Zion National Park
Carved by water and time, Zion National Park is a canyon that invites you to participate in the very forces that created it. In the warm climate of southwestern Utah, step into the Virgin River and see the colourful strata that mark the ages, rising for hundreds of metres up to a narrow strip of sky, then hike to seemingly impossible places and heights.
Located just 45 minutes northeast of the city of St. George, Zion National Park’s canyons and mesas boast an especially exquisite beauty, even in a state known for dramatic landscapes. Breathtaking Zion Canyon is the centrepiece of this 593-square-kilometre park, which protects a spectacular landscape of high plateaus, sheer canyons with stunning waterfalls, hanging gardens and monolithic red cliffs.
Opportunities to see and explore Zion National Park abound for people of all ages and abilities, from the scenic byways that slice through the park to the trails that wind through the backcountry. Wildlife watchers can search the sky for some of the more than 200 bird species that call the park home. Hikers can strap on their boots and venture out on trails that range from easy interpretive nature walks to lengthy, challenging hikes through narrow slot canyons.
The popular, paved Weeping Rock trail is a must-do for all visitors to the park. After hiking past wildflowers and lush vegetation, you reach the Weeping Wall, where groundwater that has seeped 610 metres through the Navajo sandstone from Echo Canyon emerges to create a dripping wall that represents one of Zion’s most famous landmarks. In an alcove, the “weeping” water has formed picturesque hanging gardens and a small stream. Or, for an out-and-back day hike, head to the lower section of the famous Zion Canyon Narrows, where the North Fork Virgin River runs beneath 300-metre sandstone walls that centuries of erosion have sculpted into some of the most beautiful rock forms in the American Southwest.
Bryce Canyon National Park
At dawn and dusk, mule deer graze on the forested plateau along the road into Bryce Canyon. The alpine environment is home to dozens of species of mammal and bird, all acquainted with a spectacular truth: this is no ordinary forest.
Over millions of years of freezes and thaws, water and wind have carved the plateau into endless fields of distinctive red rock pillars, called hoodoos, and a multitude of natural amphitheatres. Seek out the canyon floor on foot or explore the overlooks by car. Bryce Canyon National Park invites discovery.
Every year, the park awes visitors with its spectacular geological formations and brilliant colours. The towering hoodoos, narrow fins and natural bridges seem to defy reason or explanation, leaving hikers gazing around with jaws agape in wondrous incredulity. This surreal landscape is what brings people from all over the world to Bryce Canyon National Park.
How are those hoodoos and fins formed? It starts with rainwater seeping into cracks in the rock. During Bryce’s cold nights, the water expands as it freezes, breaking apart the rock. The deep, narrow walls called fins result from rain and snowmelt running down the slopes from Bryce’s rim. Eventually, the fins form holes (called windows) and when the windows grow larger, they collapse and create the bizarre hoodoos that we see today.
Hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park is the best way to immerse yourself in the amazing geography. Day hikes range from easy one- or two-kilometre loops to challenging 18-kilometre round-trip adventures. As you hike, be sure to check out the bristlecone pine trees for which Bryce is known. Bristlecone pines are the oldest trees in the world; some of them have been around for an incredible 5,000 years!
Discover all of the above and more on Adventure World’s 4-day Experience Bryce Canyon & Zion National Park journey, priced from AU$1,315/NZ$1,385 per person including accommodation, transport and sightseeing. For more information, visit adventureworld.com, call (AU) 1300 295 049 or (NZ) 0800 238 368 or see your local travel agent.