Grand Nature in Zion National Park
By Valerie Mellema
Located in Southwestern Utah, Zion National Park features some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States. The park is characterized by high plateaus and deep canyons. A popular site for geologic study, the arid climate creates a large expanse of bare rock in rich colors.
Located along the edge of a region known as the Colorado Plateau, the rock has been upturned, titled and eroded forming the Grand Staircase, which is a series of colorful cliffs stretching between Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. To experience the full expanse and size of the park, you need to walk among the towering cliffs and through the narrow canyons. The fine minerals that make up the rock of Zion National Park have been described as appearing as gigantic desert sand castles.
The first inhabitants of this area date as far back as 12,000 years ago and their presence is still evident. Many of the parks archeological sites feature ancient pictographs. It is thought that the area’s inhabitants were minimized as a result of climate change and over hunting.
Later, pioneer farmers used the Colorado Plateau to grow crops as Zion’s elevations of 3,666 feet to 8,726 feet are almost ideal. The vast differences in elevation encourage the diverse plants and animals found in this region. Common animals include mule deer and turkey in forested plateaus, while bighorn sheep and juniper prosper in the canyons.
The incredible geology of Zion National Park has created unique sites unlike anywhere else in the world and as diverse as the topography of the park itself. The park is home to the highest concentration of breathtaking, freestanding arches of all shapes and sizes.
The canyons offer endless hiking, but require advanced planning and preparation. Flash floods are common during rainy seasons, and checking with park officials for warnings and precautions are strongly suggested. Additionally, river flow can change quickly and you can check the visitor centers for the latest information.
Vehicle permits are only $25 per car for a 7-day pass and can be purchased online in advance. The Zion Lodge is the only in-park lodge and is open year-round. The lodge offers rooms and suites with prices ranging from $155 to $175.
See a beautiful Zion National Park picture