Information and Map
(what to see and do)
Zion National Park is a perfect ½ day or full-day excursion for a visitor to Zion Ponderosa since Zion Ponderosa sits literally on the eastern border of Zion National Park. You have the option of taking a guided canyoneering experience into Zion National Park directly from Zion Ponderosa (details at front desk), or traveling in your own vehicle through the main entrance of the park (east gate) and enjoying a self-guided tour. This itinerary has been created to assist you in the self-guided tour.
Geology & Erosion:
The sandstone in Zion National Park is comprised of different layers of sediment that have been deposited over thousands of years. These layers turned to stone and in more recent millennia they have been eroded away by rain (rivers) and wind. At Zion Ponderosa you are parallel to the boundary of the park and just seven miles from the east gate. Zion Ponderosa is 2,500 feet higher than the valley floor. You will see different types of sandstone (layers of sediment) on the east side than those found in the lower sections of the park. Some of the rock layers are more dense than others and each layer has different types of minerals within the rock. The red stain in the rock is caused by the oxidization of iron minerals within certain layers. The formations in Zion National Park are predominantly flat on top and when rain comes it collects on these plateaus and then follows the path of least resistance (gravity) through cracks in the formations. This fast moving gathering of water can create flash floods that rage through narrow areas called slot canyons. Trees, rocks and other debris can be carried by these floods into these narrow canyons. During rain and for a short time after a rain-storm, the water in the Virgin River turns to a chocolate brown. It can be dangerous to be in narrow areas of the canyon during a rainstorm but also a very beautiful site if you are in the open valley or at safe scenic lookouts. Be sure to get out of a slot canyon (quickly) if rain is coming down anywhere near the area you are walking or hiking. Rain can gather miles away and still send a flash-flood to your location.
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Over the past several-thousand years there have been various Native American groups living in and around the Zion National Park area. The Anasazi and Fremont were two groups that inhabited the region for several hundred years prior to 1200 A.D. The Southern Paiute moved into the area around 1100 or 1200 A.D. and the afore mentioned groups vanished (their reasons for leaving are unknown). To provide for their physical needs, Native Americans grew corn and squash, collected seeds, roots and berries and hunted for game. In the 1700's one Spanish exploration group passed near Zion National Park (Father Escalante) and then in the 1800's Mormon pioneers came into the region and explored the canyons of Zion. In 1863 Isaac Behunin built a log cabin in Zion's main canyon near the existing lodge and other families soon followed suit. The Virgin River was a poor companion and was constantly destroying dams, canals, fields and farms with its regular flooding. In 1909 Zion National Monument (Mukuntuweap) was designated by Presidential Executive Order. Roads to Zion were very inadequate but by the summer of 1917 touring cars could more easily reach the canyon. In 1919 Zion received official national park designation. The tunnel, connecting the east side of the park to highway 89, was constructed in the 1930's and is considered to be one of the great engineering marvels of national park history. Click Here to see a regional map.
In the year 2000 the park initiated a shuttle system that takes park visitors into the main canyon of Zion. This shuttle operates from April to October and during this time-frame it is the only mode of transportation in the main canyon. Highway 9, which runs from the east to the west gates is open year-round to vehicle traffic and the main canyon is open to regular vehicle traffic from November to March. To use the shuttle system you can drive into the town of Springdale and park your car at various shuttle parking areas. The easiest parking spot is the first left after you exit the west gate of the park. Shuttles come every ten minutes and run from 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. during summer months. Times adjust for spring and fall.
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Zion National Park is just 75 minutes from Bryce Canyon National Park.
Below is a map of the main canyon of Zion National Park. A similar (but larger and more detailed) printed map may be acquired when you enter any gate of the park.
There are many trails to hike in this main canyon area. The first marked trail that you will come to, after leaving Zion Ponderosa is called the Canyon Overlook. Parking for this trail is at the top of the tunnel. Park your car and cross the road for this short but spectacular walk to a point where you can view down into the main canyon. (1/2 mile each direction) Other popular trails are Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock, Temple of Sinewava. See these on the map and learn more about these trails from the printed materials you receive at the gate of the park.
Enjoy your experience in Zion Park:
Meals / Fuel:
To save time and for your comfort in the park we recommend that you take a lunch and snacks with you. Ask at our front desk for information about advance preparation of lunches. If desired or needed there are restaurants, shops and fuel stations in Springdale. There is also a restaurant and shop at the lodge inside the park.
From Zion Ponderosa travel five miles down the north fork road and turn right to go (2 miles) to the park. Enter the east gate and travel along scenic highway 9 to Springdale. From November to March you may take your private vehicle up the main canyon, otherwise (April to October) take your car into Springdale, park it and jump on the shuttle.
Note: Click here for more information on Zion National Park. Check for more information and travel itineraries to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and other attractions at the front desk of Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort.