Nothing like a bit of hyperbole to start the blog–and maybe get some Google SEO points–eh? Well, this was my third visit to Zion (11/4/15 through 11/7/15), and I really felt that way while I was there.
To change the format a bit, let me list five great things about Zion that make it so highly regarded and recommended by people like myself:
- Natural Beauty- This can be claimed by lots of destinations, and our national parks generally get high marks in this department. I find the canyons to be my favorites, and I like the way the southern Utah sun creates various shadows and highlights on the colorful, river-carved canyon walls that change dramatically throughout the day. I am no photog, but that is how I would explain it.
- Day Hiking- There is such a wide range of hikes from beginner/easy jaunts like the Parus Trail (flat, along the Virgin River), to more ambitious, intermediate routes, like the Watchman Trail, to thrilling and challenging trails like Angel’s Landing. In addition, there is the unusual Narrows trail, the backbone of the canyon, allowing you to splash through the Virgin River to your heart’s content (make sure you bring a waterproof camera case!).
- Springdale- The small, charming hamlet immediately outside the western gate of Zion is filled with mom-and-pop coffee shops, restaurants, lodges, art galleries, and various other stores. For the most part, there are no chains (no McDs, Starbucks, Subway, etc.) except for a sprinkling of lodging stalwarts (Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express et al.). It is a pleasure to stay in Springdale and also to visit to dine and shop. There is efficient, timely shuttle service between Springdale and the park, and during peak time, if you are not lodging or camping within the park, it is advisable to leave your car in Springdale.
- The proximity/distance to Las Vegas- I think that Zion has an ideal distance from this large city, one that is so easy to reach by plane from anywhere in the United States. The two hour and forty-five minute drive, through St. George and Hurricane (I love that name!) is just far enough to keep the crowds away and just close enough that anyone serious about getting there can do so without breaking a sweat.
- Compact layout- The compact layout of the main portion of the park means that you will spend your day on trails, lounging (perhaps with an ice cream cone) under the large cottonwood tree immediately outside Zion Lodge, perusing the Visitor’s Center, and relaxing. You will not spend an inordinate quantity of precious vacation time traveling point-to-point, as is necessary in other national parks.
There are areas of the park that I have not explored. I have not visited the slot canyons. I have not camped in Zion and have therefore not done any of the backcountry trails. Though I have not explored the eastern portion of the park in depth, the drive from the west to east gates via the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway is stunning, an engineering marvel of the 1920’s, and quite enjoyable. The proximity of Zion to other great destinations (Bryce Canyon, Antelope Canyon, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, to name a few) make it easy to combine with other visits.
Zion National Park has lots to offer for the outdoor adventurer and should be high on your list of places to visit if national parks, hiking, camping, and the love of nature and beauty are your passion.