Zion National Park

Zion National Park is one of my favorite places, but like other popular parks can become a crowded mess in the summer, so I've only experienced it in the fall through early spring.  The park encapsulates a geologic anomaly where the Navajo Sandstone achieves its thickest extent at the same place that extensive criss-crossing fissures and an escarpment have allowed the Virgin River and its tributaries to create a maze of giant cliffed canyons and peaks.  This creates an unparalleled sandstone landscape that is sometimes compared to its granite cousin Yosemite Valley, which Zion Canyon is somewhat similar to in scale.

Winter 1997
First trip to Zion which was with JJ, Matt, and Jerry.  Due to car issues we only had time to do the classic hike up to Angels Landing.


Looking up the steep narrow ridge to the summit of Angels Landing.


Looking back at JJ along the steep section with Refrigerator Canyon in the dark void to the left of the ridge.

 
Looking up Zion Canyon from the summit towards the road's end and the start of the narrows.  Observation Point is on the top right a little over 2000' above the canyon bottom.


Heading back down with the guys taking a quick photo break on an opposing outcrop.


Back below and out of Refrigerator Canyon but still high above the valley floor looking across the flank of Angels Landing and across Zion Canyon to Great White Throne.  The right face of Great White Throne and Refrigerator Canyon are formed by the same fissure, one of many that cross Zion Canyon. 


December 2002

 
Snowy drive into the park from the east entrance on a short visit to the park.

 
Lady Mountain on the left and Great White Throne on the right.


Took the high road until the snow got too deep, this is a quiet scene of Cave Knoll across Cave Valley.

 
These two photos were taken after 2002 but I'm not sure when.  The first didn't scan that well but is of Mountain of the Sun and the u-shaped hanging valley separating it from Twin Brothers to the right.  The second is sunset on two of the Three Patriarchs.


November 2005


View along the east entrance road which follows Clear Creek.  Bridge Mountain is at left with East Temple at right and West Temple in the distance on the other side of Zion Canyon.


Another view along Clear Creek just before the road passes through the short tunnel I believe.  The north rim of the canyon is on the right with the East Temple poking up just left of center.


The following group of photos is along the hike up the West Rim Trail which shares the initial stretch with the route up to Angels Landing, which is in the shadow at left jutting out into Zion Canyon.


Northern flanks of Mount Majestic that loom over the trail.

 
Looking west towards the top of the plateau that the trail will ascend just to the left out of view.  In the second photo, looking the other direction to the peaks that rise above the narrows of the Virgin River.  The river is tucked between the shadowed bench in the middleground and the far flat area at over 1000' below.

 
Similar to Refrigerator Canyon, the trail plunges into this fissure canyon and then scales the adjacent cliff, except the West Rim Trail has only a few long exposed switchbacks unlike the confined Walter's Wiggles.  The trail traversed the shallow valley on the lower right of the second photo, which is where the preceding two photos were taken.


Once atop the plateau the views open up into the mind boggling terrain that make up the heart of Zion but most visitors are unaware of since only a glimpse is visible from the bottom of Zion Canyon.  This photo is looking down Behunin Canyon though it can't really be seen at the bottom of this photo.  Mount Majestic is the mesa top on the left, East Temple is the prominent point in the distant center across Zion Canyon, Lady Mountain is just to its right with a sloped top, and Castle Dome is the closer high point a bit more to the right.


Farther along the trail and past the ridge at left that separates Behunin from a fissure canyon that feeds into Heaps Canyon, which is near the center of the photo flowing from right to left towards the Emerald Pools.  East Temple is again the distant point on the left and I believe the high distant point near top center is The Sentinel.


The trail wraps aroung the edge of the plateau until it looks west over the terrain of the Left and Right Forks of North Creek.  Inclined Temple is the large flat topped mesa just left of center, which is inclined up towards the southwest as is the rest of the strata in most of Zion.  This tilt orientation causes the highest peaks and deepest portion of Zion Canyon to be colocated around it's entrance, which is where the West Temple is located at far left in this photo.  Ivins Mountain is the large white dome to the right of Inclined Temple.

 
Better view of Phantom Valley in the first photo, which is the headwaters of Heaps Canyon.  This is an odd valley in that it's broad contour generally follows the tilt of the strata, but the creek has just barely cut down enough to flow in the opposing direction.  It seems like a larger portion of this area may have been a broad drainage down Heaps Canyon prior to more recent rapid erosion from the Right Fork of North Creek which can be seen etching its way into Phantom Valley.  The second photo is the dizzying view into the Right Fork of North Creek with the sheer wall of Ivins Mountain on the left rising 2000' above the creek, with about the same distance across the canyon to the equally high point on the right.  This type of narrow steep topography seems quite a bit younger than that of Phantom Valley.


Looking to the northwest with the left branch of the Right Fork of North Creek running below the long white cliffs below center.  Greatheart Mesa is above center and sits between the Left and Right Forks.  Beyond the dark ridge at far right is the Kolob Canyons section of the park.


Vegetation covering the ridges and cliffs on the way back down.  Many of the cliffs that appear bare from a distance actually have quite a bit a life anchored in the cracks.


View near the intersection with the trail to Angels Landing at the edge of the 1400' dropoff to the Virgin River out of view below.  Wynopits Mountain is the lumpy highpoint at far left and Observation Point is immediately across the canyon with the red streaked cliffs.  Down canyon to the right is the red stained top of Cable Mountain, to its right is the flat top of Great White Throne, Angels Landing sits in the shadow below, Deertrap Mountain is the rounded ridge next on the right, and then the last highpoint in the distance is East Temple.  The Twin Brothers aren't easily discernable but they are in front of East Temple and make up what appears to be the right high flat portion of East Temple, while Mountain of the Sun is farther in front with its sunlit face.  The high cliffs in shadow at far right are those of Cathedral Mountain which rises directly above Refrigerator Canyon and Angels Landing.


Sunset on Mountain of the Sun at left and Twin Brothers on the right.


Long expsosure of twilight on Bridge Mountain, quite a while after the sun slipped over the horizon but was still reflecting off distant clouds.


Sunrise on the Towers of the Virgin from the visitor center area.  West Temple on the left at almost 4000' above the Zion Canyon floor and with monolithic 2000' cliffs of Navajo Sandstone.  To its right is the Sundial and the red stained flat topped point on the right is the Altar of Sacrifice.  I don't think the other prominent points inbetween have official names though there are climber names for them.


December 2006


Twin Brothers, Mount Spry, and the massive East Temple.


This lighting of water drops below Weeping Rock only lasted a few minutes so snapped off some quick photos.  Great White Throne is the high point.


Sun lighting up some cottonwoods along the Virgin River below Angels Landing and Cathedral Mountain in the background.


Did the quick hike up the Watchman Trail before sunset.  Looking up Zion Canyon with The Sentinel sunlit at left and the next two sunlit points are two of the Three Patriarchs.  Observation Point is the rightmost point with Angels Landing below it.


Sunset on some of the large Pinyon Pine, and Bridge Mountain from the top of the Watchman Trail.

 
The next set of photos is along the Observation Point Trail.  View of the switchbacks below and the tighter switchbacks of the trail that heads up to Hidden Canyon, the most exposed trail in Zion and one I haven't done yet.  Great White Throne is the highpoint on the left.  The second photo is looking up at Cable Mountain from the slot of Echo Canyon which the trail follows for a while.  Little light makes its way into most of these deep canyons and for most of the day is limited to what scatters down off the canyon walls.


Looking at the cliffs of Zion Canyon from the bottom of Echo Canyon but out of the slot.  On the left are Cable Mountain and Great White Throne of the east rim, and on the west rim are Lady Mountain with its huge cliffs in shadow and Cathedral Mountain above Angels Landing on the far right.


The broad upstream portion of Echo Canyon looking towards where the East Rim Trail exits to the top of the east rim.

 
Much higher up on the exposed section of trail looking back down to the bottom of Echo Canyon.  The hanging canyon aspect of Echo Canyon is obvious in the first photo and is characteristic of many canyons in Zion.  Great White Throne is on the left with The Sentinel immediately to its right in the distance and a greater portion of Lady Mountain now visible.  The second photo shows the north face of Cable Mountain with the entrenched meanders of Echo Canyon about 1000' below.


Instead of going out to Observation Point itself, on the right of this photo, I decided to check out the view from the highpoint to the north.  On the left is Cable Mountain and to its right is Great White Throne with the rounded shoulder of Deertrap Mountain to its right.  In the distance is the prominent top of East Temple with Twin Brothers and Mountain of the Sun difficult to make out but making up what appears to be East Temple's right flank.  Farther off down canyon on the far right are Bridge Mountain and The Watchmen, the latter located at the mouth of Zion Canyon.


View from the highpoint with the Virgin River immediately below and the narrows off to the right.   The area on the far left is where the West Rim Trail ascends up to the plateau along the top of the photo.


Looking back at the cliffs of Observation Point on the way back down.


A storm moved in and dusted some more snow on the upper elevations, this is Cable Mountain.


From right to left East Temple, Mount Spry, Twin Brothers, and Mountain of the Sun.


Mount Moroni


View along Clear Creek.


The Sentinel with The Streaked Wall behind it to the left.


Great White Throne


Hiked up the road and creek behind the visitors center to get a closer view of the Towers of the Virgin.  Similar to the previous pan but Meridian Tower is visible on the right with the cloud rising up its cliffs.