Zion National Park

The Subway, copyright QT Luong.

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"Mukuntuweap"

It doesn't roll as easily off the tongue as does "Zion," but its definition better describes the landscape. It was the name given the colorful redrock canyon and surrounding landscape in southwestern Utah by Major John Wesley Powell, who explored it in 1872 after his journey down the Green and Colorado rivers, an excursion that took him through three other landscapes that today are part of the National Park System.

The major felt "Mukuntuweap," a Southern Paiute word meaning "straight arrow," or "straight canyon," was the proper name for this landscape of aeries and slot canyons. But that didn't hold, and how the name was changed to "Zion" will be explained in the section on park history.

Whatever the name, though, this is a magical landscape, one you can gaze down upon from on high, walk into through cracks in the ruddy underbelly, or quietly admire in awe from the banks of the Virgin River that ripples through its core.

Though a fairly good-sized park, at nearly 150,000 acres, most visitors to Zion National Park stick to that core, Zion Canyon. Day hikes lead off in all directions from this canyon, and can be as demanding (Angel's Landing) or as tranquil (Weeping Rock) as you feel up to. It's a park with soaring ramparts of sandstone that conjure images of Yosemite National Park, yet without the crowds.

Climbers test themselves on the walls of Zion Canyon, while many others find themselves at the head of the canyon after navigating the "Narrows," a 16-mile adventure through a slot canyon. Still others are drawn to the peacefulness of the canyon with its singing birds, hanging gardens, and rippling waters.

But there's much more to Zion than simpy its namesake canyon. Head to the northwest corner of the park, through the Kolob Canyons entrance, and you'll find not only a scenic drive that shows off box canyons painted in oranges, pinks, and golds, but also a backcountry trail that will lead you to one of the largest arches in the world, Kolob Arch. Another, shorter, hike leads past two homesteader cabins to Double Arch Alcove.

Take the Kolob Terrace Road that heads north from Virgin, Utah, and you'll gain more access to the backcountry and sweeping views of this colorful country. Stand on one of the overlooks here and you'll understand why many consider Zion one of the prettiest national parks in the system.

Traveler's Choice For: Canyoneering, birding, photography, hiking

Park History: Zion National Park

Situated near Springdale in southwestern Utah, Zion National Park is one of America’s most popular national parks. This remarkable park might very well be called Mukuntuweap National Park today were it not for unhappy Mormons and a faithful sidekick standing in for an iconic National Park Director who suffered terrible bouts of depression. It’s a fascinating story.

Seasons In Zion National Park

What kind of weather might you expect at Zion National Park throughout the year? It's definitely a mixed bag, ranging from high heat in the summer to mild falls, comparatively mild winters (when compared to, for instance, Glacier National Park), and wet springs.

Lodging In Zion National Park

There is just one lodge within the borders of Zion National Park, but there are a good number of lodging options in the landscape surrounding the park. With little effort you can find charming bed-and-breakfasts, chain motels, and guest ranches to choose from when it comes to deciding where to lie your head down.

Camping In Zion National Park

Tent camper? If you are, Zion has three designated campgrounds, two that might seem overly populous, but that's the draw of Zion Canyon. The other requires a ride, but you'll find solitude at the end of the road.

Hiking In Zion National Park

Zion National Park has a wonderful array of hikes to choose from. Hikes that guide you to cool spots in the height of summer, hikes that lead you through 2,000-foot cuts in the landscape, and hikes that will test your fear of heights.

Traveler's Checklist: Zion National Park

It's easy to be overwhelmed once you pass through the Springdale entrance into Zion National Park. Towering sandstone ramparts soar overhead, and the walls seem to squeeze in on you as you enter Zion Canyon. Here's a checklist to help you navigate a visit to this red-rock wonder.

Zion National Park Wildlife

Zion National Park isn't roamed by bison or wolves, but it does have a surprising amount of wildlife that calls the landscape home.

Exploring The Parks: Seeing Zion National Park From A Different Perspective

Nearly 3 million visitors explored Zion National Park last year...but they saw only a fraction of it.

Zion National Park Geology

Zion National Park is a work long under construction. Geologists have traced 250 million years of history in the park's rock ramparts, and frozen in them is a fascinating fossil record.

Arches Of Zion National Park

Though another national park in Utah is famous for arches, Zion National Park has more than you might imagine.

Resources For Visiting Zion National Park

This is where you can find websites, helpful phone numbers, friends groups and cooperating associations, and, sometimes, books related to the park.

Zion National Park News

Climber Dies In Fall At Zion National Park

A 47-year-old man became the eighth climber since 1983 to die in a climbing accident in Zion National Park when he apparently lost his balance and toppled backwards about 80 feet down a steep slope.

Jumping, Even A Little Bit, Can Be Dangerous In Zion National Park

Jumping, even just a little bit, can be dangerous in Zion National Park. Two park visitors discovered that in two different incidents in a ten-minute period that left them with broken legs.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts Sues National Park Service Over Grand Canyon Contracts

Xanterra Parks & Resorts, which operates lodges and restaurants in some of the most iconic national parks in the system, on Wednesday announced it was suing the National Park Service over its handling of concessions contracts on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

Zion National Park Images