Zion National Park is located on
the western edge of the Colorado Plateau which stretches from
Nevada's Great Basin Desert to the western slope of the Rocky
Vertical walls rise to nearly 4,000 feet above the Virgin River.
The differences in elevation create a variety of habitats ranging
from desert to alpine. Swampy areas along the river support
aquatic life and often feature watercress.
The Mormon settlers who arrived in the canyonlands around 1850
called the place 'Zion,' a name meaning 'sanctuary.'
Many of the spectacular sights maintain the names given by visitors,
including Angel's Landing, the Great White Throne and the Temple
Next to Yosemite, Zion National Park is the most popular national
park for rock climbing in the United
About 25 million years ago the Colorado Plateau began to rise
thousands of feet out of the sea. The mountains attracted more
rain which ran into the rivers and streams which in turn wore
down the soft sedimentary rocks. Zion's sandstone cliffs are
said to be the highest in the world.
The main force responsible for sculpting Zion Canyon is the
Virgen River which was formed 10-12 million years ago. Summer
thundershowers and spring rains continue to carve the canyon
The cliffs are colored red from iron oxide. The lack of iron
oxide make the upper levels of the Cathedral Group white.
On the river flood plain are groves of box elder, velvet ash
and Fremont cottonwood. Box elder are found along streams. Members
of the maple family, their leaves turn yellow in the fall. Zion
has the widest variety of plant life in Utah, about 800 species.
The park is home to 75 species of mammals, 270 species of
birds, 32 reptile and amphibian species and eight species of
The parks' wildlife include mountain goats, wild turkeys, mule
deer and mountain lions (cougars). Other predators include the
bobcat, gray fox, golden eagle and the ringtail cat. Among the
endemic species is the Zion snail is only found in the hanging
gardens near the Virgen River.
Many of the hikes in Zion are backcountry adventures. The
park has instituted a system of permits limiting the number
of hikers to particular areas. Permits can be arranged as much
as a month ahead of time.
Trails that lead to the Emerald Pools leave from the Zion
Lodge. Horseback rides are also available from the lodge.
The trail that leads to Angel's Landing leaves from the Grotto.
At least four different indigenous groups lived in Zion before
the arrival of the settlers. The Anasazi settled here for nearly
2,000 years. Later the canyons were home to the Southern Paiutes.
Zion National Park was first protected in 1909 as Mukuntuweap
National Monument which means 'Straight Canyon' in the Southern
The park received 2.7 million visitors in 2007. Park managers
incorporated the use of shuttle buses to carry visitors on a
scenic loop during the busiest time of the year, from April
to October. Shuttle service is available to most trailheads.
Ranger programs interpret the natural world.
Nearby parks include Bryce Canyon (86 miles) and the North
Rim of the Grand Canyon (120 miles).
GETTING THERE -- Zion is reached from access
points on the west and eastern sides of the park. From the west,
take Interstate I-15 and head east on Route 9. From the east,
take Highway 89 and then Route 9 into the park. The park is
155 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
SHUTTLE -- The free shuttle system provides
service to Zion Canyon Scenic Drive from April to late October.
The service began in 2000 to reduce traffic congestion.
PARK SUPPORT - The Zion
Natural History Association was established in 1931 to aid
the naturalist programs.
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Zion National Park
Zion National Park