Zion National Park
Last Updated: 13th Nov 2012
by – Alex McCarty, Tour Manager, North America
Utah is home to more National Parks than any other state in America and the rugged beauty of the ‘Beehive State’ is most easily typified by Zion National Park, the place named by the Mormon population who settled the territory in the 1830’s.
Almost two-thirds of Utah is desert and uninhabitable and when the first settlers surveyed the canyons, valleys, waterfalls, caverns and mountainous cliffs of the southwestern region of the state the only apt name they could think of was ‘Zion’ – heavenly home.
Since then, several scores of movies (most with a Western theme) have been filmed here, including the opening sequence of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. For hikers, spelunkers, campers, photographers and outdoor enthusiasts in general, the treasures of the jagged landscape, featuring waterfalls, meadows and towering rust-colored rock walls make a visit to Zion beautifully worthwhile.
Zion was established as a national park in 1919. Its main feature is Zion Canyon, which stretches for almost 10 miles (16 km) long, at its widest point is about a half mile across (0.8 km) and at its most narrow is only about 50 feet across (15 meters).
There are hiking trails, which range in difficulty from mild to strenuous and most are accessible by taking advantage of the free shuttle system that services the park. Along the trails, keep your eyes open for the wildlife in the park, such as mule deer and ravens!
Adjacent to Zion Lodge, the main dining and reception facility in the park, you will find horse stables where you can hire a horse for an hour or two (time and weather permitting). There is a gift shop located inside the lodge filled with Native American arts and crafts and other souvenirs. Be sure to grab a bite to eat in the cafeteria located on the ground level for simple, light fare (sandwiches, chips, ice cream, etc.) or hit the gourmet breakfast buffet on the second floor of the lodge. Before you leave, take some time out to have a seat and watch the deep colors (reds, oranges, pinks and purples) of the rock faces surrounding you change with the mood of the sun. Heavenly, indeed!
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The absolute best hike in Zion is Angel’s Landing, it ends on a table top overlook 2000 feet above the valley floor offering a top 5 vista in the US National Park System. But you better be extra fit and possess some hiking expertise to get to the top. With vertical climbs and steep switchbacks this hike will tax even the most experienced of hikers.