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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Zion Canyon is for hikers - Our Visit to Zion Canyon, Utah, USA

We visited Zion National Park as part of our week-long vacation. It is one of the ultimate destinations for avid hikers and mountaineers.

Zion National Park is located near Springdale, Utah in the Southwestern United States. Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep is located in the 229-square-mile Zion National Park and cuts through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the Northfork of the Virgin River. The highest elevation in the Park is 8726 ft. The Park is home to numerous plant species as well as birds, mammals and reptiles and has 4 distinct life-zones: desert, riparian, woodland and coniferous forest. It is reported that human habitation in this area started almost 8000 years ago, with small family groups of Native Americans. To protect the Canyon, in 1909, the President of the US declared the area a National Monument, under the name of Mukuntuweap National Monument, which however got changed into Zion National Park subsequently, a name used by the local Mormon clan, to make it more attractive to tourists.
“It’s ironic, in this seemingly unending desert, that water creates most of what we see. North of Zion, rain falling on the 11000-foot-high Colorado Plateau races downhill, slices Zion’s relatively soft layers, and pushes it debris off the Plateau’s southern edge. This edge is not abrupt, but it steps down in a series of cliffs and slopes down as the Grand Staircase. Above Zion, topping the Staircase, Bryce Canyon’s crenellated edges form as water trickles off the Plateau. Below Zion, Grand Canyon forms the lowest rung into which 90 percent of Colorado Plateau waters run. Zion’s gathered waters, known as the Virgin River, traverse Mojave Desert lands and join the Colorado River in the Lake Mead’s handmade basin before completing their Pacific-bound journey.”-  From the brochure at Zion National Park.
The Zion and the adjacent Kolob Canyons are marked by 9 varieties of rock formations, formed over 150 million years of sedimentation. These rock units are called the Grand Staircase.  
Here are the pictures of the different formations of rocks.
Dakota Sandstone formation

Carmel Formation

Temple Cap Formation

Navajo Sandstone formation

Keyenta Formation

Moenave Formation

Chinle Formation

Moenkopi formation

Hurricane Cliffs
The 6-mile long road into the Zion Canyon ends at the Temple of Sinawava, referring to the Coyote God of Paiute Indians. The canyon narrows at the Temple. There is a kilometer-long foot-trail to the mouth of the canyon narrows, along the Virgin River. From there, one has to go through a 20-feet narrow gorge up 2000 feet to reach the top. The Zion Narrows through the river was closed when we visited. It is reported to be a hazardous and uncertain trek with the upstream Virgin River water stream.

The Zion National Park is served by a free shuttle service between April and October of a year, starting from the Visitor Centre all the way up to the Sinawava Temple stopping over 9 points along the way for the benefit of the hikers and tourists. The other roads of the Zion are open to all private vehicles year-round.
While moving around in the shuttle we could also see a few mountaineers climbing up the steep rocks using ropes and hooks and a few others having overnight rest on a hammock suspended from vertical rocks.
There are different trails, some easy, some moderate, and some really steep and hard. We did the easier one along the river from the Grotto as well as the paved Riverside Walk from the Sinawava Temple. Angels Landing Trail, a 5.4 miles trail with long drop-offs, the last section of which is a route along a steep, narrow ridge to the summit, often covered by snow and ice is said to be one of the most strenuous ones. In a separate blog, I am attaching a video on the Angels Landing Trail that I saw on the YouTube. Hair raising, butterfly-in-the stomach trail, really!

We also drove through the Zion-Mount Carmel scenic Highway, passing through the Carmel Tunnel. On the way we saw the notable Checkerboard Mesa and the East Temple. On our return, some of us went up a steep hike on the Canyon Overlook Trail, just before the Tunnel.
            Kolob Arch, the world’s second longest natural arch lies on the adjacent Kolob Canyon section. However, due to want of time, we couldn’t visit Kolob Canyon.
The weather in Zion Canyon changes with the seasons. The Spring and Autumn seem to be the most acceptable season to visit the Canyon. Summer could be harsh with scotching Sun and winter could mar the hikers’ enthusiasm with snowfall and ice. Storms during July through September may produce waterfalls as well as flash floods.  
The area had been inhabited by ancient Native Americans in the past. European exploration of the Canyon had begun only during the 18th century. Mormons had settled in the Utah areas for their mineral deposits, timber, and for grazing cattle, sheep, and horses. They had also diverted Kolob water to irrigate crops in the valley below. The Mormon settlers had named the area Kolob – to mean ‘heavenly place nearest the residence of God.’
USA does a lot to preserve Nature by declaring a number of places as National Park. Small children are encouraged to attempt a small test to get recognized as Junior Forest Rangers, and they are presented with a medallion. The infrastructure like roads, electricity, parking areas, restrooms, dining areas for picnics, ‘ramadas,’ and camping and resting areas in these National Parks are extremely good, though cell phone tower coverage is mostly not available inside the Canyon area due to elevation. Hikers will have to carry their own snacks, lunch and water, wherever they go inside the Canyon. No restaurants are available excepting at Zion Lodge Point in the middle. There are several hotels, restaurants, lodges, shops just before the entrance to the National Park.

        I thank Wikipedia and the Zion National Park Brochures for the information and some of the pictures contained in this blog.
            Here are the pictures I took:

                                                                              ....Await my final report on Bryce Canyon

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