There is a strange atmospheric anomaly at work in Zion. Perhaps it is because your body is so close to the soaring red sandstone cliffs, their edges traced by the undulating flight patterns of Condors. Maybe it’s the icy stillness that permeates every corner in the early morning chill before the sun climbs above the tallest peaks and sets the wind to work. Then again it could be the soft constant sound of the river that courses over the gravel at the canyon’s bottom. Whatever it is, the results are always the same. Your tear ducts will spontaneously seep and the clean cold air will catch in your throat leaving you unable to speak. And so there you stand, looking and feeling yourself opening outward to fill the universe before you. Zion.
While the Grand Canyon is a sensual delight you cannot help but remain detached from grasping its entirety unless you are one of the fortunate few that mule down the side trails or fork over the bucks required to finance a rafting trip on the Colorado but even then you see the Canyon only in parts which your mind then has to stitch together into a whole. At
Zion; What you see is what you get and you get quite a lot.
We entered the park through the little used eastern entrance. The entrance fee is $25 per car. Motorcycles are $15 and RV’s are more. I don’t think that they charge the RV’s enough as doing so would cut down on their numbers. RV’s are a constant headache in the park. They slow down traffic on the 2 lane roads and when they have to pass though one of the narrow tunnels everyone else is brought to a grinding halt. If you find that you cannot travel without taking all of your possessions with you then perhaps you would be better served by staying home and watching National Geo videos. But Hey! That’s just me talking. The eastern road is the only route open to vehicular traffic. The main road on the valley floor is restricted to the Park’s shuttle buses. The buses are free and run every 5 minutes so there’s little waiting to fret about. The buses make 8 stops along the route and each stop offers trail heads to be climbed with difficulty rating ranging from easy to death defying. The bus makes
Karen Heading Up
Trail-head to overlook.
stops at Zion Lodge where you can grab a cup of coffee, catch a meal or settle in for a game of chess in the hotel lobby with any number of folks eager for a game and a chat and a smile. Rooms at the lodge start at $185 per nite in low season which is only slightly higher than what the lesser hotels outside the main entrance to the park charge. If I were to do it again I would most definitely stay at the lodge.
Zion is a land of contrasts. White sandstone lies atop red like a parfait. Checkered sandstone domes entice foolish people to try and scale their heights without benefit of ropes or safety equipment. Watching folks climb up these steep curves is the easy part. Watching them attempt to get back down is when it gets really dicey. Plants and trees in a hundred shades of green cling to the slopes. Cliff tops bracket a turquoise sky. The songs of Mountain Wrens shatter the stillness.
Parking in Zion is severely limited. There is one lot at the visitors’ center just inside the gate and it fills quickly. The visitors center opens at
Canyon Overlook View
Note the switchback Rd Going To Kolb Rd
8 AM but the gates themselves are open 24/ 7 so you can get in and out anytime you desire. You are advised to park in the town of Springdale and use one of the town’s free shuttles to the park entrance where you can transfer onto a park bus. Part of the beauty of Zion is the fact that cars are not allowed on the main road. Rangers offer walking tours and nature classes throughout the canyon. If you look up the word ‘Perky’ in the dictionary you’ll immediately see a picture of a Zion ranger crowned with a Campaign hat.
Lots of families here with young children, most of whom, apparently, cannot make their way out of bed until late morning. Take advantage of this fact. Karen and I would drive up to the canyon overlook trail at 7 in the morning just before sun rise. At that hour we had the park to ourselves. A thermos of coffee, some bread, some cheese and some fruit and you’ve got yourself one memorable breakfast. The hike to the overlook is just a mile each way and well marked. By noon all of the trails are clogged with children
Trail To Overlook
Beautifully precarious jaunt
whining for Daddy to pick them up and carry them.
There are a lot of ‘Adventure’ companies offering tours of the ‘Narrows’. This is the area at the extreme end of the canyon made famous by numerous photographs of some lone backpacker making their way through narrow halls of sandstone bathed in heavenly golden light. It isn’t that easy. While the tour companies will tell you that anyone can do it, it is, in fact, a difficult walk made all the more hazardous by slippery rocks and rushing river water. Many people pay the exorbitant fees but few complete the journey. Highly inadvisable for kids younger that 12.
Tips for visitors:
Bring food with you if you’re planning on a picnic or you are on a budget. The one food store in town ‘Sol Food Market’ has an excellent selection of goods but they don’t come cheap. Stop at Wal-Mart in Hurricane and stock up. Restaurants in Springdale are of poor quality and extremely pricey. Chains like Subway, Burger joints and chain restaurants are banned from Springdale to keep food prices high. I learned this from a Sol Food Mkt. manager.
Hotels in Springdale are not
cheap. Try to book on Hotwire or Priceline for discounts as desk clerks in Springdale will not negotiate the rack rates. I paid $150 a night at Majestic View Lodge and was lucky to get it at that price even though the hotel was at 40% occupancy. I think the town’s business leaders get together for coffee every morning to discuss prices for the day. Staying in a town other than Springdale will entail a long drive getting to and from the park.
Buy yourself some decent walking shoes. This is no place for tennis shoes or Crocs.
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