St. George,UT – Zion National Park: April 22-25, 2012

Reminders: 1. Posts are in chronological order with most recent on top. 2. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and then using the back button (not close) to return to the text.

The reorganization of our spring in the southwest was beginning to put limitations on our itinerary. We were planning to knock off Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon and Monument Valley in organized fashion and get to Nevada and New Mexico more expeditiously. Our arrival date in Salt Lake City couldn’t be moved, because Dot was flying out of there to Pennsylvania for her mother’s 90th birthday party. At this point, something had to give.

The “give,” or should I say” give up,” turned out to be Bryce Canyon, despite the fact that several people told us they liked Bryce better than Zion. It was a lot farther from Boulder City, and traveling between the two canyons with our trailer required a major detour because of tunnel restrictions. It was a painful decision, in part because the nationally renowned Best Friends Animal Shelter is on the road to Bryce.

We elected to stay in St. George, UT, about 40 miles from the south entrance. Private vehicles are not allowed on the drive through the canyon after March, but the free shuttle runs frequently among the nine stops. First stop beyond the Visitors’ Center includes the Zion Human History Museum, where we viewed the story of the Canyon. Next is the junction of the Scenic Drive and the through-road – Rte. 9 – which you can continue to drive as long as your vehicles aren’t taller than 13’ 1” (we’re 13’ 4”!). Up the Scenic Drive, the shuttle soon stops at Canyon Lodge; it is the only in-park lodging and has been here since the 1920’s. It was destroyed by fire in 1966 and quickly rebuilt to provide continued services to visitors, but its original rustic design, from the board of famed architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, was gone until 1990 when the classic exterior was restored. Stops beyond that provide varied views of cliffs, flora and a branch of the Virgin River. Dot saw a pair of California Condors soaring above the cliffs at one stop while I was otherwise indisposed. One stop also revealed a climber several hundred feet up.

When the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel was completed in 1930. it was the longest tunnel of kind in the country. It was built for just the purpose we intended to use it for — to go between the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion. As traffic volume increased, more and more accidents occurred when tour buses, motor homes, and trailers passed through it, in large part because they couldn’t negotiate the curves without crossing the center line. An escort program began in 1989; for a $15 permit, the tunnel is temporarily converted to one-way to get the big guys through. But there are absolute limits, too, which stalled us completely.

Zion was very beautiful, and I captured some of it in pictures. It was a different experience for us; after viewing the Grand Canyon looking down from the rim, we were now looking up. But you may be able to tell from the brevity of the copy and the extent of pictures that this was an anticlimactic stop for us. Limited in our ability to climb or hike very much, we viewed as much as we could and swore to stop back with better backs and legs when we visit Bryce on a future trip.

And it only took the trip to our next stop to get our enthusiasm back. Read on!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *