Zion National Park

Zion National Park is located near Springdale, Utah in the southwestern United States. The park holds 146,597 acres of protect land that was once inhabited by Native American tribes like the Parowan Fremont and Basketmaker Anasazi tribes. The Mormons were the first people of European ancestry to inhabit the area and in 1863, Isaac Behunin, the man who is credited with naming the area, moved into Zion Canyon. This canyon spans across 229 square miles and was used for farming and ranching by the Mormons, but was converted into a monument in 1909, under the name Mukuntuweap National Monument. In 1917, the director of the National Park Service suggested changing the name to Zion National Monument, and in 1919, the monument was established as Zion National Park and expanded.

Zion National Park is placed between the Great Basin, the Mojave Desert, and the Colorado Plateaus. The north fork of the Virgin River, which helped to shape some of the area’s landscape, runs through the park. The lowest point in the park is the Coal Pits Wash, which reaches a height of 3,666 feet, while the highest point can be found at the peak of Horse Ranch Mountain, reaching 8,726 feet. The park features many areas including Checkerboard Mesa, the Kolob Arch, Hidden Canyon, the Grand Staircase, and the Great White Throne.

The climate of Zion National Park varies depending upon the season. During the spring season, weather can be unpredictable and brings heavy rainfalls and warm days. The summer season is typically arid with temperatures ranging between 95 °F to 110 °F during the day and 65 °F to 70 °F during the night, with occasional light showers of rain occurring during the day. The fall and winter seasons are typically mild, but rain and snowstorms are common during the winter. The roads in the park, excluding the Kolob Terrace Road, are cleared of snow during the winter season.

Because Zion National Park occurs in an area where geographical points meet, it holds many types of habitats including woodland, riparian, coniferous forest, and desert zones. These areas support 79 mammal species, 289 bird species, 7 fish species, 6 amphibian species, and 28 reptile species. Mammal species include bats, jackrabbits, mule deer, the introduced bighorn sheep, gray foxes, cougars, and ring-tail cats. Bird species that can be found in the park include peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and the introduced California condor. The park also supports a variety of plant life including maple trees, willow trees, Gambel oak trees, Ponderosa pine trees, prickly pear cacti, sagebrush, Indian paintbrush, and sacred datura plants.

Zion National Park received 2,825,505 visitors in 2011. The park can be accessed by a six mile road that begins in Zion Canyon and ends at the Temple of Sinawava. This road can be traveled by private vehicle or by a free bus tour that the park provides between April and October. The U.S. Route 89, which leads out of Zion National Park, can be used to travel to the Grand Canyon and to Bryce Canyon National Park. Visitors can enjoy many activities including hiking along the seven trails in the park, which vary in length from thirty minutes round trip to four hours roundtrip. Other trails, like Kolob Arch, can take up to eight hours roundtrip. Some hiking trails require a permit if they are located in the back country of the park. Visitors can enjoy other activities including nature walks, camping, horseback riding, and rock climbing. Lodging can be found within the park at Zion Lodge, which offers other comforts such as a gift store and restaurant, or outside of the park in Springdale, Utah. The park and Zion Lodge are open throughout the year, although some roads and camping grounds must be closed during the winter.

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Image Caption: Zion Canyon at sunset in Zion National Park as seen from Angels Landing looking south. Credit: Diliff/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)