Quiet Parts of Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons

Kolob Canyons

After two straight days of long, grueling hikes and then a day of rest, we intended to go at it again outside the main part of Zion National Park.  Our planned destination was Kolob Canyons, a remote section of Zion located at exit 40 on Interstate 15, about 40 miles north of Zion Canyon.

As usual, we took off early in the morning. Kolob Canyons is set at a higher elevation than the main park, and when we arrived the wind was howling with temperatures in the low 30’s.  We were prepared for the low temps, but the winds were higher than expected and brutally cold.  After posing briefly at the entrance sign I blurted out, “No way am I hiking in these conditions!”  Steve put up absolutely no resistance, and since we’d made the drive we decided to auto hike the 5-mile twisty scenic road to take a few more photos.

Sunrise at Kolob Canyon

The promise of a new day

Kolob Canyons boasts the park’s highest peak – Horse Ranch Mountain – at 8,726′.  It holds spectacular finger canyons with soaring cliffs of red Navajo Sandstone and deep pocket canyons.  The sun rose from behind those mountains, and we saw some interesting silhouettes as we traversed the ridge line while climbing over 1000′ in elevation.

Kolob Canyons

We sat in the warm car and waited for the sun to slowly peek out over the mountaintops, then quietly absorbed the unfolding majestic scenery before us:

Sunrise at Kolob Canyons

Here comes the sun…

Kolob Canyons

…and I say it’s all right…

Kolob Canyons

…sun, sun, sun here it comes!

The word “Kolob” is from Mormon scripture meaning “residence closest to heaven”.  Being the only ones here, we felt close to heaven as we soaked in the stillness and tranquility of the rising sun increasingly lighting the canyons.

2016-03-18-UT-1460176.jpgKolob Terrace Road

Bummed about missing our hikes, we changed the game plan to instead continue sightseeing from the car.  We headed back to Kolob Terrace Road, which was just up the highway from our campground (Steve’s review here).  It slices through the middle of Zion NP, between Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyons.

Cows at Kolob Terrace Road

This free-ranger must be thinking, “What are you doing here?”

Kolob Terrace offers a 20-mile scenic drive, starting at the small town of Virgin and climbing north from the desert washes into the aspen-covered plateaus at higher elevations. We noticed as we ascended that the road winded in and out of the boundaries of Zion NP, and past several farms and homes.  We met only a couple of other vehicles during our drive, as most of the spring breakers were obviously at the national park.

Kolob Terrace Road

Might not be bad living here?

At first we thought it could be a boring drive, but then we rounded a corner and some dramatic scenery popped right up in front of us.  I’ll let my snapshots show how diverse the scenery was as we continued to climb into the high country:

Kolob Terrace Road

Hoodoos

Cave Knoll

Cave Knoll

Kolob Terrace Road

At higher elevations in the Zion wilderness we encountered unplowed snow, and it eventually got too deep for us to continue.  But I couldn’t resist playing a bit in the white stuff before we turned around!

Kolob Terrace Road

Kolob Terrace Road

On the way back down we got a different perspective of the forests, meadows, cliffs and narrow ravines.

Hop Valley Trail

That’s the Hop Valley Trail out there

Kolob Terrace Road

Fire Pit Knoll

Mule deer

Our only wildlife sighting on this day

Red Butte

Red Butte glimmered in the sun

Back at the ranch, the moo-moo’s were busy munching and completely ignored us as we drove by:

2016-03-22-UT-1460815.jpg

We may have botched our hike for the day, but the the scenery and solitude at Kolob Canyons and along Kolob Terrace Road were of a character completely different than in the main park.  It turned out to be a good day after all!

 

Next up:  The hiking frenzy continued…