Sunday, October 21, 2012

Zion National Park: Exploring The Lesser Known Areas

Down through the millennia the North Fork of the Virgin River has cut a swathe of Navajo Sandstone, nearly 15 miles long and a half-mile deep, to create what is now known as Zion Canyon. Before it became a national park the Anasazi and the Southern Paiutes lived among the mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths and natural arches of Zion. Spanish priests first visited the present-day park in 1776. Eventually Mormons came to the area in 1858, and would settle there by the early 1860s.

In 1909 President William Howard Taft signed legislation that made Zion a national monument, which was known at that time as Mukuntuweap National Monument. In 1918 the name was changed to Zion National Monument, and in the following year was upgraded to a national park.

One of Zion’s most famous features is the death-defying hike up to Angels Landing. The trail climbs 1200 feet in roughly 2.4 miles. To reach the top hikers have to ascend Walter's Wiggles, a series of 21 steep switchbacks up to Scout Lookout. The last half-mile features sharp drop-offs along a narrow path, which includes chains for hikers to grip. The chains are there for a very good reason. In the past eight years alone six people have plunged to their deaths after losing their footing along this trail.

Although Zion Canyon is the main attraction, I highly recommend spending at least 2 or 3 hours exploring the area east of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. In addition to hiking the easy half-mile trail out to Zion Canyon Overlook, there are several interesting rock formations to check out. Here are a few random photos from this strange and beautiful area of the park:

Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks covers 56 hikes in the two parks, as well as the surrounding areas, such as Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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