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ZION NATIONAL PARK, with an area of about 135 square miles and located in the heart of the spectacular desert and canyon country of southern Utah, has as its chief feature the great multi-colored gorge, Zion Canyon. The sandstone cliffs, rising sheer to form the canyon walls and encricle the valley, are awesome; but it is the vivid coloring which most amazes. The deep red of the Vermilion Cliffs is the prevailing tint. Two-thirds of the way up these marvellous walls and temples are painted varying shades of red; then, above the reds, they rise in startling white, sometimes surmounted by a cap of brilliant red.


Zion Canyon, the best known example of a deep, narrow, vertically walled chasm readily accessible for observation, was made by the north fork of the Virgin River, the stream which now flows through it. Before the Virgin began to flow there was no canyon. During the long period since its course was established the river has slowly deepened its channel and extended it headward until its original shallow valley has become a long narrow trench between towering walls. Though now deeply entrenched in the rocks of the Kolob Plateau, the river maintains substantially its original pattern. It flows in the same direction, and the curves and straight stretches of its present walls duplicate the meanders of the stream when it flowed some 5,000 feet above its present level.

For many thousand years the Virgin and its tributaries have been busy with two tasks, namely, deepening their channels and transporting material weathered from the canyon walls. At present the Virgin carries away from the park each year about 3,000,000 tons of ground-up rock at an average rate of 180 carloads a day. For such effective work the many-branched river seems incompetent. But though relatively small in volume, this stream system falls from 50 to 70 feet per mile (nine times the fall of the Colorado in Grand Canyon) and is at work on rock, chiefly sandstone, that disintegrates with exceptional ease. Many tributaries are on bare rock, little retarded by vegetation, and are fed by short but violent showers. Consequently, they are brought to flood stage not only seasonally but with each period of heavy rainfall. Because they flow only in response to showers, the smaller tributaries are unable to cut channels as deep as the perennial master stream. From their mouths high on the canyon walls, they descend as waterfalls.

Geological sketch of Zion National Park by H. E. Gregory
(click on image for a PDF version)

Though they are primarily responsible for the depth and position of the canyons, the Virgin itself and the other streams heading on the adjoining plateaus are only incidentally concerned with the detailed carving that makes Zion Canyon unique. The walls are retreating in consequence of ground water which emerges as springs and seeps, rain which falls directly into the canyon, water that spills over the rim, frost and tree roots which pry off slabs, and chemical agencies which weaken the rock by the removal of the cement about individual grains. Continuous sapping at or near the contact of the porous Navajo sandstone and the more impervious underlying beds has developed alcoves in the canyon walls at Wiley Retreat, the Stadium, Weeping Rock, Emerald Pool, Birch Creek, Oak Creek, and elsewhere.


In the development of the amazing variety of architectural features on the canyon walls, the composition and structure of the Navajo formation have served as controlling guides. In addition to the bedding planes—horizontal, oblique, and curved surfaces—the Navajo has developed parting planes (joints) that extend downward for short distances or pass through the formation from top to bottom. These bedding planes and joints determine the shape and size of the blocks that spall off from the towering cliff walls. Unlike that of humid regions, this type of erosion progresses from below upward; it causes the canyon to widen and still retain its vertical walls.


Visitors to Zion National Park will be surprised at the interesting and varied forms of wildlife to be found there. The common large game animals are the Rocky Mountain mule deer. They are quite numerous and can often be seen by park guests, though in the summer they usually range the rims of the canyons. Bighorn are present, but spend most of their time in the most inaccessible portions of the higher country, hence are seldom seen. At rare intervals motorists report small bands along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway near the tunnel. Signs of mountain lion are often found in the park and occasionally a glimpse of the animal is caught. Bobcat tracks are frequently observed in mud or snow; the cats, however, are rarely visible. Many small animals, such as porcupines, marmots, chipmunks, and gray squirrels, are abundant and can be seen almost everywhere.

Bird life is interesting and the visitor will find most of the arid or semiarid types in Zion, together with a few forms typical of areas of heavier rainfall. The rare water ouzel can be numbered among the latter.

Probably the most absorbing of all to those who are acquainted with them are the many types of lizards, such as the scaly lizard, the Bailey collared lizard, and the rare leopard lizard.


Each season of the year is distinctive in Zion. In winter, the colored cliffs stand out in startling contrast to the snow-covered levels and slopes; in spring, melting snows cascade over the cliff faces in foaming white waterfalls. Summer brings with it the greens of the valley as a foreground for the colorful formations; and in autumn when the skies are deepest blue, the trees of the valley floor and slopes take on variegated hues.

Although Zion Lodge is open only between May 30 and September 30, the South Entrance Camp, with cafeteria, store, and housekeeping cabins, and the public campground at the south entrance are operated the year round. The Grotto Campground is open from May 1 to November 1.


Zion National Park is reached from Cedar City, Utah, on the Union Pacific System. From this point motorbus service is provided by the Utah Parks Co.

Busses of the Burlington Transportation Co. and Interstate Transit Lines operate from Salt Lake City and Los Angeles to Cedar City, where passengers may transfer to the busses of the Utah Parks Co. for the park. On prior notice, connections can be made with the Santa Fe Trails System at Mount Carmel Junction.

Motorists on the Arrowhead Trail, United States Highway No. 91, from the north may turn off at Anderson Junction, 33 miles south of Cedar City, and those from the south may turn off at Harrisburg Bench Junction, 10 miles north of St. George, and reach Zion over State Route No. 15. Motorists on United States Highway No. 89 should turn off on State Route No. 15 at Mount Carmel Junction, entering Zion by the east entrance.

High-speed, de luxe airplane service from all points in the United States to Salt Lake City is available through United Air Lines. Service is also available from Los Angeles by Western Air Express, with stops at Las Vegas, Nev., and Salt Lake City, Utah.

(click on image for a PDF version)


There are 20 miles of improved roads in Zion Park. One road leads from the park's entrance to the Temple of Sinawava, a distance of 8 miles. No one has really seen Zion Canyon until he has made a trip over this road, and visitors driving in closed cars should make frequent stops so that they may get out and enjoy the magnificent view.

Also within the park is a stretch of the remarkable Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, 11-1/2 miles in length. Running east from the Virgin River Bridge, this road forms a connecting link between United States Highways Nos. 91 and 89. Its total length from park headquarters to Mount Carmel Junction is 25 miles. Some of the most remarkable views of southern Utah are to be found along this road. While the tunnel is the most spectacular portion, other sections are of even greater scenic interest.


Read downRead up
0.0Zion National Park south boundary line8.0
0.1Checking station7.9
0.6Cafeteria and cabin area7.4
0.6South Entrance Public Campground7.5
0.6Oak Creek7.4
0.8West Temple, Altar of Sacrifice, on west side7.2
1.0Bridge Mountain on east7.0
1.3Park headquarters, museum, and information office6.7
1.5Virgin River Bridge and Y6.5
3.2Court of the Patriarchs; garage4.8
4.2Zion Lodge3.8
4.5Emerald Pool Canyon on west3.5
4.8Spear Head Point3.2
5.0Grotto Campground3.0
5.5Angels Landing2.5
5.9The Great White Throne2.1
6.2East Rim Horse Trail and Weeping Rock Trail (parking space for cars)1.8
6.5The Great Organ, below road1.5
6.8The Great White Throne, looking south through saddle1.2
7.9Sphinx on Altar in the Temple0.1
8.0Temple of Sinawava and end of road0.0

(click on image for a PDF version)


Approximately 26 miles of trails lead to the more important sections of the park which are not reached by roads. These trails are well maintained and can be used at all seasons of the year, with the exception of those to the rims of the canyon which are closed by snow during the winter months.

A number of footpaths at different levels in the canyon have also been constructed. The most popular of these paths is the one extending a distance of 1 mile up the canyon from the end of the road at the Temple of Sinawava to the beginning of The Narrows. Practically all other foot trails in the canyon are for the more strenuous hiker, but its pavement and easy grades adapt The Narrows Trail to use by everyone.

Below are listed a few trail distances. Detailed information may be secured from park rangers or from attendants on duty at the park museum.


Name of TrailLength
One Way
Aver. Time
(Round Trip)

The Narrows1 mi. Temple of Sinawava2 hrs. Easy, no steep grades. All-weather trail. Fine view of river flood plain. Trailside exhibit near Temple of Sinawava.

Weeping Rock1/4 mi. Weeping Rock Parking Area1/2 hr. Easy surfaced trail. Water drips from overhanging cliff; springs issue from it. Hanging gardens; travertine deposits.

Emerald Pool (lower)1 mi. Zion Lodge or Grotto Campground2 hrs. Rather steep climb. Rough trail. Cross river on foot bridges. Small pool formed by 2 falls. Loop or 1-way trail.

Emerald Pool (upper)1-1/2 mi. do.3 hrs. 1/2 mi. above lower pool. Mostly easy walking; few steep grades. Loop or 1-way trail.

Great Arch1/2 mi. Parking area, upper end of large tunnel1 hr. Mostly easy walking; few steep grades. Excellent view of Pine Creek Narrows and west side of canyon.

Hidden Canyon1 mi. Parking area, Weeping Rock2-1/2 hrs. Fairly strenuous; steep grades, switchbacks. Cross foot bridge, climb to East Rim Trail sign, follow to turn-off into Hidden Canyon.

East Rim3-1/2 mi. do.5 hrs. Fairly strenuous foot and horse trail. Carry water, lunch. Cross foot bridge and climb to East Rim Trail sign.

West Rim6-1/4 mi. Grotto Campground8 hrs. Strenuous foot and horse trail. Carry water, lunch. Cross river on foot bridge.

Angels Landing2-1/2 mi. do.4 hrs. Fairly strenuous; steep climb. Half of trail hard-surfaced. Cross foot bridge over river. Excellent view of canyon.

Lady Mountain2 mi. Zion Lodge4-1/2 hrs. Strenuous mountain climb even for experienced hikers. Cross foot bridge over river. Carry water.



The representative of the National Park Service in immediate charge of Zion National Park is the superintendent, C. Marshall Finnan, whose post office address is Zion National Park, Utah. All comments regarding service in the park should be addressed to him.


During the summer season ranger naturalists conduct parties into the field for nature study several times daily, leaving the Temple of Sinawava according to schedules posted by the naturalist service. Evening lectures on the natural features of the park are also given daily at the public auto camp and Zion Lodge by members of the educational division.

All park visitors are urged to avail themselves of this educational service. Schedules of nature walks, lectures, and other activities are posted in public places throughout the park. The educational service is furnished free of charge by the Government.


The National Park Service has established an official information office and museum at park headquarters which is open daily throughout the year. Here park visitors may secure information and publications regarding this and other national parks free of charge. The museum exhibits are arranged to give a general idea of the outstanding features of Zion National park. These exhibits cover such subjects as geology, biology, archeology, and history.



An attractive lodge is operated by the Utah Parks Co. from about May 30 to September 30. It consists of a central building and a number of cabins. Rates (European plan) are $2.25 per day for 1 person and $3.50 for 2, in "standard" cabins; $5 per day for 1 person, $6.50 for 2, and $8.25 for 3, in "de luxe" cabins (private bath, porch, and fireplace). Meals in the lodge dining room are table d'hote; breakfast $.85, luncheon $.90, and dinner $1.50. Children under 8 are allowed half rate for meals.


There is also a cabin development which is open all year. Here may be found a cafeteria, food store, and sleeping and housekeeping cabins. Rates for sleeping cabins with private shower and toilet are $3.50 per day for 1 person, $4 for 2, $7 for 3 or 4. Housekeeping cabins are $2.50 and $2.75 per day for 1 or 2 persons and $3.75 for 3 or 4; they are equipped with electricity, running water, double beds, cooking stoves, table, sink, shelves, and chairs.

A 15% discount on lodgings is allowed for a stay of 1 week or more.


Free public campgrounds are maintained throughout the year for visitors carrying their own equipment. Camping is limited to 30 days a year.


Zion Lodge is provided with post office, telegraph and long-distance telephone service. The summer post office address is Zion National Park, Utah; during the remainder of the year it is Springdale, Utah.


In the lodge, fountain service is available. A full line of photographs is on sale and laboratories are maintained for developing and printing. Curios and postcards may be obtained here.

Garage service, including storage, repairs, tires, batteries, gasoline, and oil, is provided during the regular lodge season.

A registered nurse is on duty at the lodge during the season.


Motor bus transportation and all expense tours to Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Parks, the Kaibab Forest, and Cedar Breaks National Monument are furnished by the Utah Parks Co., Cedar City, Utah, during the summer season and by special arrangement throughout the remainder of the year. An automobile trip from Zion Lodge to the Temple of Sinawava is offered for $1 during the summer season.


Saddle horses may be hired for $1.50 for 2 hours or less, $3 for 2 to 4 hours, $5 for 8 hours. Escorted trips to the East or West Rim of Zion Canyon are made daily; the cost is $5 per person. Escorted half-day horseback trips to The Narrows or Angels Landing are $3. Special guide service, when available, may be obtained for $5 a day or $3 for a half day or less. Riding outfits for women may be rented at the lodge.

This booklet is issued once a year and rates mentioned therein may have changed slightly since issuance, but the latest rates approved by the Secretary of the Interior are on file with the superintendent and park operator.


THE PARK REGULATIONS are designed for the protection of the natural beauties and scenery, as well as for the comfort and convenience of visitors. The following synopsis is for convenient reference and general guidance of visitors:

PRESERVATION OF NATURAL FEATURES.—The parks are established primarily for preservation of natural features. Do not destroy or disturb flowers, trees, animals, etc. Writing on or otherwise defacing rocks and other natural features is strictly prohibited. Hunting and the use of firearms are prohibited.

CAMPING.—Camp only in established campgrounds. Keep your camping area clean. BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE. Picnicking in the galleries of Zion Tunnel is not permitted. Lunching and picnicking are prohibited except in public auto camp. Camping limited to 30 days.

DISORDERLY CONDUCT.—Proper conduct is required of all visitors for the benefit of others who are entitled to get the fullest possible enjoyment from the park.

PETS.—If you are carrying a dog, cat, or other pet, you may take it into and through the park provided it is at all times kept tied or confined within the car.

TRAILS.—Do not attempt to make short cuts; to do so you may endanger you as well as others using the trails. Before attempting the more difficult trails seek advice from a park ranger.

AUTOMOBILE REGULATIONS.—(a) Permit.—A charge of $1 for each automobile is made at Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. One permit is good for both parks, and is good for the remainder of the year in which issued. House trailer fee, $1.

(b) Careful driving.—The roads in park are built purely for scenic purposes, not as high-speed thoroughfares. Observe speed limits and the usual rules of the road; keep to right; do not park on curves; pass cars going in the same direction only when the road ahead is clear and the vision unobstructed.

(c) Lights.—Your car must have its lights in proper condition before you will be permitted to enter Zion National Park.

PENALTIES.—Maximum penalty for violation of park regulations is $500 and/or imprisonment for 6 months.

MISCELLANEOUS.—The park rangers are employed to help and advise visitors as well as to enforce regulations. When in doubt, ask a ranger. A complete copy of the park rules and regulations is available on request.

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Last Updated: 20-Jun-2010