Hidden Gems of Zion
|Ancient sand dunes|
The awesome cliffs of Kolob Canyons, in the far northwest corner of Zion National Park, were known only to locals until recently. But during the past decade the park service has opened up the area so as to take pressure off Zion Canyon. Still, Kolob is a vast region, with many secrets remaining. One short and spectacular trip, into the south fork of Taylor Creek, makes a splendid introduction for those new to Zion. From the Kolob Visitor Center, just off Interstate 15, drive up the highway 3.1 miles to a major parking area on the right, near a hairpin turn.
Walk up the road a short distance almost to the highway bridge spanning the south fork. A trail, unmarked but excellent, leads due east into the awesome gorge, and within minutes you will be exclaiming over the vivid colors and impossibly steep walls. Gambel oaks line the trail as it winds upward about 400 vertical feet to a flat valley. Soon, about 1.5 miles from the car, one reaches the end of the trip: massive chockstones that effectively block the narrow gorge.
Many short trails in Zion Canyon lead to soulful spots; go at dawn or dusk and you'll likely be alone, with only the sounds of dripping water in grottoes or the descending trill of a canyon wren to keep you company.
Strong hikers won't want to miss the walk up to Observation Point, on the East Rim; the view is stunning. Backpackers will enjoy multi-day trips into the plateau country that comprises much of Zion's interior.
The hike up to the top of Angel's Landing is a popular trip done in just a few hours. The trail, a masterpiece of engineering, sports carved steps and handrails as it ascends 1,500 feet in 2.5 miles. This hike, the closest thing the United States has to the famed "Iron Ways" of the Italian Dolomites, is not for acrophobes.
Those interested in serious canyoneering shouldn't miss the most famous gorge in the Southwest, the Narrows. This trip is possible only when weather conditions permitlate June is the ideal time for this long journey, which can be done in one very long day. Begin this strenuous trailless hike from the Zion backcountry after getting a mandatory permit from the visitor center. As with all narrow canyons in the Southwest, be aware of the flash-flood danger; thunderstorms far back in the mountains, invisible from the canyon depths, can send massive amounts of water churning downstream in a matter of hours.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication