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Amazing Zion National Park in Utah: See Monolithic Domed Splendor!

Utah is a fantastic state filled with natural wonders, including many beautiful state and national parks. We loved vacationing there!

Kolob Canyons in Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons in Zion National Park

Zion National Park

This article will introduce you to the wondrous sights that are in Zion National Park in Utah. Monolithic domed splendor is there as well as meadows, waterfalls, hiking trails and more. I will share many of my pictures. I hope that you enjoy this scenic portrayal a fraction as much as we did while there in person.

In an earlier plane ride, my mother, niece, and I had seen Kolob Canyons from the air. Now, from Cedar City, we explored it by car.

Kolob Canyons

Kolob Canyons is a part of Zion National Park. It is in the northwest portion of the park. The park was first called Mukuntuweap National Monument and then became Zion National Monument, and finally Zion National Park in 1919. The Kolob section became part of the national park in 1956.

If one has the time and energy, there is a 14-mile round trip hike to Kolob Arch. It is the largest arch in the world. My mother is not much of a hiker, and our time allotment for this trip would not have allowed this as we desired to see all five of the national parks in Utah on our two-week trip.

Kolob Canyons is primarily composed of a deep red hue of Navajo sandstone. This area has fewer visitors than the southern part of Zion National Park.

All the many box canyons in Kolob were within view, from the perspective of seeing it from the air. One would have to do some significant hiking to get the same impression on foot.

Springdale, Utah

To more easily see more of Zion National Park, we changed locations, renting a motel room in Springdale. We had been staying in Cedar City, which was more convenient for seeing Kolob Canyons.

Staying at Flanagan's Inn while in Springdale was most enjoyable. Springdale is at the southern entrance into Zion, and the views from our motel were already stunning.

Approaching Zion from the south

Approaching Zion from the south

Geology in Zion

The geology of the area is fascinating. Approximately 10,000 feet of accumulated sediment originating as long ago as 240 million years has formed the basis for what we see parts of today in Zion National Park.

This area used to be a primarily flat basin that was almost at sea level. Deposits of sand, mud, and gravel from nearby mountains were carried to this area by streams that meandered through the adjacent meadows and desert lands. Winds whipped up giant dunes. Over time all of this solidified, and the weight caused the sediments to compress and subside.

An inland shallow sea helped carry and deposit minerals into these layers of sediment. Eventually, the layers solidified and became stone. Over about 10 million years, an uplifting of this area took place due to a shifting deep within the earth, and locations that used to be sea level are now as high as 10,000 feet above sea level.

The Virgin River that runs through Zion began its carving and sculpting of the majestic walls of the mountains and canyons that we view today. Rain, wind, and erosion make this an ever-changing landscape.

Zion is so awe-inspiring, and viewing the monumental walls, cliffs, and overlooks in the light of early dawn to dusk makes this an ever-changing palette of colors and moods.

One could spend weeks or months exploring just this one park. Offered are a variety of trails, from short and easy hiking to long and arduous. Much of this beauty is on view from the road, but to enjoy it more intimately, some hiking would be my recommendation, if possible.

Weeping Rock Trail

Weeping Rock is an easy half-mile trail that my niece and I enjoyed.
The water comes right out of the rocks, supporting ferns and other plant life. One could stay relatively dry under the overhang or choose to let the water drip on you and cool you off as many people on the trail ultimately did.

Lower and Upper Emerald Pools

While my mother waited by the scenic resting place by the Virgin River below, enjoying the sight of people floating by in rented inner tubes, my niece and I hiked to the Lower and Upper Emerald Pools.

It is quite strenuous hiking to get up to the Upper Emerald Pool. Most people that made it that far were happy to cool off in the water.

The scenery at every twist and turn in the trail was gorgeous.

Temple of Sinawava

After hiking back down from visiting the Lower and Upper Emerald Pools, we rejoined my mother, who was patiently waiting.

Next, we drove to the area called the Temple of Sinawava. It is a place that Native Americans used for their special ceremonies.

There is a great profusion of colors in the rocks, and the trail takes one alongside the river. One can hike alongside and then into the river to see more fantastic scenery. While we did not do this, the video below will show what beautiful scenery is here.

The Great White Throne

The Great White Throne in Zion National Park is the largest monolith in the world. It rises 2,447 feet above the canyon floor.

Through the years, many people have been awed by this site. Feelings of reverence are attached to the beauty and grandeur of this gorgeous location.

We felt like sensory overload this day. There is such spectacular beauty in this park, whether on a trail or the road!

East End of The Park

The east end of Zion National Park has an entirely different character.
One goes through the 1.1-mile Zion-Mount-Carmel tunnel, blasted out of solid rock in 1930. The tunnel has six "windows" broken out at various intervals to give some light.

The rocks in the east end of Zion park are entirely different looking. It is hard to believe that the differences are so dramatic!

Ancient dunes sculpted by wind and rain have formed these striated rocks of various colors and shapes. Many were flat and were fun to walk on and explore.

Canyon Overlook Trail

Amazingly, my niece was getting tired and decided to keep my mother company while I took the one-hour Canyon Overlook Trail by myself.

This trail is just east of the Zion - Mt. Carmel highway. It is considered an easy and self-guided trail that ends with spectacular views of the lower Zion Canyon and Pine Creek Canyon.

I was happy others were on the trail, as in places, I would have wondered where it was leading. Some people were climbing rocks in one place, and others chose other ones to navigate. Seeing people ahead of us on the trail at least gave us the general direction to pursue.

The spectacular scenery viewed while on the Canyon Overlook Trail was definitely worth the hike. Most of the tourists on the trail with me that day were speaking foreign languages. Our national parks are enjoyed by people worldwide.


In places, the wet rocks have lichens clinging to the rock surfaces. The plant life added to the beauty of the wet rocks when viewed up close.

Millions of algae cells held together by fungal filaments form lichens. They are a source of food for animals and have even provided the same for humans at times. Some are used medicinally or as dyes in various parts of the world.

In heavily polluted areas, lichens do not readily grow. Thus air quality can be determined by the presence or absence of lichens.

Bucket List Location

If you have not yet visited Zion National Park, I hope that this inspires you to add this to your vacation bucket list.

We saw more of Utah's parks, and each of them has its unique kind of distinctive beauty. Zion is truly a spectacular national park worthy of an initial visit and then returning ones! It holds the distinction of being Utah's first national park!

"Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world."

— Gustave Flaubert


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed. Thanks!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 07, 2021:

Hi Sandra,

You used some apt superlative words in describing Zion National Park. Those words also apply to many other parks as well. I love visiting them! Thanks for your comment.

Sandra on March 07, 2021:

Descriptors such as magnificent, beautiful, overwhelming grandeur, majestic scenery and nature at its best do not really do justice to the pictures in your article. Thankfully former leaders realized that these places need to be preserved for generations to come. The National Park System is truly a treasure.

Robert Sacchi on January 29, 2018:

That's true in many cases it would be comparing apples and oranges.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 29, 2018:

Hi Robert,

If you are referring to that book it merely describes each point of interest. Not everyone is interested in seeing the same thing so it would be hard to give ratings. People can decide for themselves if it would be worth their time to stop and spend more time in certain areas.

Robert Sacchi on January 28, 2018:

Does it rate how good each one is?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 28, 2018:

Hi Robert,

I have an old hard copy of a Reader's Digest book that shows the scenic drives through each state. Some states have numerous drives and each point of interest is listed. I planned many of our trips following those suggestions. Nice to know that you are enjoying my travel articles.

Robert Sacchi on January 27, 2018:

It is amazing how you found all these wonderful places to visit. I like that you explain how these spectacular places came to be. This article has a great set of pictures.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 07, 2014:

Hi Au fait,

We only allowed a couple of days at most for each national park plus the time driving between them and seeing some state parks along the way. Altogether it was a fabulous Utah vacation trip and one that I will never forget.

Obviously one could spend much more time in every national park but we at least had a great introduction and overview. Thanks for the shares!

C E Clark from North Texas on August 04, 2014:

5 national parks in 2 weeks; did you have time to sleep at all? These photos are truly incredible and gorgeous. I'm glad the name was changed from Mukuntuweap National Monument to Zion because I don't think I could ever pronounce that other name, though it is no doubt an Indian name and interesting. This park looks every bit as amazing as the Grand Canyon. I was at the opening once but it was around March I think, and it was snowed in. Never got back to that part of Utah, unfortunately. Excellent article and photos!

Gave you 5 more stars, pinned to my 'Travel' board, Voted up and BAUI, posted on FB, and sharing with my followers.