Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Sights To See

Rain, wind, the pull of gravity and the small, seemingly peaceful Virgin River are master sculptors chiseling out Zion Canyon and its massive stone formations. Like inspired artists, these sculptors cannot put down their work. Refinements take place continuously, changing the details of the canyon, and the sandstone monoliths that give the park its power and character.

The Watchman, standing guard at the park entrance, rises 2,600 feet above the river and stands guard over the entrance to Zion Canyon.

West Temple, located west of Springdale, is the highest peak in the southern part of Zion. In layer upon layer of rock, it ascends more than 3,800 feet from its base, revealing much geologic history. The Great White Throne, about five miles upstream from the visitor center, rises more than 2,400 feet above the canyon floor. Comprised of Navajo Sandstone, the top of the mega-lith has less iron oxide than does its base, so its pale shoulders are set off by a darker body of stone. 

From atop Angels Landing, Zion is all around you. It slips away beneath your feet to the depths of the canyon and the river. Vertical red cliffs of sandstone encircle you at eye level. Cathedral Mountain, Observation Point, Cable Mountain and the Great White Throne rise hundreds of feet in the west, north and east. Angels Landing is a destination for those of strong body and nerve—some might even say faith. To get there, you must hike a trail with steep drop-offs on both sides which is definitely not for those with a fear of heights. For your safety, use the chain handrail.

Continuing deeper into the canyon is Weeping Rock, a grotto carved from stone and lavishly adorned with hanging gardens. Above it towers Observation Point. From this lofty perch, you can see the length of Zion Canyon and witness the erosional wonders achieved by the Virgin River.

The road ends at the Temple of Sinawava. From here, the Riverside Walk takes you deeper into the canyon beyond the end of the road. This is an easy, paved path with 2,000-foot-high canyon walls towering on both sides. When conditions are favorable, visitors may walk beyond the end of the trail toward the Zion Narrows, wading upstream in the Virgin River itself. (Check first at a visitor center con-cerning flash floods.) The trailhead for the full, 16-mile hike through the Narrows lies beyond the park (permit required).

All of these and many other wonders are located in the southeastern section of the park, but there is much more to Zion than just the canyon. In the northwest corner is Kolob Canyon. It offers vast areas for backcountry exploration. The Finger Can-yons of the Kolob were carved from Navajo Sand-stone by the action of the north, middle and south forks of Taylor Creek. Double Arch Alcove is in the canyon of the middle fork of Taylor Creek.

Also found in this section of the park is Kolob Arch with its span of 310 feet making it one of the longest freestanding arches in the world. The arch can be reached by hiking seven miles from Lee Pass along the La Verkin Creek Trail. The 14-mile round-trip excursion is strenuous and is usually done as an overnight backpacking trip (permit required). 

Punctuating the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway is a one-mile tunnel, blasted out of solid sandstone. Begun in 1927 and completed in 1930, it was considered, at the time, to be an engineering miracle. Visitors still use the tunnel when entering the park from the east. Near the tunnel in the eastern part of Zion is the Checkerboard Mesa, a prominent example of naturally sculpted rock art. Horizontal lines, the remnants of ancient sand beds, are etched into a checkerboard pattern by vertical fractures that have been enlarged over the years by runoff from rain and melting snow.