On the road again.....
The third morning of our trip, my hubby and I awoke to rain and foggy skies. But the previous night we'd chosen a cozy motel room over our tent, and now smugly watched fat raindrops patter the ground outside.
|The scenic Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway|
Due to the lousy weather, we were in no hurry to leave. Heavy clouds and rain equaled no views. Glad we'd seen most of Zion's sights already, Roger and I lingered over a fabulous breakfast in the nearby restaurant (included with our room). Then we took our time packing our now-dry gear back into the car.
|Mile-long Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel|
Today's destination - the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Only 125 miles away, we planned a leisurely drive via the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway for a final look at Zion National Park.
|Canyon Overlook Trail|
The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway leads visitors from Zion National Park to all points east. A winding, narrow road, it's a spectacular climb from the canyon floor, traversing a series of six sinuous switchbacks and a mile-long tunnel. The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, built in the 1920s when vehicles were much smaller, requires larger vehicles (RV's and trucks) to pay an additional fee to drive through. Due to narrow lanes, the park service shuts down the tunnel to all traffic for large vehicles, allowing them to take up the entire road width.
|Lots of steep drop-offs!|
Luckily, by the time Roger and I left Springdale, the rain began to taper off. Dry skies greeted us as we began our ascent of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway.
|Looking down into a narrow Pine Creek Canyon|
What an outstanding drive! The scenery was spectacular. Huge sandstone monoliths rose directly upward from the roadside. As we slowly climbed the switchbacks, the entire Zion valley began to spread out below. I looked forward to driving through the famous tunnel, and even though there wasn't much to see, it was still very cool. It was a mile of darkness punctuated by an occasional window offering quick glimpses to the outside world.
|Can you see the mountain sheep?|
On the east side of the tunnel I spotted a large pullout, providing access to the East Rim Trail. Of course I wanted to hike it, and since today's journey was a short one, we had time.
|Still a few puddles to trek through|
According to the trailhead sign, it was supposedly a half mile to the viewpoint. Roger and I headed out first traversing a steep, slippery sandstone hill and then following Pine Creek Canyon's scenic rim.
|White sandstone peaks gleam in the light|
The East Rim was a fun trail. I enjoyed winding through the rocky outcrops and climbing over sandstone boulders. Around every turn, the scenery kept getting better until we arrived at the designated viewpoint at trail's end.
|Overlook photo op|
Oh my what a fabulous sight! The entire lower Zion valley opened up before us. We spotted the white sandstone cliffs of Bridge Mountain, Streaked Wall, and East Temple.
|Can you see the twisty road below?|
And far, far below we could see the sharp switchbacks of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. Such an amazing panoramic view!
|Scrambling across the rock|
What can I say, lots of photo-taking ensued! Roger and I lingered awhile at this fabulous place, soaking in our last great views of Zion National Park.
|Row of sandstone pillars|
Then we reluctantly retraced our steps back down the trail. The return trip also had some nice surprises. One of the other hikers spotted a herd of mountain sheep high on the cliff and we had fun watching them.
|Roger looking for the tarantula|
Then another hiker warned us of a tarantula on the trail ahead. He said it was on a rock wall "about head height." Ugh! I let Roger go first....I didn't want to come face to face with a huge spider!
Of course, Roger thought seeing another tarantula would be cool and eagerly searched the rocky walls as we passed by. I lagged behind, hoping that spider would just crawl away.
|Red rock close-up|
But, Roger found the creepy crawly thing, sitting on a nearby rock ledge. Although I took a few camera shots, (again, thank goodness for zoom lenses!) I don't think anyone really wants to see another tarantula photo. You'll just have to take my word for it.
|Fantastic layered sandstone formations|
Back at the car, we continued our drive through the remainder of Zion National Park. I'd expected a quick trip, but the scenery was so wonderful I made Roger stop for more photo ops.
|Fall color just starting|
Large sandstone monoliths rose high in the sky. Colorful rock layers made interesting patterns on the hillsides. And along the narrow river valley, trees were just beginning to change into their fall colors.
|Cool rock patterns|
It was such an enjoyable drive, I was disappointed when we finally passed by the Park's east entrance. Goodbye Zion!
|Rock layers encircle this butte|
But more good stuff awaited us a couple of hours down the road. Passing the Utah-Arizona state line, I reveled in the fact that I was finally going to give Arizona a proper visit. (The only western state I'd yet to set foot in.) And I was finally going to see the Grand Canyon, a place long on my bucket list.
|We made it!|
The drive to North Rim was a long, boring one. There's not much to see between the Utah state line and Jacob Lake, a tiny resort town 40 miles north of the Grand Canyon. But slowly, the sagebrush-dotted plains transitioned to lovely forest, and I felt a surge of excitement as the park sign came into view.
Hello Grand Canyon!
Be sure not to miss my next series of posts all about this wonderful National park.
And if you've missed any of my Zion National Park posts, here's a list:
Zion National Park - The Adventure Begins
The Emerald Pools
A Stormy Night
Zion's Hidden Canyon
Sharing with: Through My Lens and Our World Tuesday