While Zion National Park is by no means one of the largest parks in the national park system, it does have several distinct geographical sections with a lot of diverse and remote territory. The most popular section of the park is the main canyon (commonly referred to as "Zion Canyon"), with the majority of visitors staying in Springdale and using the Zion Shuttle system (discussed on the following page) to travel up and down the main canyon and see the sights. The other sections of Zion National Park are far-less popular and require a vehicle, but the scenery rivals the majestic views in the main canyon.
|The Sections of Zion National Park:|
THE MAIN CANYON
The main canyon (Zion Canyon) is the popular touristy section of Zion National Park that features all of the amenities: the Visitor Center, the Zion Human History Museum, the Zion Lodge, and the tourist town of Springdale just to the south or the park. During the height of tourist season, regular shuttle buses take visitors up the canyon, with many interesting stops and trailheads along the way. The majority of officially-maintained trails are found here and hikes up to the viewpoints are well worth the effort. Famous landmarks include the Emerald Pools, Angels Landing, Weeping Rock, and the Great White Throne.
UPPER EAST CANYON
The east section of the park holds the most scenic drive you will ever experience. Route 9 carves a wondrous snaking path through the beautiful Upper East Canyon's slickrock formations and drainages, connected to the main canyon via the amazing Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. There aren't very many official trails in this section, but there are plenty of random sandstone formations, drainages, and minor peaks to explore and photograph. This area is slickrock heaven! The Upper East Canyon is home to Checkerboard Mesa, one of the more famous Zion formations. Big-horn sheep can often be spotted from the road.
Beyond the end of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive at the Temple of Sinawava, the walls of the main canyon close in to form the famous Zion Narrows, an amazing section of canyon that stretches for over a dozen miles to the north. The North Fork of the Virgin River carves and snakes through the deep sandstone labyrinth with a vast network of remote side canyons and tributaries. Hiking the Zion Narrows is the highlight of many vacationers' experiences in Zion, following the river from the high plateau down through the wondrous slot sections and back out to civilization in the main canyon. Several popular technical canyoneering routes descend through the various tributaries of the Zion Narrows.
The "Kolob Terrace" is a lesser-traveled section of Zion, accessible via the Kolob Terrace Road that heads north from the town of Virgin. The drive through the Terrace up to Lava Point offers a good sampling of wondrous views, from golden valleys to the majestic North and South Guardian Angels high in distance. The Kolob Terrace is home to one of the most popular canyons in Zion: the Left Fork of North Creek, aka. "the Subway." Primitive camping is available at Lava Point, the highest point in Zion National Park. Note that the upper sections of the Kolob Terrace Road are not plowed during winter, so this part of the park is typically inaccessible during the colder months.
THE KOLOB CANYONS
Far from the crowds of the main canyon, the Kolob Canyons is the isolated northwestern section of Zion National Park, noted for the deep pink and orange glow of the area's Navajo sandstone formations. It is roughly a 40-mile drive from Springdale to the Kolob Canyons entrance at Exit 40 off of I-15; the Kolob Section has its own ranger station and visitors center. The lovely Kolob Canyons Road is a great five-mile scenic drive from the entrance up to a viewpoint of the finger canyons. This section of the park is much more remote and subdued than the main canyon, and hiking or backpacking in this area is great if you are looking to get away from it all. Landmarks include the Double Arch Alcove in Taylor Creek and the large Kolob Arch.
THE DESERT LOWLANDS
Southwest of Springdale and north of Route 9 is the hottest, driest section of Zion National Park and is overlooked by most visitors as they drive to and from the main canyon. At a lower elevation than any other part of the park, the desert section's beauty is more subtle and is pleasant only in the cooler months, but several washes are worthy of exploration up into this lonely area of the park. Beyond Zion National Park proper and south of Rockville in BLM land, routes to the Eagle Crags formations and Canaan Mountain offer wonderfully isolated hiking and backpacking possibilities.