The last of our National Park stops in Utah, we had huge hopes Zion NP would perfectly cap off our hijinks through the state. Unfortunately however the weather gods (who had thus far been very much on our side) decided to rain on our parade. Torrential rains and mist covered the park pretty much all of the day, and had most of the visitors we saw confined to their cars. We decided to brave a short walk anyway, and luckily for a short period the rains dried up. We opted for the 2.7 mile (4.3 km) ‘Watchman’ trail which set off from the visitor centre. The trail follows a river then climbs (with some minor drop-offs, and to our delight a deluge of mud) to end at a viewpoint of the Towers of the Virgin, lower Zion Canyon and Springdale township. To reward our efforts, the sky managed to clear a little for us at the viewpoint and we were more than satisfied with the vista before us.
We then made our way up the Zion Canyon scenic drive, stopping at the various photo points along the way. The road culminated at Temple of Sinawava, where we attempted the Riverside Walk (2.2 miles/3.5km), but were rudely stopped halfway by a sudden downpour of rain, which quickly saturated all the paths and caused us and all those around us to rush back to their cars to avoid being trapped on the trail. Our clothes (and motivation to do more exploration) were utterly soaked by this stage, so we escaped to Springdale for some warm coffee and cake!
Nonetheless Zion remained pretty damn spectacular, and we will have to return someday and hope for some clearer weather (or with a more committed attitude to brave the rain!).
I wanted to finish by mentioning how Zion combines with Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon to form what is known as the ‘Grand Staircase‘. This refers to the vastly spread layers of sedimentary rock stretching from Bryce, through Zion to the Grand Canyon. The area provides a snapshot of a 525 million year geological history of the planet – the world’s most complete example of this. The concept of the staircase was developed In the 1870s, by geologist Clarence Dutton. Dutton divided the staircase into five steps, with the youngest, uppermost rocks (pink – Bryce Canyon) descending towards the oldest (chocolate – Grand Canyon). The following diagram demonstrates the phenomenon:
While the earth’s curvature ensures you can’t stop at any place along the staircase and see the entirety of this ‘history book’, it is pretty cool to think in around 4 days we had traversed its length to travel through geological time and space!