One of the hidden outdoor gems in the Western United States is Zion National Park. The park sits close to the borders of Utah and Arizona. Zion itself contains many spectacular hiking trails like Angel’s Landing, an incredible multiple hour hike nearing 1,500 feet in elevation change, to The Subway, a 9-mile subway-like tunnel carved straight through the rock by a flowing stream. Visiting this National Park is a must for any outdoor enthusiast.
Even getting to the park is a trip in itself. Entry from the southeastern portion of the park brings any excited traveler through a long pitch-black, man-made tunnel wide enough for a two-way road. The park slowly reveals itself through emergency air escapes carved into the side of the tunnel. More and more frequent cutouts give visitors a glimpse of the incredible red desert coloration contrasted by the bright green, vibrant life in the canyon. At the end of the tunnel, visitors are thrown out to an oasis with full views of 3,000-foot towering cliffs on all sides. A number of switchbacks diving into the canyon make up the remaining descent to the park’s visitor center.
Once in the park, visitors can choose to discover the park from several vantage points. Choices range from spectacular hikes culminating in high vantage points overlooking the entire park, to bus tours allowing visitors to admire the views safely from the ground. Hiking is rated from easy to strenuous, so it is wise to talk to a Park Ranger at the visitor center before setting out on a hike.
Camping is also allowed in the park at specified campgrounds, or visitors can stay in lodging in the surrounding area. Early planning is highly recommended since in-season, the park becomes a bustling mecca of both foreign and domestic outdoor enthusiasts. Extra research and planning is necessary during the wet/monsoon season as several hiking routes can become extremely dangerous and potentially deadly.
From its dramatic entrance, to its ability to forever change a visitor’s definition of exposure, to its extreme elevation changes, Zion will astonish even the most leery outdoor traveler. Be careful, plan well, and Zion will deliver as one of the greatest secrets of the Western United States.