Fall is right around the corner. While I’m not sure how that can be, I know it’s true because everyone is geared up for football. This time of year is bittersweet, the weather turns to perfection, but the football season also makes me a weekend widow. It’s only natural when you are married to someone tied to the sportsbook and/or casino business. Anyhow, knowing our weekends together were numbered, my husband and I planned a last minute weekend getaway to Zion National Park.
This was our first excursion in Utah. We have only passed through before on our big move out west. We were enamored with the state’s beauty at that time, we were excited to finally return and actually experience it (I really don’t know what’s taken us so long). Since we were booking last minute, same day reservations couldn’t be had within the park or at nearby Springdale. However, we did secure reasonable rates at the Comfort Inn Zion in Hurricane ($55/night), which is less than 20 miles to the main entrance to the park. It suited our needs just fine and made a nice home base.
Zion National Park is open daily throughout the year, but during parts of the year some services and facilities may close or be limited. Check the National Park Service website for details. All visitors must purchase a pass to enter the park, each is valid for seven days: Private vehicle admission is $25, motorcycle and price per person is $12 (bicyclists, pedestrians and youths under 15 are free).
April through October, the scenic drive in Zion Canyon is closed to private vehicles. Visitors ride shuttle buses to the main attractions, the shuttles are free and run from early morning to late evening about every seven to ten minutes. Shuttle service also extends to Springdale, since parking inside the park is limited; if staying in Springdale you can take the shuttle directly from your hotel. Otherwise, public parking is available in designated areas in town and shuttle stops are posted.
Once inside the park there are a variety of activities to enjoy such as bicycling, hiking, bird watching and horseback riding. There are also photo opportunities galore; Zion is a photographer’s paradise. Guided tours are also available late March to early November. We were anxious to see the sights so we hopped right on a shuttle, first stopping at the Court of Patriarchs overlook. Then, we proceeded on to the Zion Lodge stop which is where you find the trailheads for the Emerald Pools Trails. The lower pool is an easy hike on paved trail; it leads to the middle and upper pools which are moderate hikes with unpaved climbs, loose sand and rocks. Taking on each of the pools equates to about a three-mile hike. It’s a great starting point to warm up before conquering some of the more challenging hikes like Angel’s Landing. We intended to do that hike next, but weather prevented us from doing so. We had isolated storms, 40 mph wind gusts and temperatures in the 90’s to combat. After the conquering the Emerald Pools we felt it was best to try Angel’s Landing in the spring. Instead, we saw the sights at Weeping Rock and Big Bend before returning to the car for the next leg of our adventure.
A short distance away is Kolob Terrace Road accessed via Virgin, UT. This less traveled road is narrow winding and steep, it leads to the Kolob Reservoir, which is a small lake at 8,118ft popular for fishing. The drive offers stunning views of distant cliffs and valleys, there are a few hiking trails and a number of overlooks along the canyons. The drive is really fantastic, I highly recommend it.
Another remote area of Zion National Park is Kolob Canyons. This area is about 90 miles from the main entrance of the park. It was scenic thirty-minute drive from Hurricane on I-15 North. Exit 40 marks the turn off for Kolob Canyons, just past the visitor center you’ll find Kolob Canyons Road. You must travel carefully because the road ascends 1,100 feet in just five miles. The road takes you along the Hurricane Fault, a 120 mile fracture in the earth’s crust and up above Taylor Creek, through the hillside and past endless layers of multi-colored stratified rock. There are a number of overlooks to take in the spectacular views; at the top you reach a parking lot. From here, we hiked the Timber Creek Overlook Trail. It’s a quick mile that follows a ridge offering views of Timber Creek, Kolob Terrace, Pine Valley Mountains and even the Grand Canyon’s North Rim can be spotted in the distance.
That hike marked the end of this adventure, but we look forward to a return visit once the football season ends. I hear spring is a wonderful time to visit if you can’t make it for the change of colors in the fall. Pick a weekend, and experience Zion National Park for yourself. You won’t regret it. It’s a trip that can be done in a day, but I’d suggest staying overnight to really take it all in, it is truly striking. Check out Megan Edwards’ article To the Megaliths and Beyond for further information about accommodations within the park at Zion Lodge.