I was going to apologize for doing yet another post on Zion National Park. But then I thought, why apologize? It’s a park I finally have found the time to really check out, and that means that I have too many photos to keep to myself. I thought I had spent my last day in Zion yesterday. But at the I-15 junction, where there is the choice to head south to St. George (and eventually Vegas), or north to Cedar City and Salt Lake City, I decided to postpone civilization (and a shower) for a couple more days. I headed north to the Kolob Canyons area of Zion.
There are really four distinct areas of this park. The main one, Zion Canyon, is the reason this is a National Park. The second most spectacular is the east side of the park, above the tunnels (see Slickrock Hiking). There are two other areas accessed from different roadways. Kolob Canyons, where I am now, is the most forested. The Kolob Plateau, which includes the highest point in Zion, is reached by turning north at the town of Virgin. It has its charms too, not least of which is the Subway. But it suffers because of all the private land inholdings. In fact, it’s the most chopped-up section of National Park I’ve ever encountered. Reminds me of many checkerboard National Forest lands.
Reach Kolob Canyons by driving north on Interstate 15 toward Cedar City. At exit 40, turn off the freeway and travel east past the visitor center (where you must pay entrance) and up into the park. The road is relatively short at just over 5 miles long, and ends at an overlook. But only a couple miles up the road is the Taylor Creek Canyon hike. It’s worth coming here just for that. But there is another hike, on the La Verkin Creek trail, which takes you about 7 miles one-way to Kolob Arch. I did both Taylor Creek and Kolob Arch on successive days, so I feel pretty well hiked out.
Arriving at Kolob Canyons in the late afternoon, I was my usual scrambling self, looking for good photo ops. as the sun made its rapid descent to the horizon. I decided to cut a short-cut to the Taylor Creek trail, and regretted it almost immediately. The fact is that I have gotten used to being able to hike through this country with no trails. But the Kolob Canyons area is higher and much wetter than most of the rest of Zion National Park. And so it is more heavily forested (pines), with plenty of thick bush to whack.
There is a cabin a couple miles up Taylor Creek, built in 1930. It is not too far from a falling-apart state, and the Park Circus has performed some triage (which of course takes away from photos). I was lucky enough to encounter very late light at the same time I was photographing the cabin.
I have found that, often enough in this region, the setting sun skims through the atmosphere and reflects off the reddish canyon walls. This makes for a nice red-orange light that is evenly distributed on everything that is front-lit. But this light, coming between sunset and blue hour, is precious short.
I pressed into blue hour, doing some shots of the subtly red-lit rock formations with Taylor Creek in the foreground. This left me to make it back on a headlamp with failing batteries.
Next day it was the Kolob Arch, a 14-mile round-trip hike. The arch stands above a tributary canyon to La Verkin Creek. This canyon is quite beautiful, and I lost track of time (as usual) doing the photo thing. The result was hiking most of the way back (about 6 miles) in the dark. But there was a half-moon, and I had put fresh batteries in the headlamp. The temperature was perfect for power hiking, so it felt good. My reward was a glass of smooth warm golden liquid that burns a little going down.