Zion National Park

So we wander north into southern Utah, upstream along the Colorado River canyon complex. The canyon that is Zion National Park is formed by the Virgin River, a tributary to the mighty Colorado. The main canyon is closed to automobile traffic; a system of natural gas powered shuttle buses runs every 10 minutes or so from before dawn to late at night. The shuttle route extends into the bordering town of Springdale, so visitors have access to their motels, restaurants, and shops.

Zion sandstone

Zion sandstone is mostly rust-red and creamy white, but there are vivid highlights of yellows, magentas, and purples. Vertical stripes of black and grey-green lichens provide a counterpoint to the horizontal strata. Zion has the most beautiful geology of all the places we visited.

Zion flora

Rain falling on the plateaus above percolates down through the porous sandstone, emerging from the canyon sides. This provides a niche for lush plantlife, and gives a "hanging gardens" effect. There is enough water to form creeks that run even through the dry high summer.

maidenhair ferns

A detail of a dense patch of maidenhair fern, with some penstemon, columbine, and other plants that really like to be moist!

Alison in the creek

Even in September, it's over 100° F during the day. We had been hiking all day, so we decided to take a break by the creek, and cool our heels.

old rattler

Smart hikers yield the right of way at all rattlesnake crossings. This one was about 3 feet, with four rattles. We gave him plenty of time to get across the path.

Below, sunrise and moonset (the moon is just past full).

sunrise imminent full moon setting at sunrise
Zion visitors' center

The Visitors Center complex is built of bricks milled from the native sandstone ... a very strikingly pleasant architecture. All the structures are a passive solar design, adding only a small amount of power to run pumps that keep the baffles wet at the tops of cooling towers ... this provides a blast of cool air inside the buildings.

As with the natural features, Zion's man-made component is the most beautiful of all the parks we visited.