of the Patriarchs at Zion National Park, Utah. The
stately rock formations were carved by wind and
water over millions of years.
NATIONAL PARK, Utah — This is a spiritual place. A
glorious place. A place of serene ocher mountains and
leaning narrow canyons.
are coming not only to tour the park but to nourish
themselves," says Harriet Killshorse, owner of a
local antiques shop, who has lived amid the enviable
scenery for 25 years. "You can’t help but feel the
Zion National Park’s popularity rises, those spirits may
be feeling a bit crushed and crowded these days. But Zion
are having severe issues with parking," says park
ranger Jamie Mansfield. "We have to figure out how
not to love the place too much."
America’s naturalists and lawmakers began designating
national parks, the idea was to preserve beautiful places
for future generations. In 1903, artist Frederick
Dellenbaugh’s painting of Zion’s ravishing loveliness
was displayed at the St. Louis World’s Fair, prompting
people back east to marvel and officials to name it a
national monument in 1909, and in 1919, a congressional
bill designating Zion National Park was signed into law.
its towering sandstone cliffs and slot canyons shaped over
the millenia by the winding Virgin River, Zion is one of
the nation’s busiest national parks. This year, an 18
percent jump in visitors through May puts it on pace for
3.6 million visitors in 2015 — 1 million more than in
2006. The visitor center parking lot is full by 10 a.m. A
system of park and town shuttles is efficient but can get
thing protecting Zion’s treasures? The far-sighted
decision in 1997 to ban cars in Zion Canyon from March 15
to Oct. 25. You either have to take a shuttle or hike.
solitary contemplation of nature’s beauty can still be
had at Zion, which sprawls over 229 acres. You just have
to look harder to find it.
morning on the Emerald Pools Trail, waterfalls spill from
above as visitors stroll below, gripping an iron railing
fastened to rock. Because Zion is in oft-parched southwest
Utah, visitors expect arid conditions. But the
microclimate of Zion and its meandering Virgin River
creates lush, green areas flush with ferns, columbines and
meet Sherry Schmidt, her husband and twin 11-year-old
daughters. The family is trying to see highlights of Zion
in just two days as part of a sightseeing circuit. They’ve
just left arid Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and
are enjoying the green of Zion.
parks are all very different," Schmidt says, pausing
at a lookout that encompasses Zion Canyon from a bird’s-eye
view. "But you can see how they are all
most famous sights include Emerald Pools and the Narrows,
a water-filled slot canyon that, at points, is only 20
feet wide. Zion’s most famous hike is Angel’s Landing,
a not-for-the-faint-of-heart trek with precarious
drop-offs. The park’s most famous vista may be the Court
of the Patriarchs, three peaks that reminded early
visitors of three biblical figures: Abraham, Isaac and
Zion also is special because of its American Indian roots,
from ancient Pueblo settlers to the Paiute, says
Killshorse. Her husband is Kiowa Native American. Their
Springdale antiques and Indian trading post, about a mile
from the park gates, is called Frontier Plunder.
matter how many people pile into the park, it will remain
steady, she predicts. Zion’s ancient mountains have
patiently endured generations of eager tourists, skilled
climbers, foolish hikers, disrespectful louts and
"amplifies spirits, both good and bad. We often do
ceremonies to protect the visitors, that they not harm
Mother Nature or themselves," she says.
us, this is a metaphysical place."
there: Zion National Park is a 3-hour drive and 160 miles
northeast of Las Vegas. It is 300 miles south of Salt Lake
City. The park has two entrances, the main Zion Canyon
entrance in Springdale, and the Kolub Canyon entrance 45
The Zion Park Lodge within the park has some limited
availability for summer, about $209 per night (www.zionlodge.com).
Just outside park gates, Springdale has many clean, decent
hotels (for a list, see www.zionpark.com) including
Hampton Inn & Suites and Holiday Inn Express (both
about $200 per night in season.)
Park entry fee: As of July 1, vehicle entry is $30;
pedestrians are $15. Entry ticket is good for 7 days.
Zion has horseback riding, climbing, cycling, camping,
hiking, ranger programs and canyoneering.
National Park is part of the so-called "Grand
Circle" of parks in the southwest U.S.
attractions on the Grand Circle include Monument Valley;
Mesa Verde National Park; Lake Powell-Glen Canyon National
Recreation Area; Canyon de Chelly National Park; Valley of
the Gods; Natural Bridges National Monument.
a free visitors guide see www.grandcircle.org.