Description - Zion National Park protects and preserves 229 square miles of unique geological formations as well as a diverse and interesting population of plants and animals. A majority of the formations within the park are made of sedimentary rock, mostly sandstone. There are some limestone, shale, mudstone and conglomerate formations as well. Astute visitors will notice evidence of recent volcanic activity in the form of cinder cones and lava flows. Another geologic wonder within the park is Kolob Arch, the world's largest, with a span that measures 310 feet.
Copyright: - US National Park Service
Zion National Park
The plant life within the park is some of the most diverse in Utah. Nearly 800 native species are present. Vast differences in elevation, sunlight, water and temperature create 'microenvironments,' like hanging gardens, forested side canyons and isolated mesas that lend to plant and animal diversity.
The park supports a variety of commonly seen animals including mule deer, rock squirrels, lizards and many species of songbirds. Rare or endangered species in the park include: Peregrine Falcons, Mexican Spotted Owls, spinedace fish and the Zion snail (found nowhere else on earth).
The rich history of this site doesn't end with the natural environment. Human history also enriches this unique region. Evidence of Ancestral Pueblo peoples date from about 2,000 years ago. The Paiutes lived in the region about 800 years ago. Mormon settlers arrived in the 1860s and gave the canyon its present name: Zion, meaning a place of safety or refuge.
- The biggest attraction of this park is the natural beauty of the Virgin River, its tributaries and the natural features created by erosion. The main area of interest is Zion Canyon, which lies down river from the narrows along the North Fork Virgin River. In this area of the park Zion Canyon Scenic Drive leads visitors to the Grotto Picnic Area, Zion Lodge, Weeping Rock, Temple of Sinawava and several trails and viewpoints. Zion Canyon is accessible by shuttle bus to everyone but those individuals staying at Zion Lodge.
South of Zion Canyon is the western end of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway. This portion of State Highway 9 leads ten miles eastward from Zion Canyon to Checkerboard Mesa. En route the highway leads through two tunnels and several switchbacks, serving as an engineering marvel from the 1930s.
The northwestern portion of Zion National Park was annexed in 1956. It protects the canyons of the Kolob Plateau. This area is usually less congested than Zion Canyon. It includes a short scenic drive, visitor center, several overlooks and trails.
Recreation - This park provides a myriad of outdoor recreation opportunities for folks of all interests and skill levels. It is known for exciting hiking opportunities in narrow backcountry canyons, but many easily accessible frontcountry activities are enticing too. The park maintains two information centers: the South Visitor Center and the Kolob Canyon Visitor Center. These are great places to discover what is available, within your interests, in the park and to check current conditions.
Camping is permitted in Zion National Park. Two developed campgrounds, Watchman and South Campgrounds, are located near the south entrance, have modern facilities and electrical hookups. Group Campsites are available by reservation to groups of 9-40 people. Facilities include restrooms, drinking water, picnic tables, fire grates, RV dump stations and utility sinks. Lava Point a six-site primitive campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Maximum vehicle size at this site is 19 feet. Permits are required for all backcountry camping. Permits are available at both visitor centers.
Bicycles are permitted only on established roads and the Pa'rus Trail. Cyclists must obey traffic laws. Bicycles are not allowed on hiking trails or off-trail. Riding through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel is prohibited.
Canyoneering is popular in the vast canyons of Utah. Permits are required for all through hikes of the Narrows and its tributaries, the Left Fork of North Creek (the Subway), Kolob Creek and all canyons requiring the use of aid. The Subway is limited to 50 people per day and reservations are taken.
Climbing on Zion's sandstone requires appropriate hardware and techniques. Climbing and rappelling is prohibited on the cliffs above Middle and Lower Emerald Pools and Weeping Rock. Some routes may be closed to climbing when Peregrine Falcons are nesting. A permit is required for overnight climbs. Visit the Backcountry Permit Desk for additional climbing routes and information.
Climate - Elevation in Zion ranges from 3,666 ft (1,128m) in Coalpits Wash to 8,726 ft (2,660 m) on Horse Ranch Mountain. These elevation differences provide a variety of temperatures and weather conditions. Day/night temperatures may differ by over 30 degrees F. The annual average Precipitation is 15 inches.
Spring weather is very unpredictable. Stormy, wet days are common, but warm, sunny weather may occur too. Precipitation peaks in March and September. Spring wildflowers bloom from April through June, peaking in May.
Summer days are hot (95-100 degrees F), but overnight lows are usually comfortable (65-70 degrees F). Afternoon thunderstorms are common from mid July through mid September. Storms may produce waterfalls as well as flash floods. (This is particularly important if you are hiking in any narrow canyons.)
Fall days are usually clear and mild with the atmosphere stabilizing from the dramatic summer weather; nights are often cool. Autumn color displays begin in September in the high country and in Zion Canyon in early November.
Winters in Zion Canyon are fairly mild. Winter storms bring rain or light snow to Zion Canyon, but heavier snow to the higher elevations. Clear days may become quite warm, reaching 60 degrees F; nights are often in the 20s and 30s. Winter storms can last several days and cause roads to be icy, especially on the east side of Zion. Zion roads are plowed, except the Kolob Terrace Road, which is closed in winter. Be prepared for winter driving conditions from November through March.
Zion National Park is located in southwestern Utah, on the edge of the Colorado Plateau. The park boundaries surround Zion Canyon, which was formed through water and wind erosion and the North Fork Virgin River.