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Southern Utah Spotlight: Zion National Park

Each night as the sun sets on the Western horizon, Zion National Park is illuminated. The sprawling mountains, canyons, and wildlife is a breathtaking visage from our perch 8,800 feet above sea level.

To give you a closer look at the National Park in our backyard, we’re dedicating this post to everything Zion.Zion Nation Park Sign

A Brief History

Zion National Park was established by U.S. Congress on November 19, 1919, but its history stretches back thousands of years. Evidence of humans dates back to the archaic period (10,000 years ago). Permanent villages (pueblos) sprouted up and family groups settled in the area. The Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi or “Basketmakers”) were one of these early groups, archeological findings date from 7,000 – 300 B.C. The Fremont cultures resided in and around the park from 300 BC to AD 1225. In 1225, the Southern Paiute and Ute groups settled in the area. Only 14% of the park has been archeologically explored, much of its rich tradition and history remains embedded within the park.

An Iconic, Diverse Park

The 229-square-mile park’s topography varies from its highest peak Horse Ranch Mountain (8,726 feet) to the lowest canyon (3,666 feet) and includes mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, slot canyons, and natural arches, as well as four “life zones” (desert, riparian, woodland, coniferous forest). The park is home to over 78 wildlife species.

Zion National Park is known for its landmarks like Angels Landing, The Narrows, and Emerald Pool. Sunsets and the Milky Way are also worth sticking around for — the National Park department doesn’t light up the night sky preserving it as a dark sky resource. Pa’rus Trail is a paved walking trail that’s off the main beat and perfect for catching the sunset or observing the night sky.

Speaking of recommended things to do in the park…

Activities

The National Park Service has identified 12 trails (download the guide) that range from easy to strenuous. Checking the park service website before visiting is always advised, trail availability depends on weather/season.

Recommended Zion activities:

  • Traverse the Riverside Walk. A 1.5-hour (or 2.2 miles roundtrip) hike, this paved trail begins at Temple of Sinawava and follows the Virgin River through a deep canyon. This1140-hiker-at-zion-national-park.imgcache.rev.web.900.518 trail is kid-friendly and wheelchair accessible.
  • Hike Watchman Trail. A 2-hour (or 3.3 mile) hike with about a 400 feet gradual incline — this trail is ideal for both new and veteran explorers. It includes views of the Towers of the Virgin, lower Zion Canyon, and Springdale. 
  • Hike Sand Bench Trail. The trail is between the Court of the Patriarchs and Zion Lodge (about 4 hours or 7.6 miles). It is open for hiking, as well as guided horseback rides in the months of March through October. (Book a guided horseback ride.)
  • Hike Angels Landing via West Rim Trail. One of the most iconic climbs that is not for the faint of heart because it has the risk of long drop-offs. The trail takes about 4 hours (5.4 miles) and has an elevation of 1,500 feet. 
  • Drive to Court of the Patriarchs. The three sandstone peaks near Zion Canyon; the trailhead is reachable only by shuttle in May through October and includes a short, paved walk.

Whether you visit for the views or for the trails — the immersive beauty of Zion National Park is striking year round. 

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