Zion, Utah on the map. National Park Zion (state Utah) on the map of US

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Zion, Utah on the map. National Park Zion (state Utah) on the map of US

Zion, Utah

Established: 1919   Acreage: 146,551


The names of the trails in Zion—Emerald Pools, Hidden Canyon, Gateway to the Narrows, Canyon Overlook—hint at what can be found beyond the road. The park has a number of surprises, too—a desert swamp, a petrified forest, springs and waterfalls. As with Yellowstone, many scoffed at the first stories of Zion, a wild, rugged country of little-known canyons and plateaus in southern Utah. Nevertheless, the massive, multicolored, vertical cliffs and deep canyons were real.


The centerpiece of the park is Zion Canyon, a narrow, deep (2000 to 3000 foot high walls) canyon with vividly colored cliffs which intimidated the Paiute Indians, who refused to stay here after dark. Along the bottom of the canyon flows the Virgin River, deceivingly powerless in looks, yet this small river carved the rock gorge of Zion Canyon almost singlehan-dedly. Fremont cottonwoods, willows and velvet ash line the banks of the river, providing a midday refuge from the summer heat for picnickers, as well as for mule deer and many birds. Bobcats, ringtail cats, foxes, rock squirrels and cottontails rest under rocky ledges. The park is also home to mountain lions and mule deer.


Connecting Zion Canyon with the high plateaus to the east is Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, which goes through two tunnels. At one end of the longer tunnel is the Great Arch of Zion, a 'blind' arch carved high in a vertical cliff wall. On the other side of the tunnel is slickrock country. Here rocks colored in white and pastels of orange and red have been eroded into many shapes. The mountains of sandstone known as Checkerboard Mesa provide a fine example of naturally sculpted rock art. In the northwest corner of the park are the Finger Canyons of the Kolob, where the Kolob Canyons Road penetrates the heart of the brilliant red rock country of the steep-walled Finger Canyons. The Kolob has forests of pin-yon, jupiter, ponderosa pine, fir and quaking aspen. In winter and early spring, the area is buried under a thick snowpack, which heightens the hues of this already colorful landscape.


In prehistoric times, Zion was inhabited by Basketmakers and Puebloans, and the rainbow canyons once sheltered an ancient race of cave dwellers. When Europeans first discovered the area, the Paiute claimed the region. In 1776, Father Escalante, while on an expedition in the Southwest, chanced upon the Zion region. Fifty years passed before other white men—trappers and fur traders—ventured to Zion. Eventually, the Mormons from Salt Lake City established a small settlement and named the area 'Zion,' meaning 'the heavenly city of God.'


Above right, top: The Narrows of the Zion Canyon. The enormous height of the walls dwarfs the hiker.

Above right, middle: The sheer, vividly colored Watchman towers above the canyon floor.

Facing page: Great White Throne—the symbol of Zion National Park—conveys an overwhelming sense of nobility.

Right: West Temple looms above the Visitor Center in Zion National Park.

Zion, Utah on the map. National Park Zion (state Utah) on the map of US