America is blessed with 58 national parks that embrace some of the most diverse, pristine and awe-inspiring nature in the world. Designated in 1919, Zion is Utah’s oldest and most visited National Park, with around 3.5 million visitors soaking up all that it has to offer every year. With its striking vertical topography, around 800 native plant species and the ability to accommodate a wide range of needs, a visit to Zion in the fall is bound to be the trip of a lifetime.
Within the park’s 232 square miles lies a landscape of majestic canyons, remote terraces and cascading waterfalls. These took many millions of years to form, evolving through a process of gushing water, shifting sandstone and lowering basins. The gradual carving of Zion created cliffs and narrow gorges with elevations of up to 8,726 feet.
These sandstone canyons can be experienced in a variety of ways. The options range from flying through the valley and relishing a bird’s eye view to getting up close and personal on one of the many hiking trails. There is also a shuttle bus that loops throughout some of the most popular attractions, such as the world’s largest free-standing arch, which is situated in one of the park’s four key areas, Kolob Canyon. Bikes, horseback, four wheel buggies and your own two feet are also on the menu, allowing everyone to find a pace that’s just right for their individual comfort levels.
Zion is set up to ensure your trip is as personalized, comfortable and pleasurable as possible.
There are hundreds of miles of wild trails that weave throughout the landscape, plus 15 miles of paved trails that are perfect for those who need a slightly more consistent path beneath their feet, or use a wheelchair. Don’t be too surprised if you come across a tarantula on your travels as they are just one of the many forms of wildlife that inhabit the park. These arachnids are actually harmless and share the terrain with 79 different species of mammals and around 32 different kinds of reptiles.
Kodi Roholt, one of the park’s many rangers, can’t wipe the smile off her face as she explains why the fall is such a perfect time to visit. “Zion has something unique to offer in every season, and fall is no exception. The endless colors are a feast for the eyes. The leaves and sandstone cliffs mirror each other with all of their endless shades of red and orange—it’s just stunning,” enthuses Roholt. “The temperature is also perfect. It’s not as hot as the summer months, and there is often a cool breeze, making it an ideal time to check out what’s on offer!”
One of many areas that has a lot to offer is the vegetation that continually adapts itself to the sudden rise and fall in elevation. Running alongside the peaceful streams on the canyon floor are thick stands of Fremont cottonwood, box elder and willow, while cactus and Utah juniper are just a stone’s throw further afield. The high plateaus support Douglas fir and ponderosa pine, which add to fall’s show of ever-changing hues, as the summer finally surrenders to the cooler season.
Pets are welcome in the park, as long as they are kept on a leash. Restaurant and accommodation options are plentiful and cover a range of budgets, and the park’s entry fee is modest. In a nutshell, Zion is host to some of the most stunning landscape and rich animal and plant life in America.
In addition, the infrastructure of the park is set up to ensure your trip is as personalized, comfortable and pleasurable as possible. So why not seize the moment this fall? You know what they say—you’ll never be quite this young again.
Previously published in the 2015 Summer issue. By Kim Henry