Zion National Park
Whether you’re into hiking or biking, climbing or photography, a visit to the Zion National Park is an absolute must on any holiday to California. A sweeping, otherworldly landscape of rugged mountains, scooped-out canyons, desert wilderness and the rushing Virgin River, it’s a fascinating and awe-inspiring place to explore.
With almost 300 species of bird and 70 species of animal, it’s perfect for those with an appreciation of the great outdoors. However, for those who want to do more than wander the dozens of hiking trails, there are plenty of things you can do to transform your visit to Zion National Park into an unforgettable experience.
While every corner of the park has something spectacular to offer, Zion Canyon is the jewel in the crown. Carved out by the Virgin River, Zion Canyon feels like a colossal, red rock amphitheatre when viewed from ground level. Roughly 26km long and 910m deep, it’s the place to go if you want to escape the California crowds and get back to nature.
Between March and November, Zion Canyon can only be accessed by the park’s shuttle-bus service, which has been put in place to ensure that the roads leading up to it are free of congestion. It’s a free service and all the buses to Zion Canyon are wheelchair friendly.
Walking, wheels and the Wild West
Zion National Park is immensely popular with those who like to stretch their legs and get to grips with the stunning scenery. There are plenty of trails for walkers and hikers, leading through some of the park’s major attractions, such as the Kolob Canyons and The Narrows.
Cyclist are well catered for, with biking trails that’ll take you across plains, up mountains and along the river. Alternatively, between March and October, there are guided horseback trips through the park, on which you can unleash your inner cowboy and head for the hills. You’ll also find river trips available along the Virgin River.
Anyone wanting to canoe or kayak will need a Wilderness Permit, and anyone wanting to kayak their way through The Narrows will need to be qualified to paddle Class V Whitewater; this rough and challenging route is definitely not for novices.
If you have your own transport, the opportunity to see the night skies is one that shouldn’t be missed. There are some outstanding observation points in Zion National Park, which will allow you to see the stars in all their glory, and with surprisingly little light pollution to ruin the show. At sunset, head to the Museum Patio, for atmospheric views of the East Temple and Bridge Mountain, before the skies are alive with stars. Zion Canyon is another astrological hotspot. While the arrangement of its rock formations prevents you from actually seeing the sun set, you will be treated to the spectacle of watching the rusty rock change colour.
For those who want to watch the sun go down, the Pa’rus Trail is the best place to observe the spectacle in all its glory. If you are exploring the park at night, be sure to have a torch or headlamp with you and stick to the recommended trails.