Over the course of several magnificent autumn days, we have hiked most of the trails in the southern part of Zion National Park.
Zion, the most popular national park in Utah, was originally established as Mukuntuweap National Monument in 1909. The monument eventually became Zion National Monument in 1918, and finally Zion National Park on November 19, 1919.
Zion was a remote location when it was designated as a national park and it was necessary to construct the 25-mile Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway providing the eastern entrance to the park. The 1.1 mile Mt. Carmel Tunnel is a white knuckle ride allowing only the passengers an amazing view from the large windows which also allow for ventilation. Happily, I was the lucky passenger. This part of the park has the amazing Checkerboard Mesa and is home to many not so shy long-horned sheep.
We found lodging in Springdale, walking distance to the southern entrance. The free shuttle to the park from town was already closed for the season. The town is small and filled with restaurants, motels and gift shops, however it is dwarfed by the majestic backside of the Zion monoliths giving an added appeal.
We entered the park after sunrise and began with a hike to Emerald Ponds (there are three). The sun was hidden by clouds which made for more olive green ponds. It is, infact, the journey, not the destination. All of our hikes were filled with wild life including mule deer, California condors, and seasonally-mating tarantulas; who knew there was a tarantula mating season! The high desert provides an incredible change of scenery at every turn. We saw hanging lush gardens, cacti, and sheer cliffs made of Navajo Sandstone. Zion is the first of the Mighty Five and certainly a very complete experience. The shuttle system is outstanding and the trails are incredibly maintained. Our visit at the end of October meant no crowds, fall foliage and a stunning time. Yes, add Zion to your buck list.