Thursday, August 18, 2022

Zion: A memorable merging of rock, water, sky, light and history

Zion National Park is a splendid unfolding of nature's dramatic rock, water, light and more.



As soon as visitors disembark the shuttle,
they can shop for drinks or souvenirs
and await the buses that tour the park

THE PIONEERS who first drove their wagons into this stunning natural wonder, would probably be amazed at the traffic in Zion National Park today. Long gone are horse and wagon. But hundreds of cars line the nearby roads, at a variety of well-marked shuttle stops.

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie"
Meyers hike one of Zion's trails.

So popular has Utah's first national park become that one must take a shuttle into the park and then get around in little touring buses. Still, it's a wonder to behold. We recently joined hundreds of fellow park lovers to retrace the same paths native people and pioneers walked. 

IT WAS  WARM -- a hot and dry day -- 100 degrees -- so we made certain we had water bottles and sun hats. Then we set off on tour buses, winding under the park's massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red. One has the option of exiting the bus at various stops, to soak up the scene under a brilliant blue sky. We were dwarfed by towering cliffs as we hiked through the park's beautiful wilderness in a series of narrow canyons.  

Christene "Cookie" Meyers hits the trail.
 Zion stands as proud testimony to popularity of national parks in the U.S. Millions visit from around the world.  We heard an international mix of language -- Japanese, Italian, French, German and Norwegian -- during our three-day visit. The only disappointment was the inability to drive through the park and take our time in our own vehicle as we can still do in Yellowstone.  But we understand the change from private cars to group transportation. 
THE ZION shuttle program began a few years ago, following suit with programs begun in other national parks since 2,000.
According to a National Park Service spokesman, the parks began operating shuttles because of traffic overload. The attempt to reduce both traffic and the parking problems caused by cars has been successful and millions of tourists now use shuttles in several of our most popular parks.
"The shuttle system has restored tranquility to Zion," a park ranger told us. He explained that the shuttle system has helped restore vegetation and maintain the park's natural landscape.
So which of our national parks are the most popular?
Hikers and nature lovers from around the world drive in
a tour bus to various stops for exploring Zion.
In 2018, Zion ranked fourth among America's most visited national parks, ahead of Yellowstone, which came in fifth and Yosemite which placed sixth. 
Grand Canyon National Park tops the list, with Rocky Mountain National Park and Acadia National Park right behind. Each had over 4 million visitors.
In Montana and Wyoming, Yellowstone's neighboring Grand Teton National Park had 3.88 million visitors.

Outside the park, shuttle stops are
well marked.  One pays for parking
though, and can use a credit card.

The Narrows is worth
the hike and wet shoes.
 IF YOU HAVE limited time -- and can choose only one hike -- we recommend going into The Narrows,  the park's narrowest and most dramatic section, deep in Zion Canyon. The gorge  walls are a thousand feet tall and the river sloshes over on the trail, so your feet may get wet. We carried an extra pair of shoes, based on a ranger's recommendation and were grateful to have the change. It's a challenging hike on a hot day, about 1.5 miles from the bus drop-off. But there are shady places to shelter on the way.
Other popular hikes are Angel's Landing and Canyon Overlook Trail. Another beautiful area of Zion National Park is Zion Canyon, easily accessed along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, a curving road running along the canyon floor, with towering cliff walls on both sides.
DO YOUR homework to prepare for Zion.  There are many trails and various fees depending on if you are walking, on motorcycle, etc. We recommend reserving and paying on line to make the most of your time once you're there. Here's a website to get you started: 
Christena Robbie Cosgriffe, named after two of her aunties,
is a happy well adjusted child with her special needs looked
after. Here she poses with Aunties Olivia and Christene,
and uncles Rick and Bruce, at a family gathering.

NEXT UP: "Raising Christena."  Our 12-year old niece and my namesake, Christena, was born with Down Syndrome.  The challenges of raising a child with a birth defect -- "special needs" -- is one shared by the child's entire family and support system.  Christena's "Village," as Hillary Clinton called it, is a sturdy one with family, friends, doctors, nurses, speech therapists, musicians, teachers and more. Read how we're dealing with the challenge and remember to explore, learn and live:


  1. Providence FollowersAugust 19, 2022 at 8:36 AM

    This Zion piece is wonderful -- makes us want to go NOW. But we especially look forward to next week's piece on your niece. We have followed the whole story of her life. Good for your "village."

  2. San Fernando Valley HikersAugust 19, 2022 at 8:40 AM

    Always fun to follow your nature adventures. We love Zion, but "your" Yellowstone is at the top of our list.

  3. Looking forward to more about sweet Christena.