Coming off of a high, after visiting coral pink sand dunes, the day had only just begun…it was still early…and Zion Canyon National Park beckoned as it was our next stop on our mini-grand-circle tour. A little over an hour’s drive (from Coral Pink Sand Dunes State park) located around the town of Springdale, is the majestic towering canyon formations that are a trademark signature of Zion.
The entire park spans a mammoth geographical area, which is why there are multiple entrances to it. The most common ones being on the Zion-Mount Carmel highway, coming from the east or the south.
...where the roads are washed and painted with sandstone dye.
And let me begin describing the road…first. It was amazing to note, that the entire road was shaded red/brown in color! As if years of washed sand trickling down the canyons, permanently dyed the roads to give it that distinct hue. Hopefully the photograph did some justice…quite fascinating to drive on dyed roads! It was as if, a third dimension was added to the already multicolored visual palette.
Coming from the east, the Checkerboard Mesa is definitely not your ordinary gatekeeper to the park! These are gigantic hardened sand stone buttes criss-crossed with hard lines that give it its unique name. Standing in its endless shadow, while trying to capture its length and breadth in a camera lens, its unimaginable, how centuries of geological time creates monoliths of this magnitude. Its a very humbling experience.
Tunneling through...In addition to the above, another spectacular feature of the east entrance to the park, is a 1.1mile long tunnel built through the canyons! A special feature of the tunnel is its 6 large window openings offering unparalleled views of the canyons and the park's geology. Although you cannot stop anywhere inside the tunnel...the short yet memorable journey through it, gives you enough of a glimpse, to make you want to see more.
There is however, parking area just outside the tunnel and some good hiking trails to take advantage of as well. The road after the tunnel loops and turns with switchbacks maneuvering you deep into the canyon abyss. If just the entrance alone is this intriguing, imagine, what the rest of the park has to offer?
Crawford Arch - some things you never can forget. This historic arch formation on Bridge mountain was one of them. Just outside the park's information center is a spot, from where you are to 'spot' this natural arch formation.
Its not an easy one to locate...considering the size of the mountain facing you...however, my mom (being the geography teacher) was the quickest to find it (she obvioulsy knew what to look for)...and now we were all frantically spanning the mountain, trying to locate it! It might have seemed small amongst the large scale of geographic formations all around, but (look at the picture) man felt miniscule in comparison to the arch. How big and tall really are the canyons at Zion??
There was still so much to see and do, we decided we needed a quick rest break, after all the driving before taking on the rest of the park. For the night, we stayed at the comfortable Zion Park Inn conviniently located just a mile away from the park entrance.
TIP: The entire park is so beautiful...I couldn't give you any better tips, than to make it here. The drive alone is well worth it. If animals and wild life are your thing, consider stopping by an Elk farm just outside the park and feeding elk, llama, big horn sheep, yak and other native fauna with the stunning Zion mountains in the backdrop. Its an up-close and personal experience.