Zion is the last national park we visit on our Rocky Mountains National Parks road trip, and just as we begin to think “do we want to see another canyon?” – we enter Zion along the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway (part of Hwy 9) – and the views are spectacular!
There are plenty of pullovers along this road and you will find yourself using them all.
Checkerboard Mesa is the first point of interest. At 2,033 metres it is an impressive sight with its checkerboard markings.
Canyon Overlook Trail
Just before the entrance to the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel is a pullover for the Canyon Overlook Trail. This walking trail is a 1.6km round trip. At the end of the trail is an overlook with panoramic views of cliffs and sandstone towers. We do not have time to walk this trail and wait our turn to enter the tunnel.
Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel
There is a 10-minute wait to enter the tunnel as traffic has been stopped to allow an oversized vehicle to come through. The 1.8km Zion-Mt Carmel tunnel is at the top of the canyon and once through the other side we have amazing views.
There are a series of switchbacks as we make our way down through the sandstone cliffs to the bottom of the canyon.
Springdale, Zion National Park Visitor Centre & Zion Canyon Shuttle
Arriving in Springdale, the southern gateway and ‘base camp’ for Zion National Park, it is very crowded with visitors and we find it very difficult to find parking. Fortunately there is a Subway cafe that is not yet open and we are able to park in their carpark at a cost of US$30/day. We then walk over to the Zion NP Visitor Centre.
If you stay in Springdale it is advisable to leave your car at your accommodation and take the regular Springdale Shuttle Bus through the town to the Visitor Centre.
The Visitor Centre has excellent information on the National Park and is the transportation hub for the shuttle buses that run through Zion Canyon along Zion National Park Scenic Drive.
Zion Canyon is the most popular section of Zion National Park and due to congestion, between April and November visitors are not allowed to take their cars into Zion unless they are staying inside the Canyon at Zion National Park Lodge.
The shuttle buses transport visitors along the canyon road, with 8 stops made along the way and a recorded commentary. You can get on and off as often as you like. The roundtrip takes about 90 minutes if you don’t get off the bus – however the best way to experience Zion Canyon is to get off the shuttle bus and take one of the many beautiful walks.
The shuttle bus is very crowded and we take the ride all the way to the last stop – Temple of Sinawava – where we do the Riverside Walk. This is a very scenic and easy 3.2 km walk along the Virgin River. We are surprised to see lush vegetation with ferns and moss.
The Riverside Walk is also the gateway to a famous walk in Zion – The Narrows.
Located in the northwest corner of Zion National Park, we unfortunately did not have time to visit Kolob Canyons. Information on this area can be found on the Zion National Park website.
10 June 2018