Southern Utah – Zion National Park

As I mentioned in the previous post, we spent Thanksgiving in St. George with Deb’s Sister Sandy and her husband Mike.

In addition, we were fortunate to get reacquainted with some old friends, Jim and Kristy from AZ, who were also visiting Sandy and Mike.

Here’s an interesting story about how we all met. Ages ago, during my college years, I was working during the summer at a bank in Southern California. Sandy had just moved back into the area and was looking for work, so I suggested she apply at the bank. She did and was hired. Kristy also worked at the bank and she and Sandy became good friends. Well, she was married to Jim and they introduced Sandy to Mike on a double-date. The rest is history, as they say. 40 years later we are all in Utah sharing Thanksgiving together!

We had a great time catching up and we all plan to get together again in Indio in the spring!

We were also blessed to visit Zion National Park twice during the trip, since it’s so close to St. George! I’ll combine the trips into a single narrative, rather than describe both trips.

Zion National Park

The hour drive from St. George is beautiful, slowly revealing what’s in store as you enter the canyon. Here is the entrance sign at the bottom of the canyon. There was a small backup at the entrance when we visited, after Thanksgiving. The shuttle system had just ended for the season, so we could explore the canyon in our own vehicle.

We made a brief stop at the visitor center and then on to explore the park. In a mile or two you come to this junction. Left will take through the canyon all the way to The Narrows, where it dead ends. Right will take you up and over the Canyon to the high country. We planned to explore both, and decided to turn left through the canyon first.

Next up is The Court Of The Patriarchs. These white tipped mountains do seem imposing as they stand guard over the canyon. It was a beautiful day so we got out for a short walk by the river.

Then on to the historic Zion Lodge. This is one of the lodges featured in the PBS’s Great Lodges of the National Parks.

It’s an inviting building and we would love to stay here sometime. Doesn’t this picture make you want to sit a spell on the rockers outside, or enjoy a cappuccino by the window?

Across the road from the lodge is a fun trail leading to the lower, middle, and upper Emerald Pools.

The trails lead to the lower pool first. You literally walk underneath the side of the cliff with water falling to your right, forming a stream that leads to the river you just crossed. It reminded me of the back side of water joke on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. 🙂 Only very impressive in scale and grandeur.

You should be able to see the water drops in the photo, but I’ll also post a video.

The trail then leads to the Middle Pool. This time of the year the Middle Pool is more like the Middle Puddle, but the view is still spectacular.

This is one of my favorite vistas from the trip. I like the layering of colors in the mountain and the trees on the ledge hanging over air.

In fact you are treated to amazing vistas the whole way down.

Back in the car and on to the next stop.

This is called the Weeping Rock, and is similar to the Emerald Pools.

Here you can clearly see how the water has hollowed out the rock you walk beneath, with the water falling on the other side. I can only imagine what this is like in the spring!

Here’s a view from under the rock.

A little further up the road is Big Bend, referring to the river. we happened upon Big Bend with the light just perfect. The cliff to the right is the end of Angels Landing, the famous steep and precarious trail.

We drove to the end of the road and I took a brief hike to the beginning of The Narrows, and then it was back in the car for a drive up and over the canyon to the East Entrance. I love all the colors in this photo…cliffs, trees, sky, and water.

As you start to drive up the the series of switch backs, you can help but notice this huge arch in the mountain. It’s called The Great Arch, but it’s actually not an arch at all, but a Proto-Arch, as you can’t see through it yet. In a few million years, a short time, geographically speaking, it will be a true arch.

We will be at the top of the arch soon, as that it the endpoint of the Canyon overlook trail!

The tunnel connecting the two sides of Zion National Park is just to the right of the arch. You can see an air tunnel cut into the side of the mountain here. It was cut as they had multiple teams working different sections of the tunnel at the same time.

Here we go! the tunnel is a little over a mile long and the edge of the tunnel follows the cliff, only about a dozen feet inside.

As you can see, it’s quite dark inside, except for the headlights,

…and the holes cut into the side of the cliff.

Once outside the tunnel, you immediately notice a change in the terrain and climate. Note the frozen waterfall on the far right of this photo!

We also found the herd of Big Horn Sheep that roam the park. We actually saw them both times we visited!

The Canyon Overlook Trail is not to be missed! The rugged beauty of the area is amazing. Here, underneath a cave in the side of a cliff, you can also see the narrow slot canyon below.

We ran into the herd of Bighorn Sheep again, this time grazing near the overlook.

The overlook has a breath taking view, as you can see.

Here you can see the winding road and switchbacks we took to get here.

And here, this park sign names the peaks visible from the overlook.

Just amazing. We lingered here quite awhile before heading back to the car, which was parked at the entrance to the trail.

Finally, we finished our day trip with lunch at MeMe‘s Cafe. We enjoyed the lunch, and the view was even better.

We hope to make it back here again soon and explore more of the area. Many more National Parks in Utah to explore!

Al & Deb

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