Our next stop on the agenda was Zion National Park in southwest Utah. It is the fifth most visited National Park, the tour guide told us. We arrived to find the streets of Springdale, the town closest to the park, lined with parked cars in every nook and cranny and the place was crawling with young people in hiking boots and back packs.
Fortunately, we had a hotel reservation and were able to avoid the $20 fee parking lots were charging. The overcrowding in the small canyon town is horrendous and has caused private vehicles to not be allowed on Zion’s most scenic drive. We could observe steep red cliffs all around us, impressive as much for their size as their beauty. The National Park Service and city have coordinated a shuttle system to allow people to visit and view the major scenic areas of the park.
On the first day we drove through a part of the park where vehicles were allowed. Even though it was not considered the most scenic part of the park, it was still quiet beautiful and had humongous red rock formations around every curve and mile long tunnel dug through solid rock. Cars were also crammed into every possible parking space in that area.
Today we toured the scenic area accessible only by shuttle. The tour was narrated and explained the services and history and gave information about the park. It also provided access to the trailheads of Zion’s many hiking trails. Rock formations have names like “The Watchman,” “The Great White Throne,” and names of Biblical characters. We are not outdoors sports people; however, the trails are popular with hikers and the steep rock walls are favorites with rock climbers. The river flowing through the area is as small as the creek near my home, but the erosion it created is magnificent and awe inspiring.
If you are young enough to hike and enjoy outdoor recreation, you will love the area. Go visit it now while you are able. Trail difficulty varies from easy to almost impossible. If you are my age, you will still enjoy the scenery, but you will hate the inconvenience, unbearable desert heat, and crowds. Zion is a primary example of a National Park being overwhelmed by its own popularity. It is worth seeing once, but if you want to vacation in a place not ruined by tourism and price gouging, I suggest you plan on keeping your visit as brief as possible.