambitious hikers, there is much to see and enjoy past this point, so I am told. 
Photo of running wild turkey.
Wild Turkey runs down the roadside in Zion Canyon, Utah
 We would disembark the shuttle at each stop and sightsee until we were finished there then get onboard another shuttle to move onto the next location. The whole route is about 12 km (8mi) long with several stops with shuttles arriving every few minutes.  The wild turkey was running down the road alongside us on one of our shuttle rides. 
The multi colored wall of the canyon where water has carved out parts of it.
Water falls down Zion Canyon walls
 There is lots to see and you should allow a full day and that does not include any long hikes.  We covered lots of walks and most of them are paved and accessible for the handicapped but there were many hikes that we did not even attempt. The high elevations  might make breathing difficult for some people, I was not over a chest cold and had to take several rest stops to catch my breath and we were not following strenuous paths.
Squirrel keeps his eye on me while I take photos.
Squirrel in Zion Canyon
We did see a few deer on our walk through the Canyon.  They were not far from us but seemed fairly familiar with their visitors to the Park and continued eating as we passed by.  This little squirrel seemed to follow us along the path and stopped for photos more than once.  Did you know that squirrels dug holes in the dirt to do their business like cats do?  unless he was just trying to impress us with the message  ‘keeping my park clean’!    
The mountain Angel's Landing stands tall beside the Virgin River.
Angel's Landing in Zion Canyon
 One of the most famous sights in Zion Canyon would likely be Angel’s Landing.  It is a strenuous climb for those that have no fear of heights and with proper shoes and gear.  There have been six deaths since 2004 so caution must be taken.  The ridge is narrow and it is 1400’ above the canyon floor.
The hikers can be seen on the pathways in the distance.
Hikers walking up to Scout Lookout in Zion Canyon
There were many people enjoying the Zion Canyon on this sunny day and many of them were climbing to Scout Lookout at the base of the Angels’ Landing but fewer were continuing on from there.  If you look closely you will see these people zigzagging up the hillside where the path has been carved. 
The trail follows the curve of the canyon wall where the water falls.
Lower Emerald Pools Trail of Zion National Park
We followed a very busy Lower Emerald Pool Trail that wanders along the Virgin RiverThe water level at the lower Emerald Pool was low so we saw very little water but there was some falling over this bank causing a spray on the path, it would have been a great sight to see at the height of spring runoff.  There are three sets of Emerald Pools with the distance to each given on a legend at the beginning of the pathway.
The river flowing down the canyon in the shade.
Some of the Zion Canyon sees little sun during the early morning
Zion Canyon has so much to see and do. The Zion Lodge is there for those who wish to stay awhile.  It has a restaurant and a place to pick up great snacks for a picnic to take to one of the many picnic areas. There are over 200 miles of all levels of hiking trails which are marked accordingly, bicycles for rent and horses offer trail rides as another way of enjoying this beautiful canyon.  We did see some rock climbers enjoying their sport, as well. There is something here for everyone. 


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