Zion Canyon is a magnificent crevice forged by rock/landslides as powerful floods of the North Fork of the Virgin River forcefully tear through the canyon leaving single massive rocks, monoliths, protruding from the canyon floor. The normally tame waterway travels many miles within the park with a gradient of 50-70 feet per-mile, moving debris at a rate of 300-million tons per-year. Unlike the Grand Canyon where you stand on the rim and look down into the canyon, in Zion you stand on the canyon floor and look up. Nearby on Cedar Mountain is Cascade Falls which is fed via a sinkhole and lava tube from Navajo Lake. Water moves downstream from the falls to Chamberlain’s Ranch in East Zion. Then the water forges and carves its way 16-miles through the Zion Narrows into Zion Canyon. The Narrows ends at the termination of the Riverside Walk which hikers stroll along for another mile to the Temple of Sinawava where canyon walls open wide. The large area serves for a parking area, trailhead and the last stop the Zion Canyon shuttle makes before it turns around and heads back to the Visitor Center near the parks south entrance. What is referred to as Zion Canyon is the section you see while riding the shuttle from Canyon Junction, the intersection of SR-9 and the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, to the Temple of Sinawava. Beyond Canyon Junction toward the Visitor Center is referred to as Lower Zion Canyon. Then river merges with Pine Creek which runs downstream from the East entrance of the tunnel and under the Pine Creek Bridge at the lowest switchback. Finally it leaves the park and the East Fork of the Virgin River which begins near Alton and runs through Mt. Carmel Junction. A hike similar to the Zion Narrows, Parunuweap Canyon, is in this section of the East Fork of the Virgin River. Both forks merge behind the Fruit Stand in Springdale, where it becomes simply the Virgin River. It will finally empty into Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, Nevada.
Zion Narrows - The wider section of Zion Canyon is the 6 mile Zion Canyon scenic drive, but at its end, past the Temple of Sinawava, visitors can stroll along the easy path that runs alongside the river. This is the Riverside Walk were you can enjoy a variety of views such as hanging gardens, Canyon grape trees, monoliths and riverside ecosystems. Beyond the Riverside Walk hikers can trek for two days into a narrow section of the canyon with towering sandstone walls on both sides ending in East Zion. This route is called the Zion Narrows and it is chalk full of magnificent microenvironments. Watch for canyoneers sliding into the narrows on a rope a couple of miles into the narrows as they complete their trip through Mystery Canyon.
Driving the main road in Zion, SR-9, is allowed year-round. Oversized Vehicles
Zion Canyon Shuttle Schedule - To get to the trails in Zion Canyon, leave your vehicle at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center or the Zion Human History Museum and get on the Zion Canyon Shuttle. The shuttle takes the visitor to view points and hiking trails in Zion Canyon. Even if you're not planning to hike any of the Zion Canyon trails, do take the time to ride the Zion Canyon Shuttle and see the views at each of thestops. Usually from April 1st until October 30th Zion Canyon is accessed via
the shuttle. Private cars
are allowed in Zion
Canyon in the rest of the year. As soon as the temperature rises in mid-March the canyon fills with cars forcing the shuttle to begin its travels. The Zion Canyon Shuttle leaves early in the morning from the Visitor Center for the Temple of Sinawava, then it leaves every 10 to 30 minutes throughout the day making a loop from the Visitor Center to the last stop in Zion Canyon. The trip is a short 6-mile spur, but it is time consuming due to all the stops and people getting on and off. Take along appropriate provisions for the length of your shuttle trip and planned hikes. A round-trip takes a minimum of 90-minutes. Without the shuttle system in this busy park, the parking spots inside the canyon would quickly fill up, preventing most from ever seeing Zion Canyon. The shuttle system also has allowed Zion to keep a high standard of air quality, clear blue skies and there are reports that wildlife sightings are now more common that most vehicles are not allowed in the canyon.
Zion Photo: Author of the site, Tanya Milligan, in Zion's Pine Creek Canyon. The North Fork of the Virgin River merges with the water from Pine Creek before it combines with the water from the East Fork of the Virgin River.
Zion Canyon Horse Trails - Horse rides in Zion Canyon are located at the Sand Bench
Trailhead across the road from the Zion Lodge. This is the only trail in the park that commercial horse rides use.
Stay in the heart of the parks, Mount Carmel Junction, and visit the treasures of the Southwest and Utah.