We were successful in getting one of the last parking spots inside the National Park. This is quite a visited park and there is not very much parking. We knew that if we didn’t arrive early enough, we would need to park in the nearby town. There is a great, free, transportation system organized both within and outside of Zion NP to eliminate cars on the scenic loop and to aid congestion getting in and out. The buses run on propane which further helps the environment.
We bought Junior Ranger books, the Rangers were very specific that under 6’s not be allowed to do the program proper, they have a worksheet/scavenger hunt instead. It was a little frustrating as Nate would’ve been able to complete the requirements for the 6 year old but he was happy enough to do very little; he loses interest a lot faster than the others for the books!
We caught the bus to the Museum and watched the movie about the Park. It is so amazing how the Parks we’ve visited recently are all connected by the Colorado Plateau that covers the states of UT, AZ, NM and CO. Zion is the middle of the ‘The Grand Staircase’ (a wondrous geologic ladder): the upper level of Zion is at the same elevation as the lower level of Bryce, the lower level of Zion is at the same elevation as the upper level of the Grand Canyon. We have learned a lot about the geologic features of these Parks and the effects of water and erosion in creating these amazing places.
Zion National Park’s canyon was formed by the Virgin River, which continues to shape its landscape today. As with others, there are also waterfalls which appear out of the rock in places where the water can no longer seep through – it can work its way through sandstone but cannot seep through shale so needs to release out of the wall at that point. There are quite a few waterfalls in the Park and they are beautiful.
We caught the bus all the way to the end of the Scenic Drive, to the Temple of Sinawava, where the Narrows trail begins. This is paved for about a mile but finishes at the river. The trail then actually continues through the Narrows (named as the canyon is only 13ft across at some points with towering cliffs on either side) by walking along, actually in, the river. Dave was quite keen to go at least some way further into the trail, unfortunately it was closed due to the high volume of water flowing through – if the amount of water exceeds 140cb/second (I think!), the Rangers close the trail: too dangerous. When Dave saw how fast it was going, he was happy that it was closed!
We were surprised at the number of people here today and how much of an eclectic group there was. We’ve got used to seeing the same types of people at the Parks and this was a little different, more of a ‘flip-flops, family day out’ type of crowd. This may have been due, in part, to the fact that this week is ‘fee-free’ week in all the National Parks. Unfortunately, and I’m not sure if this was because of a lack of exposure to the outdoors or not, there was also a blatant disregard for the rules. As part of their Junior Ranger programs, the kids often need to pick up a bag of trash, so trash collecting has now become part of our regular routine. Sadly, on this trail, we collected a lot.
Another problem is the feeding of squirrels. There are constant warnings about not doing this: the bus driver narrates about the area and stresses the dangers of feeding wildlife, signs are everywhere reminding people that there is a $100 fine if they are seen feeding squirrels, pictures of people with squirrel bites and stitches warn of what can happen. Regardless, we saw a great many people coaxing them over, holding out offerings of food, so frustrating and frankly, seeing what they can do, pretty stupid as well!
The crowd thinned out a little as the day wore on. We were happy to spot mule deer in the trees by the side of the trail, well camouflaged and quietly eating. We also saw chipmunks, many lizards, fish and frogs.
We got back on the bus to the next stop: Big Bend, which gives spectacular views of the area. We saw so many rock climbers this weekend; we were incredibly impressed.
Honestly, the heights they were reaching with minimal ropes were alarming. At Big Bend, we could see in the high distance a couple of climbers on a ledge. Once we got the photos uploaded though, we were able to see that there were actually 3 climbers standing on the ledge and one on the cliff face further up – amazing!
Our next stop was the Weeping Rock Trail, described as short, but steep – the paved trail ended at a rock alcove with dripping springs. We were laughing once we got up there – it was hardly ‘dripping’, more like pouring off the ledge above us in a forceful torrent and spraying us with a welcome mist; it was quite beautiful.
The kids were getting to their ‘done’ point and eager to return to the camper for Nate’s cake, so we got back on the bus to return to the Visitor Center and the truck.
States visited: 49!
visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800
Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)