Mormon pioneer Issac Behunin built the first log cabin in Zion Canyon in 1863, which was located near where the Zion Lodge is today. Behunin Canyon, a technical slot canyon, was named after him. During the remainder of the century, small communities and homesteads in the area struggled to survive. Pioneers gave the canyon the name "Zion", a Hebrew word meaning safety, or a place of refuge. Despite the name, the canyon offered little arable land, poor soil, and catastrophic flooding, making agriculture a risky venture. By the first decade of the 20th century, the scenic qualities of southern Utah, and Zion Canyon in particular, had been recognized as a potential destination for tourism. In 1909, a presidential executive order designated Mukuntuweap National Monument. The new monument was, however, virtually inaccessible to visitors, since the existing roads were in poor condition and the closest railhead was a hundred miles away. The monument's name was changed to Zion National Monument in 1918, and in 1919 the monument was expanded and designated a national park. Visitation to the new national park increased steadily during the 1920s, and in 1930, the newly completed Zion-Mt Carmel Highway allowed motorists to travel through the park to [wiki=ba94e506429cf23bde1a882085f22c49]Mount Carmel Junction[/wiki], then on to [wiki=7a5b03c2d7c5caf01f6e61f64e414920]Bryce Canyon[/wiki] and the [wiki=9167398895f4d220f99826c9f3b1c5cc]Grand Canyon[/wiki]. This highway was one of the greatest engineering feats of modern times, requiring the construction of a 5,613-foot tunnel, the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, to negotiate the vertical sandstone cliffs of Zion. The switchbacks leading up to the tunnel proved to be an even greater task to accomplish. The Kolob Canyons section of the park, located near [wiki=7185229ac81480d07618f6a6300e8d28]Cedar City[/wiki], Utah was established as a National Monument in 1937 and added to Zion National Park in 1956.
Zion National Park encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States. The park is characterized by high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstone canyons and striking rock towers and mesas. The North Fork of the Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge in the park called the Zion Narrows. The canyon walls in some places rise 2,000-3,000 feet above the canyon floor. The southern part of the park is a lower desert area where colorful mesas border rocky canyons and washes. The northern sections of Zion are higher plateaus covered by forests. To the east is the amazing slickrock country and a vast array of unpaved trails, hidden canyons and peaks to explore.
Although Zion is in an arid desert climate, the park has almost nine-hundred native species of plants, seventy-five species of mammals, two-hundred-ninety species of birds including the California Condor, forty-four species of reptiles and amphibians and eight native fish.
Mammals commonly found within the park's borders include bats, jack rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, gophers, kangaroo rats, beavers, mice, porcupines, coyotes, gray fox, ringtail cats, skunks, mule deer and the rarely seen, but quite present mountain lions. Peregrine falcons, rattlesnakes and numerous lizards are also species that visitors may recognize.
There is a wide variety of plant life in the park, seeing that the unique geology has created diverse environments such as deserts, canyons, slickrock, hanging gardens, riparian, and high plateaus. There are many beautiful wildflowers, including the Sacrad Datura, which is common in Zion and is often found along the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and on the canyon floor.
Weather in the park is considered to be mild, but varies greatly with elevation, and even at the same elevation may differ by over 30°F between day and night. In spring the weather is unpredictable, with both stormy, wet days and warm, sunny weather being common. Precipitation usually peaks in March, and summer days are hot (95-110°F), with overnight lows usually in a comfort zone(65-70°F). Afternoon thunderstorms are common from mid-July through mid-September, making hiking during a flash floods dangerous. Autumn days are usually clear and mild with cool nights. Winter storms bring rain or light snow to Zion Canyon, but heavier snow to the higher elevations such as the east side of the park, Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyons. Clear days may become quite warm, reaching 60°F; nights are often in the 20s and 30s. Winter storms can last several days and cause roads to be icy, but the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, taking travelers from the south entrance to the main section of the park, all the way to the east entrance of the park, is owned by the park and the NPS keeps it in excellent condition even in the winter. The road then becomes maintained by Kane County, Utah on the east side of the park, which continues 12 miles to [wiki=ba94e506429cf23bde1a882085f22c49]Mount Carmel Junction[/wiki].
There are sections of the park that are not connected by road; the Kolob Canyons area is in the park's northern area and offers different canyon views and hiking from what is seen in the park's main section. The remote Kolob Terrace offers an uncrowded and scenic drive, as well as spectacular slot canyons and hiking. The highly photographed "Subway" is found in this section of the park. Zion Canyon is in the southern portion of the park and contains many of the park's most famous scenic wonders, such as Angels Landing and the Great White Throne. The east side of the park features magnificent landmarks and hiking such as East Temple, Checkerboard Mesa and the Great Arch. The Zion Narrows and Orderville Canyon, two of the parks most popular canyons, begin on the east rim of the park and end in Zion Canyon.
The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway (SR-9) runs from the south entrance of the park to the east entrance, then continues 12 miles past the east entrance to [wiki=ba94e506429cf23bde1a882085f22c49]Mount Carmel Junction[/wiki], where SR-9 ends. At the terminus of SR-9, the road meets with US-89, which leads to other nearby parks. [wiki=89a4e0dd1cd891c418c02c54f2472be2]Bryce Canyon National Park[/wiki] is to the north, and the North Rim of the [wiki=9167398895f4d220f99826c9f3b1c5cc]Grand Canyon[/wiki] is south. The [wiki=680c5980a74c56d20ae8127c525c452b]Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park[/wiki] is only 11 miles from the junction at [wiki=ba94e506429cf23bde1a882085f22c49]Mount Carmel Junction[/wiki]. Other nearby wonders include [wiki=24c59e837f3cd7d7f998d99780157df1]Dixie National Forest[/wiki]'s Red Canyon along SR-12 and Cedar Mountain which runs the length of SR-14.
Zion Canyon, the most traveled section of the park, is accessed by taking SR-9 (Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway) from the east or the south.
From the south:
I-15 passes west of Zion and connects with SR-9, just north of St. George. From there SR-9 travels through the towns of Hurricane, La Verkin, Virgin, Rockville and Springdale before entering Zion National Park.
From the east:
US-89 passes east of Zion and connects with SR-9 (The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway) at [wiki=ba94e506429cf23bde1a882085f22c49]Mount Carmel Junction[/wiki]. From there, SR-9 travels through the park's east Entrance and into the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Travelers can continue to the south entrance of the park, or take the 6 mile scenic road into Zion Canyon.
The Kolob Terrace road is accessed off SR-9 in the small town of Virgin, west of Zion. The Kolob Canyons entrance is accessible from I-15, exit 40, near Cedar City.
Cars can be rented in [wiki=c91861082e1f5c54d7a723f28fbf1be1]Salt Lake City[/wiki], [wiki=7185229ac81480d07618f6a6300e8d28]Cedar City[/wiki], [wiki=01c186e7768550bb56442634b5328737]St. George[/wiki], and [wiki=05c27bf00932572de28bf65a0539ba97]Las Vegas[/wiki]. McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas offers rental cars that usually have good rates.
NOTE: Visitors driving RVs, pulling trailers, or with any vehicle that is over 7'10" wide or over 11'4" tall should be aware that due to the small size of the tunnel a fee is required to pass through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel; which is valid for a round-trip. Most RVs, buses, trailers, 5th wheels, and some camper shells require this fee. Rangers are stationed at both ends of the tunnel from 8AM-8PM during the busy season, but the hours of travel through the tunnel decrease in the winter. The rangers allow one way travel through the tunnel when large vehicles want to pass. Semi-tractor trailers are not permitted in the park.
The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is accessible only by the Zion Canyon Shuttle the majority of the year, but usually from November until the end of March, private vehicles are allowed to drive into the canyon.
[wiki=01c186e7768550bb56442634b5328737]St. George[/wiki] is the closest city with commercial airline service. St. George opened the new, larger St. George Municipal Airport [url=http://www.sgcity.org/airport/]]in January 2011, which services the area with flights from [[Salt Lake City[/url]] on [url=http://www.delta.com/]Delta Connection[/url] and from [wiki=d0aa2dffa0da83f1f34681308d04db5d]Los Angeles[/wiki] on [url=http://www.united.com]United Express[/url]. Both routes are operated by [url=http://www.skywest.com]SkyWest[/url]. Flying into [wiki=7185229ac81480d07618f6a6300e8d28]Cedar City[/wiki] (30 miles north of Zion National Park) from [wiki=c91861082e1f5c54d7a723f28fbf1be1]Salt Lake City[/wiki] on SkyWest is an additional option.
The nearest major airport is McCarran International Airport [url=http://www.mccarran.com/]]in [[Las Vegas[/url]], about a three hour drive to the park on Interstate 15.
The second closest major airport is in Salt Lake City [http://slcairport.com], about a five hour drive on I-15.
There is no public transportation into the park. Tour buses can be arranged through travel agencies, and Greyhound buses visit the cities of [wiki=c91861082e1f5c54d7a723f28fbf1be1]Salt Lake City[/wiki], [wiki=7185229ac81480d07618f6a6300e8d28]Cedar City[/wiki], [wiki=01c186e7768550bb56442634b5328737]St. George[/wiki], plus [wiki=05c27bf00932572de28bf65a0539ba97]Las Vegas[/wiki] in Nevada. For Utah Greyhound information call +1 435 586-9465.
The majority of the park is accessible by car, although Zion Canyon is accessible only by the free shuttle usually from late March through the end of October. Large vehicles, (7'10" in width or 11'4" in height), (RV's, buses, trailers, 5th wheels, and some camper shells) that wish to travel the length of the park, require assistance, found at both ends of the tunnel from 8AM to 8PM in the summer, to be able to travel through the parks larger tunnel. Large vehicles have trouble staying in their lane while traveling through the tunnel. The cost for large vehicles is $15 per vehicle, which is valid for two trips through the tunnel during a seven day period. Very large vehicles, including those taller than 13'1", may be prohibited from entering the tunnel.
During the winter Zion's roads are plowed and sanded, except the Kolob Terrace road, which is closed. Be prepared for winter driving conditions, including potentially icy roads, from November through March.
Usually from late-March through the end of October, Zion uses a shuttle system to eliminate congestion in the canyon. The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to all private vehicles during this time, except for those with a red pass that are staying at the Zion Lodge, who can travel as far as the Lodge itself. Shuttles are fully accessible, with extra room for bikes, backpacks, and climbing gear.
Zion operates two different shuttle routes. One goes through the town of Springdale (see the Get around section on [wiki=edc5aa558a0531a1dbe21b61e79c4262#Get around]Springdale[/wiki]), and terminates at the park entrance, within walking distance of the visitor center.
The other route goes through Zion Canyon and has 9 stops: the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, the Zion Human History Museum, Canyon Junction, Court of the Patriarchs, Zion Lodge, Grotto, Weeping Rock, Big Bend, and the Temple of Sinawava.
Frequency of the Zion Canyon route depends on the time of day. In spring and fall the shuttle runs from 6:45 AM to 10PM every day, with 7-15 minute frequency. In the Summer (mid-May to early September) the shuttle runs from 5:45 AM-11 PM every day, with 6-15 minute frequency, and 30-minute frequency in the very early morning and late evening.
The beautiful scenery of the park makes a hike practically a mandatory event. Some of the best hikes in the National Park System are in Zion, including Angels Landing and the Zion Narrows. The park offers trails of varying difficulty and length, suitable for twenty minute strolls or multi-day backpacking trips.
Zion is one of the most bike friendly parks in the National Park System. Bicycles are an excellent option for traveling the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Shuttle buses are equipped with bike racks for those wishing to ride only part of the way. Bicycles are permitted on established roads as well as the Pa’rus Trail, which goes from the Watchman Campground to Canyon Junction. If you're riding from the south entrance into Zion Canyon, take the Pa'rus Trail rather than riding the main road.
Cyclists must obey traffic laws. Bicycles are not allowed on hiking trails, except the Pa'rus Trail,or off-trail. There are many off-trail bike routes just outside the park's boundary however. Ride defensively; automobile traffic can be heavy and drivers may be distracted by the scenery. Park shuttles will not pass bicycles, so use turnouts to allow them to pass. Riding through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel is prohibited; bicycles must be transported through the tunnel by motor vehicle. Usually the ranger at the tunnel will ask those driving a truck if bikers can hop in the back of their trucks. If you aren't bringing your own bike there are a few rental agencies in [wiki=edc5aa558a0531a1dbe21b61e79c4262]Springdale[/wiki].
Guided tours are not allowed inside the boundaries of Zion National Park, but a number of companies provide transportation from the surrounding areas to the park.
*Hydros Adventures Tours, 928-310-8141. [http://www.hydrosadventures.com/] Offers one day and overnight hiking, rafting, backpacking, and adventure tours to Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, Northern Arizona, and Southern Utah. Pickups in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon area.
Simply driving through Zion is an incredible experience, but to enter Zion and not take at least a short walk would be almost foolish. The park is a hiker's mecca! The trails are of varying difficulty and length, ranging from easy strolls to steep climbs or backcountry hikes. The park information desk provides detailed information and overview maps for the main day hikes and trails ranging from short strolls to strenuous hikes of several hours.
Longer backcountry hikes with overnight camping have to be discussed with the park rangers in order to reserve spots for the limited back country camp sites in the park.
The most famous trail, and arguably the most spectacular, is the 2.5 mile strenuous climb up to Angels Landing. Of the easy walks, Weeping Rock and the Emerald Pools Trails are classics. For those seeking a longer, full-day hike, the classic Zion hikes are along the East and West Rims. And for serious backpacking, the Trans-Zion route is the full 48 mile hike across the entire park, from Lee's Pass in the west of the Kolob Canyons to the east entrance of the Park.
Zion offers the photographer a unique and incredible landscape with many opportunities to explore color, texture, and light. Animal life, while not as obvious as in some other parks, offers some opportunity for wildlife photography.
On horseback permits are not required for day trips, but are required for overnight trips. The maximum group size for horseback trips is six animals. For overnight trips the maximum stay in any single location is one night. Stock must be hobbled or tethered to reduce damage to vegetation. To reduce the spread of noxious and exotic weeds all stock must be fed only certified weed-free hay one day prior to entering the backcountry, and when using park trails. When traveling by horseback on trail areas stock must remain on trails. Free-trailing or loose herding is not allowed. Animals must be kept at a slow walk when passing hikers. When standing, stock must be kept at least 100 feet from drainages.
Stock may be used in these areas:
* Trails: La Verkin Creek, Hop Valley Wildcat Canyon, West Rim (above Cabin Springs), East Rim (above rim, includes Cable Mountain and Deertrap trails), Sand Bench (November through February only).
* Off-trail areas: Coalpits Wash, Huber Wash, Scoggins Wash, Crater Hill.
Guided trail rides can be arranged with park concessionaires:
* Guided trail rides are offered from March through October. Reservations are advised and can be made by calling or in-person at the Zion Lodge.
Climbing in Zion or entering technical slot canyons requires appropriate hardware and skills. Individuals interested in climbing or canyoneering should check for information at the visitor center and be aware that some routes may be closed when peregrine falcons are breeding or conditions are unsafe.
Canyoneering is popular in Zion, but most canyoneers stick to easier canyons such as Orderville Canyon, Subway and even Keyhole and Pine Creek while others venture out to Behunin Canyon, Mystery Canyon, Lodge Canyon, Echo Canyon, Das Boot, Englestead Hollow, Spry Canyon, Icebox Canyon, Kolob Canyon and just outside the park Birch Hollow and Fat Man's Misery. Few attempt Imlay and Heaps, considered perhaps the most difficult technical canyons in the park.
Ranger Programs - Daily activities held April-October include interpretive talks, hikes, shuttle tours, and evening programs at the Zion Human History Museum, Zion Canyon Visitor Center and the campgrounds. Topics cover geology, biology, and human history. Check the Zion Canyon Visitor Center or museum for times.
*Junior Ranger Program - Zion offers the typical park, Junior Ranger program, where parents help children obtain an activity booklet from the visitor center. Kids complete the self-guided program to earn a badge.
*Junior Explorer Program - This is a unique and impressive class room activity for kids ages 6-12. Sign up at the Zion Nature Center, located at the entrance to the South Campground. Most kids love this program!
There is only one lodge within the park. The towns of [wiki=edc5aa558a0531a1dbe21b61e79c4262]Springdale[/wiki] and [wiki=ba94e506429cf23bde1a882085f22c49]Mount Carmel Junction[/wiki] are located just outside of the park and have numerous places to stay, as do further afield towns such as [wiki=66f798d0b58505fd3c498301932f45b6]Hurricane[/wiki] and [wiki=98d4caec2c53e07743bd8f663493e22e]Apple Valley[/wiki].
* The lodge is open year-round and has 40 cabins and 80 motel rooms. Cabins include two double-size beds, full bath, and fireplace. Motel rooms include either queen-sized beds or a single king-sized bed, air conditioning, and full bath. The restaurant and cafe here are the only options within the park.
There are two campgrounds within the main section of the park:
* Open year-round. This campground offers sites on a first-come, first-serve basis from November through March, while reservations may be made up to five months in advance during the rest of the year [http://www.recreation.gov/camping/Watchman_Campground_Ut/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=70923&topTabIndex=CampingSpot].
* Open March-October. All sites in the South Campground are first-come, first serve. If you're willing to not make any reservations, see if you can get a site here instead of at Watchman, since the campsites generally have more shade and are closer to the Virgin River.
Both of these campgrounds provide restrooms, picnic tables, RV dump, drinking water and utility sinks.
* In the Kolob Terrace section of Zion, there are six primitive sites at Lava Point. The sites are usually open from June to November, but the road will close in the winter due to snow. There is no water at the campground.
All backcountry camping requires a [url=http://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/backcountry-reservations-and-permits.htm]permit[/url], which is available for a fee at the visitor center. Maximum group size for backcountry usage is twelve people.
Walk-in permits are issued the day before a canyoneering trip. Backpacking permits are issued up to three days prior to the trip date. Permits given out are limited and issued only when the backcountry desk at the visitor center is open. Express Permits allow participants to obtain a permit on-line. Sign-up every three years is required and must be in person and at the backcountry desk. Due to the popularity of the "Subway" and Mystery Canyon, a lottery has been setup to dole out permits for these two technical slot canyons.
Reservations can be revoked in the event of adverse environmental conditions such as flash flood danger. Hikers are required to obtain a permit in person at the backcountry desk the day before or day of a hike.
Pristine Zones allow up to 12 people, and hiking/canyoneering in these zones usually requires technical gear and equipment: Mystery Canyon, Imlay Canyon, Kolob Canyon, Behunin Canyon, Heaps Canyon , Echo Canyon, Spry Canyon, Englstead Hollow, Bulloch Canyon, Ice Box, and the Upper Right Fork of North Creek.
Primitive Zones allow up to to fifty visitors: Orderville Canyon, Pine Creek Canyon, Keyhole Canyon, and the Subway.