Zion National Park

The Virgin River

Zion is a fairly small national park covering 229 sq. miles, but it is wildly popular with almost 3,000,000 visitors per year.  As a result its hard to find an area that isn’t teaming with people.  We’ve visited the park twice before.  This time we were looking for an area that wasn’t as popular as some of the more well known spots, although all of the park sites are worth fighting the crowds in order to see.  We had hoped that October would not be quite as busy as July or September, times when we’ve come before, but no such luck.  However, I had just purchased a new book titled National Geographic Secrets of the National Parks.  It proved to be a helpful purchase when we discovered an area of Zion that we didn’t know about, the West Rim.  Lucky for us few others know about it either and it was a blissfully empty part of the park.

The Eastern Entrance to the park is home to the “Checkerboard Mesa.”

Note the checkerboard pattern across the rock

The Navaho Sandstone which the spires and towers of the park are comprised of, was deposited here millions of years ago during the Jurassic age.  At that point in time this area was a huge, sandy desert  (up to 100,000 miles across) similar to the Sahara Desert.  In Zion this desert reached its maximum thickness of up to 2200 feet.  This desert was covered with huge dunes comprised of quartz sand.  These dunes would be blown to the top of the desert slopes, then fall back down again in an avalanche movement.  Crosswinds would force the quartz sand to blow across the slopes as well.  This created the patterning known as Crossbedding. (Information taken from Geology Unfolded, An Illustrated Guide to the Geology of Utah’s National Parks, by Thomas H. Morris, Scott M. Ritter and Dallin P. Haycock.)

The Crossbedding in this area of Zion is one of the best examples in the world


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Close up of Crossbedding
It is possible for geologists to see the directions that the winds blew by observing this stone

Not all of the rock in the Checkerboard Mesa is white sandstone.





There is a tunnel at this entrance and traffic is allowed to go in one direction only.  Waiting in line these two labs were entertaining us.

“Golly Ed, we’re going to Zion!”

When exiting the tunnel the mountains loom above the canyon floor.





We continued on through the park and located Kolob Terrace Road.  Road work closed the road until 4:00 pm, so we sat in line for about an hour.  I got out of the car and took some photos of the area.  When we finally got moving we stopped every once in awhile to get some pictures.





The summit of the road overlooks the entire park.








Heading back down we spotted these deer.



We stopped by a pasture with two beautiful horses.  I had some apple cut up in the cooler and they liked it, but made a face at first because it was cold.




Even though I haven’t ever been around horses, I fell in love with this one.  Later when it rained and flooded I lay in bed and thought about these two lovely creatures out in that pasture with no cover.  I know they are luckier than many horses to live in that pasture, but I hope they were moved to a lower elevation before the hard snows hit.



It was a beautiful time of day heading back,.
Across this meadow are the hills we looked at from above.


By the time we actually left the park and headed back to our campground it was completely dark.  There are deer everywhere along the road.  We both strained our eyes, not wanting to hit one.

Later in the week it did rain.  Zion and Death Valley suffered flooding with road closures.  During a break in the rain I went outside and took some photos near sundown.

We were camping on this road in the little town of Glendale, Utah
The moon rising

We left Utah and headed up to a small town outside of Las Vegas called Pahrump for about a month.  The monotony of the desert was quite a contrast at first from the Utah landscape, but there are places to see such as Red Rock and Death Valley and our youngest daughter lives in Las Vegas.  The next journal pages will be of this area.