Zion National Park: A Quick Drive-Through


Of all the national parks in America, Zion is probably my favorite.  So it made sense for me to kick my trip off with a big start, in a place that I never regret visiting.  On Day 2, I had planned to drive up to Zion from Las Vegas (about a 3 hour drive), check into my motel in Springdale, then hike to the top of Angels Landing (seen above).  It would have been an awesome way to get myself into the “I’m really on a vacation” mood, but there was one problem.  I had developed a nasty case of food poisoning after eating at my favorite Las Vegas restaurant (which shall remain nameless here, but if you search around on TakeMyTrip.com you can figure out which one it is).  It was all I could do on Day 2 to make the drive to Springdale, and check into my motel.  I crashed on the bed, and slept the entire afternoon, evening, and night.  No hiking for me.

When Day 3 began, I felt well enough to not drive back to St. George and find an emergency room.  I had a reservation in Torrey, Utah for the following night, prepaid, which meant I didn’t have much of a choice but to forge ahead, further into the remote Utah wilderness.  But before I left Zion, I took a quick drive through the canyon.  (During the winter months, through the end of March, you can drive your own car into the canyon.  The rest of the year, you must take a shuttle.)  Weakened and nauseous, it was all I could do to look upon Angels Landing, and wish I hadn’t enjoyed that celebratory “Welcome to Las Vegas” dinner.

Because of bad weather in Northern Utah, I had to re-plan parts of this trip on-the-fly.  As a result, I arrived back in Las Vegas one day earlier than I had originally planned, and I used that final day to return to Zion and hike Angels Landing.  You can read about that hike, here.

On the way out of the park, I drove through the east side of Zion along Utah Route 9.  I think I’ve underappreciated this part of the park in the past.  It offers a great display of sandstone hills and mountains, all with a ribbon of red-tinged asphalt weaving up, over, and around the landscape.

From Zion, you have two options: drive north on US 89, then east on U-12, or head south (and east) on US 89, through Kanab, to the rough dirt road through Cottonwood Canyon, which will take you up through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and eventually meet up with scenic U-12.  The first option takes you past Bryce Canyon, which is well worth a visit (and I did visit it in 2007), but the second version truly exposes you to some of the untamed wilderness of Utah.  On this trip, I chose the second option.

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