Zion National Park

Utah, United States North America icon North America

Zion National Park is located in the western part of the United States in the southwestern part of the state of Utah. The park boundaries cover an area of 229 square miles (590 sq km). Bryce Canyon National Park is a neighbor and often a national park visited in combination with Zion.

The park is situated between the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and the Mojave Desert creating a blend of geographical landscapes and a unique ecosystem that features arches, buttes, canyons, mesas, monoliths, mountains, rivers, and the renowned slot canyons.

Carved by the Virgin River, the largest draw is the phenomenal Zion Canyon which stretches 15 miles (24 km), reaching depths of 2,640 feet (800 m). The elevations of the park range from 3,666 feet (1,117 m) to the highest summit of Horse Ranch Mountain at 8,726 feet (2,660 m).

The diverse ecosystem includes coniferous forest, desert, riparian, and woodland. Some of the common vegetation include sagebrush, prickly pear cactus, Indian paintbrush, scrub oak, ponderosa pine, juniper, pinyon pine, Gambel oak, aspen, and yucca.

Bats account for 19 species of the 79 mammalian species. Predators include badger, bobcat, cougar, coyote, gray fox, and ring-tailed cat. The predator birds include the renowned golden eagles, California condor, red-tailed hawks, and the peregrine falcon which is the world’s fastest bird.

Popular mammals include bighorn sheep, mule deer, rock squirrels, beaver, cottontails, and jackrabbits. The varied life zones give way to 28 species of reptiles that call Zion home.

Zion Highlights

Hiking the trails of Zion National Park is the pinnacle experience although you can also take guided horseback rides. There is a network of over 50 miles trails throughout the park featuring 7 trails within Zion Canyon that can be made roundtrip in under four hours.

The Narrows is located in the North Fork of the Virgin River and serves as one of the most famous hikes in Zion however, hiking the northwest area requires permits. 

Two of the more popular hikes include the trail to Angels Landing, which takes about 4 hours round trip, and the trail to Kolob Arch which takes about 8 hours round trip. Both make their way up good elevation changes requiring hikers to be in decent shape.

The more adventurous rock climbers take advantage of the various walls that include Moonlight Buttress, Prodigal Son, Spaceshot, and Touchstone.

Trails in Zion National Park

Zion National Park is renowned for some of the most intriguing hiking experiences available in North America. There are easy to difficult trails that provide access to the different natural wonders of the park.  There are well over 100 trails that traverse through the different facets of nature on display in Zion.

Zion Narrows Riverside Walk: This is an easy trail that is not navigating the Narrows but the river that runs along with them.  This is a 1.9-mile ( km). The trail travels between the canyon walls and along the bed of the river.  It is fairly flat but a little rocky.

Zion Canyon Overlook Trail: Although this is a short 1-mile (1.6 km) trail with an ascent of 442 feet ( m), it is a moderated trail.  This will travel along the canyon walls out to a vista with a lookout over Zion Canyon.  The panoramic view is astounding and will leave you speechless.

Zion Narrows Trail: This is one of the sought after adventures in the park.  This difficult rated trail ascends 4,163 feet ( m) over 8.6 miles ( km) and requires that you return the same day and same route unless you have a permit for something different.  This is the iconic Zion experience but it is challenging and the expectations are that you are physically fit to engage in this endeavor. This is one of the most intriguing hikes you may ever experience.

Subway Trail: This is a challenging trail and a permit is required.  You will ascend 1,305 feet ( m) over 9.1 miles ( km).  The trail is full of scenic landscapes that are highlighted in the cascading waterfall.  You will meander along the river and across rocky terrain while making your way out to this picturesque waterfall. The pipe-like gorge creates the namesake of the trail and is another intriguing facet of nature available to those who venture out into the wilderness of Zion.

Zion Highlights

  • Zion Canyon
  • Horse Ranch Mountain
  • The Narrows
  • Angels Landing and Kolob Arch
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