On Zion's Edge

Reaching Zion
By John R. Soares
  |  Gorp.com
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Zion Canyon is 60 miles south of Cedar City, 52 miles east of Saint George, and 40 miles west of Kanab. The Kolob Canyons region is 20 miles south of Cedar City and 31 miles north of Saint George. The Zion Natural History Association publishes an excellent topo map showing all trails. Buy it at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center or the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center.

Best Time to Go
Prime hiking season runs from early spring through autumn. Trails in the Kolob Canyons area and those leaving from the floor of Zion Canyon are accessible in winter. Summer temperatures can exceed 100 degrees at lower elevations; late summer thunderstorms are common. Winters are mild at lower elevations, though snow and ice usually blanket the upper reaches of the park.

All overnight hikers must obtain a free backcountry permit and observe rules regarding backcountry camping. The Kolob Canyons Visitor Center issues permits for backpackers leaving from Kolob Canyons Road. The Zion Canyon Visitor Center issues all others. Groups cannot contain more than 12 people. All day and overnight hikers traveling the full length of the Narrows from Chamberlain Ranch must apply for a limited number of permits the day before at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. Fires are not allowed anywhere in the park outside of campgrounds. Call (801) 772-3256 for more information.

Hiking Tips
Purify all water. Always ask at the Visitor Center about the availability of trail-side water: It can vary by season. And ask about weather reports, especially if you'll be hiking through a canyon (such as the Narrows) that sees flash floods. Signs of impending flood in a canyon include an increase in water level or current flow, increased muddiness of the water, an increase of floating debris, the sound of thunder, the sound of a roar upstream, and heavy rainfall. Never try to outrun a flood; climb as high as possible above the high-water mark on the canyon walls. Always camp above the high-water mark.

Zion Canyon contains two campgrounds with 356 sites. Just south of the park, Springdale offers a private campground, several motels, and numerous restaurants.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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