November 23rd, 2015 – Zion National Park, Utah – Deep canyons cut smoothly into colorful rock, Zion National Park is about being at the bottom of the canyon and looking up. The river provides a strip of green along the bottom to contrast with the towering walls of red. I left the trailer at an RV park about halfway between Zion and Bryce, and made day trips in the Jeep.
I came in through the East Entrance and headed straight on through to the turn off for the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. After some time in the Canyon I headed out to the South entrance and the visitor’s center. On my way back through the park I took some time along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, where I spotted some big horn sheep and outside the park several herds of deer.
Being off season, the buses were not running along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. They say there are about 400 parking spaces spread out along the road, so they try to open and close the entrance to avoid jamming it solid. I arrived just as they were reopening the gate after having been closed for an hour or two. I was was second through, but parking was difficult or worse in any of the popular places. I think I would have preferred the buses to the chaos. As it was I didn’t really feel comfortable leaving the car in any of the “places” I could stop save one lucky parking spot. I heard stories of folks being ticketed for bad choices in parking, and that seemed like the only choice other than just driving slow. I did stop a couple of times in questionable spots to grab a picture and move on.
Fall was clearly evident in the Canyon with colorful leaves, a few on the trees, and a lot on the ground. The sky was brilliant blue and the clouds wispy and high. Along one of the walls I spotted some rock climbers, but it seems like there was probably a lot more of this going on where I didn’t see it. The canyon has curves like the river, long smooth curves, first to one side then the other. Sometimes the curves doubleback leaving a wall standing out into the canyon.
The visitor’s center is primarily outdoors, and the small bit that is indoors is designed to be cooled and heated passively. Tall towers use evaporation to create cool air, which being heavier, drops down the tower and pushes hot air out. The overhangs of the windows keep the hot sun out during the summer but when the sun drops lower in the winter it peeks under and comes in.
Heading back up and to the East out of the Canyon the road tunnels through the rock wall. At intervals the tunnel comes near the side of the mountain and arched windows allow a little light in and exhaust fumes out. As the road continues to climb along the river the canyon walls show alternating red and tan layers, and intricate curved patterns of erosion. The evergreen trees and shrubs make the reds more vivid to the eye, and the blue sky and wispy clouds make it hard to look away. Even the road has been paved with a red rock, neatly blending into the scene.