Waking up at the North Rim had its benefits, since we got to have a very filling breakfast at the North Rim Lodge, while overlooking the canyon itself. We also took the opportunity of the sun being on the other side of the canyon to take some more photos, with the light coming from a different direction.
Once we were ready to leave, we drove back across the Kaibab plateau to the Utah/Arizona border. From here we took the road to our final national park for a week or so: Zion National Park. We were approaching from the east, which had us taking the local route 9 or ‘Zion-Mt Carmel highway’. This is another extremely bendy mountain road, which goes down one side of Zion canyon to where the visitor centre is. It features a mile-long tunnel which was blasted into the sandstone cliffs around 1930. At that time it was the longest tunnel in North America, and the whole route up the canyon wall was considered a great piece of road building.
Due to large numbers of visitors at the national park, it is not possible to drive the narrow road that goes deep into the canyon. Instead a free shuttle bus must be taken.This would have been fine if it wasn’t 100 degrees and the buses not air conditioned. Each bus proudly displayed that it runs on a propane based fuel – great but we’d rather it ran on diesel and kept us cool!
Our first stop was the park’s museum to watch a 22 minute film about the canyon and how it was formed. We learnt that it was named by Mormon settlers, who considered it a refuge from religious persecution – much like Zion is meant to be a place of refuge in biblical references. Predictably (we are becoming experts), the canyon was formed by a river flowing for millions of years over a sandstone plateau. After the film we got the bus to the end of the canyon where it narrows, to take some photos of the river and surrounding canyon walls. The rest of our time was spent at the various stops along the way, taking in and enjoying the scenery. The canyon stood out over others we have seen due to there being so much greenery – something which is unusual in the desert climate.
Today can be considered the end of the second chapter of our travels, which has been defined by driving through sparsely populated areas and seeing a variety of national parks. Tomorrow we reach Vegas where we are going to take it easy for a few days in the sun, before the final leg of the trip in California.
Photo of the day: Zion canyon with the Great White Throne visible.