Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Utah 2007: Zion National Park

The first thing to be said for Zion National Park is that it is really accessible. I was amazed at how easy the drive was from Las Vegas to Zion/Springdale UT.

The mileage from Northern California to Zion is just around 700 miles, and this leg of the road trip could be done in a day, that is if you aren't pulling a trailer and packing kids. We, however, took three days to get to Zion, stopping for our first night in Tonopah, Nevada and the second night in Las Vegas.

We setup our base camp at the Zion Canyon Campground, and because I had reserved a site 6 months earlier, we scored a campsite right on the Virgin river. The kids loved this spot as it provided the opportunity to 'raft' down the river each afternoon. June isn't quite high season, so reservations at the Zion Canyon Campground aren't a necessity, but the camp hosts did say that you'll need reservations from July - September.

We stayed at Zion for four nights, using this as a base camp to explore Zion National Park, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

There is so much to see in Zion, lot's of awesome hikes, including the Narrows and Angels Landing. However, we chose not to do the Narrows hike (nor Angels Landing) on this trip, it'll have to wait for a future adventure.

This was my first visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It's an amazing view from there, since it's the highest point in the canyon. From the lodge, you have an amazing view. If you're not into camping I would definitely recommend staying at the lodge. Unlike the desert fauna of the South Rim, the North Rim has pine trees and an alpine feel to it. It was also cooler, in the 80's while we were there.

My kids both became "Junior Rangers" at the North Rim Ranger Station, and at all of the subsequent parks we visited on the trip. If you have kids or grandkids with you (under 12), then the Junior Ranger program is a great way to get the kids involved in the park. It's kind of like a scavenger hunt for clues about the parks history and features. The kids get a workbook to complete about each park.

Coral Pink Sands Dunes State Park is an out of the way state park, which would be a major desistination if not for all of the other parks surrounding it. It's outside of Kanab, between Zion and the Grand Canyon. If you are an off road vehicle enthusiest, this would be heaven. The unusual feature of this park (besides the huge piles of sand), is the pink color of the sand. The sand is blown in for the erosion of the red dirt native to this area. Basically, Coral Pink is the dumping ground for all of the dirt/sand which has eroded from the land features in Southern Utah.

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