Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sunday: Zion National Park

We stayed Saturday night at the Crystal Inn in Cedar City. Nice, clean, and comfortable, and we spent an amusing evening in the Shakespearean-themed Bard Eating and Drinking Establishment that was part of the hotel. The menu listed the wines as "Mead", and the beers as "Ale", and we ordered The Bard Burger and Ye Olde Fish & Chips.

Sunday morning and time for the last leg of the trip: a visit to Zion National Park before driving the final 250 miles to Provo.

The view on the way to Zion

Zion is around 20 miles south of Cedar City, and there are three very different ways to enter the park. The West Entrance is the first one we came to but we drove past on the advice of the hotel clerk, who had told us the South Entrance was by far the best. Once we got there we realised that the advice was good. The West and South Entrances are not linked by road inside the park, so whichever one you go in you have to go as far as you can and then retrace your steps out again.

If you're interested you can get a nice map and guide at the National Parks Service website.

The South Entrance in Springdale

The South was better because there is a small town called Springdale, with lots of nice hotels and shops, and further up the road takes you into Zion Canyon: the central and most popular part of the park. The road into Zion Canyon is open only to the shuttle buses that run every 5-6 minutes, so you have to park at the Visitor Center and ride up the rest of the way. Before we did that we drove along the road leading out via the East entrance, because half way along the road becomes a tunnel cutting right through the huge mountains, and we wanted to go through it just for fun.

The tunnel is around a mile long and quite narrow, so if large vehicles like RVs or buses want to go through the rangers have to stop the traffic at the other end.

After the tunnel we stopped for a break short of reaching the East Entrance and then went back the way we had come, back through the tunnel and to the Visitor Center, where we parked and got the bus to Zion Canyon.

The road to the East Entrance. This was our turnaround point.

The view on the road back down to the Visitor Center. The mountains have a stunning range of colour: pink, yellow, brown, blue, orange, purple all mixed together in some places.

The main activity in the canyon is the hike up to the Emerald Pools: a series of three tiered pools that feed each other via waterfalls. The signs warned of dangerous precipices and strenuous hikes to the middle and upper pools, but that didn't scare three hard cases like us. Indeed, we had missed out on seeing a waterfall in Yosemite so that spurned us on past the warning signs.

The bottom of the canyon and the start of the Emerald Pools hike.

We got to the lower pool to find it almost dry, and fed by a pathetic trickly of water from the wall above. It turns out these falls also dry up in Summer, fed as they are by melting winter snow.

What should be a tumbling waterfall drips disappointingly down to the lower pool.

But by now we were halfway up so we soldiered on to the top. It was a hot day and my water ran out as we neared the top, but the atmosphere at the top pool was calm, quiet, and cool, so we had a good long rest there before starting back down.

Stunning scenery along the trail.

We left the park around 3.30pm and it took us another four hours driving to reach Provo, where it was time to put our work heads back on :-(

Zion National Park is a beautiful place and I hope to return one day in the early Spring to see the waterfalls and pools in full flow. Ooh... BrainShare's coming up in March... !

1 comment:

Joe said...

Nice pictures! I went there a long time ago..when you were able to drive your car all over the park. There is a short trail starting at the east entrance that gives you a great view of the park. When you stop by the office, I will show you the picture.