Part 13: Zion National Park, UT to Flagstaff, AZ


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The Trip

We did a brief drive-through at Bryce Canyon and then headed toward Zion National Park.  We found an RV park close to the eastern entrance to the park and stayed the night to prepare for our transit of Zion.  Zion has a series of tunnels that go from the eastern highlands through the cliff walls and descends to the bottom of the Virgin River Canyon.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Entering Zion Nation Park through the eastern portal gave us a great view of the so-called "Checkerboard Mesa" formation.  This sandstone was formed from "frozen" sand dunes.  The layering of the ancient dunes is visible in the bedding of the rock.

The checkerboard cracks in the canyon walls went on for several miles.

Weathering in the sandstone allowed the formation of alcoves in the cliff walls.

On the northern canyon walls a huge arch structure had formed.

As the road descended the apparent height of the mesa increased.  These are huge cliffs.

This cliff wall had intermixed red and white sandstone.

The first tunnel was easy and there were no restrictions.  The second tunnel required one-way traffic and therefore paid "tunnel pass" (nothing more than a tax as all types of vehicles were subject to the one-way restriction but only the tall vehicles paid more).

Once we were out of the first tunnel we could see new rock strata that exhibited different weather patterns that revealed the ancient sand dunes.

The far peaks grew in height relative to the roadway.

The second tunnel required one-way traffic due to the height of some of the RVs.  We were instructed to drive through the center of the roadway to maximize vertical clearance.  Every 50 meters or so had a side tunnel to the cliff face to provide ventilation.  There were no lights in the tunnel.

Once we exited the tunnel and completed the first switchback we could see the ventilation portals for the tunnel.  The tunnel is inside the cliff walls.  One of the ventilation portals is visible in the photo above.

The second switchback had a pull-out that allowed us to dismount and take a few photos.

The pull-out provided a good view of the opposing canyon walls.

As we headed down the switchbacks, the true height of the canyon walls becomes apparent.

Mark and Gail followed us in their U500.  I have christened their truck "Odin", a nice Norse 4-letter word.

The multi-hued canyon walls were truly impressive.

The floor of the Virgin River Canyon was a mad house of vehicles and no place to park.  We were going to park and take the NPS shuttle through the canyon, but there was no parking available so we rolled on.  Even the cliffs at the mouth of the canyon were impressive.

We did a "supply stop" at the state liquor store in Hurricane, UT and then headed into Arizona.  It was getting late in the day so we decided to do a side-of-the-road camp in the Kaibab forest.  We found a great place that was close to the highway and was flat.  Once the trucks were stopped it was "beer thirty" for the crew.

We had a nice night in the Kaibab; it was cool but not too cold.  After breakfast the following morning we continued east to the Vermillion Cliffs.

The highway skirted the south edge of the Vermillion Cliffs and gave us some great views of the multicolored cliffs.

The terrain leading up to the cliffs was very barren and inhospitable.

The bright colors of the rock were clearly illuminated in the morning sunlight.

We stopped at the Navajo Bridge over Marble Canyon.  Over a thousand feet below was the Colorado River.

The abutments for the bridge were carved into the cliff walls.

The Colorado River has carved a deep canyon with nearly vertical walls.

The Vermillion Cliffs extend all the way to the area of the bridge.

Zion Canyon is a true natural wonder of the world.  It is absolutely worth a visit if you are in the area.  The only sad thing was that there were so many people there, particularly since we were not yet in the summer tourist season.  Should you plan to see the canyon, you should attempt to plan your visit at sometime other than maximum tourist season in June-August.

From Marble Canyon we continued south across the Navajo Nation to Flagstaff and Overland Expo.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2018, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.