Sunday, January 10, 2016

Leaving Zion

(Continuing the recap of my mid-October trip to southern Utah and Northern Arizona...)

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!

Almost done!

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
Angels Landing
Zion's Hidden Canyon

Sharing with:  Through My Lens and Our World Tuesday


  1. Firstly, thank you for NOT showing the eight legged friend (shudders!). These photos are absolutely stunning and I can't wait for the Grand Canyon trip! So excited!!

  2. I love that last shot at Zion. The layers of rock remind me of a haystack, so cool! Now I'm looking forward to the Grand Canyon pictures. :)

  3. Glad you had a wonderful day worth lingering longer before leaving Zion! These photos are beautiful, I love the colors.

  4. A wonderful hike. I remember our last trip to Zion. I was wondering if the road you traveled on was not open to cars in the summer, but just tourist buses? I was told this when we were there and that it opened to regular traffic during the colder months. Just curious :) Loved these photos. I am bookmarking it and reading your other posts as am hoping to go there again next year.

    All the best,

    1. Hi Denise, The main park road was closed to cars and we used the shuttle bus system, but the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway (the road we were on in this post) is always open to cars.

  5. Hi Linda, Zion is a beautiful park. Your images and views are just fabulous! We have done the same trip stopping at Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon. Great post. Enjoy your day and the new week ahead!

  6. It just gets better and better.

  7. Wow. This is a fantastic end to the Zion photo series. Looking forward to the Grand Canyon. I visited South Rim, so I'm curious to see what the North Rim looks like.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  8. What an astonishing world we all live in. Great photos.

  9. So glad the rain cleared quickly, giving you a simply sensational departure. Such totally awesome rock formations.

  10. I'm really looking forward to the north rim posts! I used to see a lot of tarantulas in California. They are fine to see, from quite a distance. I would completely freak out if one jumped on me. I'm feeling kind of frightened just writing this.

  11. So beautiful, Linda!!! And judging from your lovely smile in this series, I can see that you enjoyed it! I sure did, thanks to your gorgeous photos here. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  12. Aww! I would have like a giant Tarantula photo! But the scenery is spectacular and the geolog fascinating! We really have to plan to get there someday!

  13. Oh I love that drive on the Zion Mt Carmel Highway! That's so cool you got to see some bighorn sheep! I want to spend some time there just hiking up random canyons! The variety of sandstone is incredible!

    I have never been to the North Rim...can't wait to see what you saw!

  14. Excelente trabalho e belas fotografias que gostei de ver.
    Um abraço e boa semana.

  15. Awesome! My favourite in this post is the shot of the mountain sheep. Very cool.

  16. Wonderful pictures of the landscape, Linda. This may be on our list of must sees this summer.

  17. I sure did love all your adventures in that wonderful park. And now I look forward to the next adventure! :-)

  18. A great National Park and terrific set of photographs.

  19. What a great place and series of photos. That short hike certainly led to fabulous views!

  20. I used to work on the north rim of the Canyon. I hope you stopped and had one of the milkshakes at Jacob Lake...

  21. I am more anxious than ever to visit Utah and see Bryce and Zion, after seeing your photos. I've visited the Grand Canyon but from the South rim perspective, so I look forward to seeing your visit to the north rim

  22. Hi! I enjoyed your photos of Zion park Very much. Yes,I could see the twisty road. I went to Grand Canyon about 15 years ago with my family. We went there by a small plane from Los Angels. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Beautiful photos. We love Zion..thanks for the memories ... It has been too long (and before I had my digital camera) ...

  24. What a remarkable part of the world - I have done a quick day tour to the canyon from Scottsdale when I was at a conference - I think I will have to manipulate my choice of conference venues in the future to get back here!!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  25. Fantastic photos! Loved those mountain sheep! Such beautiful color in everything once the rain lifted. They sure didn't have a lot of foresight inb planning that tunnel, did they? :-) Well, did you visit the North Rim as well as the South since you came in that way....looking forward to your next photos!

  26. What a beautiful place to spend a few days! I enjoyed your photos! :)

  27. The whole trip sound so fabulous! I love the scenery with all that reddish rock punctuated with greenery! BUT were you hiking in sandals?

  28. Would have definitely been watching my step in those sandels - esp if approaching spiders! Glorious views and landscapes - your photos are great!

  29. Love the beautiful colors of the desert. Your husband looks pretty brave out there scouting out the tarantula. I live in Texas, and when my girls were little, we had a tarantula in our house. As terrified as I am of spiders like that, no one was home but my little girls and me, so I had to deal with the spider myself. It was an experience I would not like to repeat. Have so enjoyed sharing your trip with you and always love your photos Linda! Best to you!


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