Chasing the Sun
At this time of year it’s getting chilly in most parts of the United States. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are all on the horizon, and then winter will be here. And winter can be great. But if you’re not ready to let go of the warm weather just yet, then it’s time for a trip to Southern Utah and Zion National Park.
Warm Up in Zion
With temperatures in October topping out in the high seventies, spending a few days in Utah’s most popular national park is the perfect way to farewell the good weather. Plus it’s the perfect time to visit. It’s not too hot to hike, and the summer crowds have all gone, which means you’ll pretty much have the place to yourself. And we at the Lodge have a few suggestions of what you can see while you’re hanging out in the park.
Tour Zion Canyon
This is the obvious one, but it should be your first priority. The Zion Canyon shuttle is still running in October, so you can leave the car at the parking lot. Check out the visitor center first, then grab the shuttle and spend the day touring the canyon. We recommend that you stop at a couple of places:
Hike to Upper Emerald Pools – this is an easy, three-mile roundtrip hike. In fact the trail is so easy that the first part is paved. There are three pools, Lower, Middle and Upper Emerald Pools. Try to make it to the top. And on the way back down, take the Kayenta Trail. (This will add another mile to the hike, but it’s pretty cool.)
Hike to Weeping Rock – another easy hike with a cool water feature, Weeping Rock is only a half-mile roundtrip. Weeping Rock does, in fact, appear to be weeping water. This creates a perfect environment for ferns to grow up the sandstone walls, forming a “hanging garden.”
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Zion National Park is bigger than just Zion Canyon. Just through the Mount Carmel Tunnel is Checkerboard Mesa. It’s a completely different look than what you’ve seen in Zion Canyon, with white sandstone carved with distinctive fissures that resemble a checkerboard. It’s worth exploring a little, so here’s what you should do there:
Drive Through the ZIon-Mount Carmel Tunnel – this is a fantastic mile-long tunnel was carved through solid rock. When it was constructed during the 1930s, it was the most expensive mile of highway in the America.
Hike the Checkerboard Trail – this is one of the best ways to see Checkerboard Mesa for yourself. The trail is only two miles roundtrip, but it is a bit strenuous. You’ll get to see (and climb) some of those sandstone checkerboard mounds for yourself, and lots of panoramic views.
And don’t forget about Kolob Canyon. It’s not really connected to the main part of Zion National Park, but rather is accessed via Interstate–15 near Cedar City, Utah. Kolob Canyon is a canyon of towering red sandstone monoliths. Driving up to the top is reward enough, but there are a couple of hikes that you might want to try:
Timber Creek Overlook Trail– this is the trail at the top of canyon, at the parking lot and turn-around area. The trail is easy and is only a mile roundtrip. At the end of the hike you’ll be able to see for miles in every direction, including the marvelous Kolob Canyon.
Taylor Creek Trail – this trail leads into one of the fingers of Kolob Canyon, is moderately difficult. The whole path is about five-miles roundtrip, but you can stop at any point. The route officially ends at the Double Arch Alcove, one of the coolest features in the canyon.
That’s a Wrap
That’s our list. Go get some fresh air and sunshine before winter sets in. Have fun and be safe out there!