We pulled over for a photo shoot at the park entrance sign, then made our way to the Visitors’ Center to learn about visiting and hiking in the park. No cars are allowed on the scenic drive from March to November, so we would need to take the shuttle and hop off at different stops along the route. Buses ran frequently, and we had the freedom to see the sights and to take photographs as much as we wanted.
Our strategy was to take the shuttle to the furthest stop, the Temple of Sinawava, and see what we could there. Then we would make the trip back, taking the shuttle or hiking to the next stop. That let us see a good deal of the park, get some exercise, and soak up the grandeur of Zion.
One favorite spot was Weeping Rock, a popular park feature with a trail that ascends to a rock alcove with dripping springs and hanging gardens. Part of the trail had been closed in September after a rock slide made it unsafe. It had reopened, but from the shuttle stop, we and our fellow nature lovers could make the 98-foot climb.
As wondrous as is Mother Nature’s role is making Zion National Park, I also have to salute the visionary first National Parks Service Director, Stephen T. Mather. He set out to develop visitor access to the natural wonders of the national park system. With Mather’s promotion and dedication, by 1930 hard-working engineering and construction crews had built the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and Tunnel, making Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon accessible by automobile.
|Photo from NPS website|
The 25-mile road was a joint effort between the National Park Service, the state of Utah, and the Bureau of Public Roads. Most challenging was creating the 1.1-mile long tunnel that would connect the new road from the east with the winding road to the west. The tunnel would have to be carved through the heart of the sandstone cliffs. This remarkable feat of engineering and construction is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 2012, the American Society of Civil Engineers named the road and Tunnel a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
Though we spent only a day and a half in Zion, it was a fitting intro to the variety of Utah landforms and national parks. Navigating the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and passing through the magnificent Tunnel were part of the magic.
~ xoA ~