Zion National Park
If you are looking for relaxation, you will find that the scenery will inspire feelings of peace and reverence.
In fact, “Zion” is an ancient Hebrew word that means a place of sanctuary, and this is why an early Mormon pioneer named Zion Canyon as he did. If you are looking for adventure, you will enjoy the many trails and opportunities to bike the trails or float down the Virgin River. Regardless of your reason for coming, bring a camera – it’s gorgeous here!
You will find that there is much to do and see in Zion National Park. On the east end of the park, you will enjoy spectacular scenery like the Checkerboard Mesa. As you continue to travel along the Zion – Mt. Carmel Highway you will see slick-rock country and travel through two tunnels. One of these tunnels is just over one mile long, and this stretch of road was considered impossible to build during its construction in the 1920s.
Hiking is perhaps the most popular activity, and there are many different trails varying in length and difficulty level. Families with small children might enjoy the 1.2 mile long paved trail to the Lower Emerald Pools which ends at a beautiful waterfall surrounded by hanging gardens.
Zion offers advanced hikers the world famous “Narrows” – slender canyons formed by flash flood water and wind. Be cautious when hiking the Narrows since flash floods are a common occurrence.
Enjoy biking up the canyon; bikes and other equipment can be rented in Springdale, the gateway to Zion.
The major feature of the park is Bryce Canyon which, despite its name, is not a canyon but a giant natural amphitheater created by erosion along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce is distinctive due to geological structures called hoodoos, formed by wind, water, and ice erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks. The red, orange, and white colors of the rocks provide spectacular views for park visitors. Bryce sits at a much higher elevation than nearby Zion National Park. The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,400 to 2,700 m).
Most park visitors sightsee using the scenic drive, which provides access to 13 viewpoints over the amphitheaters. Bryce Canyon has eight marked and maintained hiking trails that can be hiked in less than a day (round trip time, trailhead) Mossy Cave (one hour, State Route 12 northwest of Tropic), Rim Trail (5-6 hours, anywhere on rim), Bristlecone Loop (one hour, Rainbow Point), and Queens Garden (1-2 hours, Sunrise Point) are easy to moderate hikes. Navajo Loop (1-2 hours, Sunset Point) and Tower Bridge (2-3 hours, north of Sunrise Point) are moderate hikes. Fairyland Loop (4-5 hours, Fairyland Point) and Peekaboo Loop (3-4 hours, Bryce Point) are strenuous hikes. Several of these trails intersect, allowing hikers to combine routes for more challenging hikes.
The park also has a 7.4 magnitude night sky, making it the one of the darkest in North America. Stargazers can therefore see 7,500 stars with the naked eye, while in most places fewer than 2,000 can be seen due to light pollution (in many large cities only a few dozen can be seen). Park rangers host public stargazing events and evening programs on astronomy, nocturnal animals, and night sky protection. The Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival, typically held in June, attracts thousands of visitors.
The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in the United States in the state of Arizona. It is largely contained within the Grand Canyon National Park, one of the first national parks in the United States. President Theodore Roosevelt was a major proponent of preservation of the Grand Canyon area, and visited it on numerous occasions to hunt and enjoy the scenery.
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and attains a depth of over a mile (6,000 feet / 1,800 metres) Nearly two billion years of the Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. While the specific geologic processes and timing that formed the Grand Canyon are the subject of debate by geologists, recent evidence suggests the Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River continued to erode and form the canyon to its present-day configuration.
Tourists wishing for a more vertical perspective can board helicopters and small airplanes in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Grand Canyon National Park Airport (seven miles from the South Rim) for canyon flyovers. Scenic flights are no longer allowed to fly within 1500 feet of the rim within the national park because of a late 1990s crash. Maverick Helicopter offers a tour that descends and lands 3,500 feet into the Grand Canyon in Hualapai Indian Territory. The last aerial video footage from below the rim was filmed in 1984. However, some helicopter flights land on the Havasupai and Hualapai Indian Reservations within Grand Canyon (outside of the park boundaries). Recently, the Hualapai Tribe opened the glass-bottomed Grand Canyon Skywalk on their property, Grand Canyon West. The Skywalk has seen mixed reviews since the site is only accessible by driving down a 10-mile (16 km) dirt road, costs a minimum of $85 in total for reservation fees, a tour package and admission to the Skywalk itself and the fact that cameras or other personal equipment are not permitted on the Skywalk at any time due to the hazard of damaging the glass if dropped. The Skywalk is some 24 miles (39 km) west of Grand Canyon Village at the South Rim.