Zion National Park is one of the most awe inspiring sights in the American Southwest, and it's an easy two-and-a-half-hour drive from Las Vegas.
Featuring sky-high towers and cliffs of multicolored sandstone rocks, the 2,000 to 3,000-foot high canyon walls of Zion National Park were carved out over millions of years by trickling creeks and the rushing Virgin River.
Throughout Zion, reddish, golden and rust-colored rocks are contrasted by the deep green of pine forests; mesquite, manzanita and cottonwood groves; and fern and moss-filled grottoes. It is strikingly beautiful.
The main section of the park is most easily accessed from Las Vegas. After driving through the quaint resort town of Springdale, Utah, which has many restaurants, hotels, art galleries and boutiques, Zion visitors park at the large Visitor Center. This facility is filled with informative displays. It is also where visitors board shuttle buses in the peak season of spring through fall. It's a low-emission transit that relieves automobile congestion in the narrow canyon.
Among the sights to see along the shuttle route are the Zion Human History Museum, the historic Zion Lodge, Emerald Pools trail, the Grotto, Weeping Rock and the Temple of Sinawava. A true highlight awaits those that take an easy one mile walk to the world famous Narrows. Here the canyon walls loom close to each other while visitors walk up the shallow bed of the Virgin River. It's an unforgettable experience.
Other notable geological wonders along the river include the Sentinel, Court of the Patriarchs, and the Great White Throne. Traveling by car to the park's east entrance, the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel and Checkerboard Mesa are notable.
More distant attractions in Zion National Park include Lava Point with its immense vista over the parklands and the majestic and mysterious Kolob Canyons at the north end of this amazing natural treasure.
There are many trails for hiking and exploring in Zion. There are also many sidewalks and developed paths for those who want to keep closer to the park's facilities.
Zion National Park is filled with an incredible array of wildlife. Visitors might glimpse elk, peregrine falcons, hummingbirds, desert tortoise and bats. Flowers are abundant in spring and summer, with Sego lily and columbine among the most commonly seen.
For all its natural splendor, Zion has a long human history including Anasazi and Paiute peoples; Mormon settlers; daring explorers like John Wesley Powell and famous painters like Thomas Moran. Zion National Park is a great place to make some history of your own.
-- Review by Greg Thilmont