Hiking Zion National Park

Zion National Park Travel Blog

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Driving through Virgin Gorge on the way to Utah

My sister finally turned 21 and came out to Las Vegas to visit me. We did the normal strip stuff, but had the most fun hiking Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah. Zion National Park is located a little over 3 hours to the northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, and is the oldest national park in Utah (dedicated in 1919). The Virgin River runs through the canyon, carving out beautiful slot canyons that make the park wildly popular. Zion is also home to the second largest arch in the world, Kolob arch. The park is connected by a long, narrow and winding tunnel that runs through a mountain. It is somewhat expensive ($25 USD), but you get a 7-day pass, which is more than worth it as this park has miles of trails. During the peak months (April-October) there is a shuttle bus that runs between most of the popular areas, but we went during the off season and were able to freely explore the park with our own car.

Because it was raining and snowing the first day, and there was a chance of rain the second day, we were unable to hike the canyons due to flash flooding. I have hiked this park several times as a day trip from Vegas, but if you really want to experience Zion and nearby Bryce Canyon, I recommend staying in one of the surrounding towns.

About a week before Christmas my sister and I headed up to Zion for the first time. We left Las Vegas late, about 8am, and did not arrive until closer to noon as it began to rain and then snow. Along the way we drove through Virgin Gorge, a deep chasm that seperates Nevada from Utah. The gorge winds along the Virgin River, with steep rocks lining the road. If you look closely as you drive through the gorge you can see bighorn sheep along the rocky outcrops.

 Luckily for us and our small car, the snow was nothing more than a dusting and did not affect the roads. Entering into the park we winded our way up to and through the tunnel. The tunnel is old and narrow, taking several blind turns. You must go slow or you may hit an oncoming car, as we found out. On the otherside of the tunnel the snow was falling a lot harder, and made beautiful patterns on the rocks. We stopped at Checkerboard Mesa, a huge rock outcrop made of Navajo sandstone. The sandstone has striations that run vertically and horizontally, making the checkerboard pattern. Visiting the park when it is snowing was the best time, as all of the rock patterns were highlighted by the snow. Neither of us had dressed for snow, and we were soon cold and wet, so we headed back to Las Vegas with the plan to return in a few days.

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Driving through Virgin Gorge on th…
Driving through Virgin Gorge on t…
Crazy icicles inside the park
Crazy icicles inside the park
Great Arch
Great Arch
The tunnel through the mountain
The tunnel through the mountain
Checkerboard Mesa
Checkerboard Mesa
Zion National Park
photo by: rsvpme