We are finally at a western national park that I have visited before. A very few years ago, for one of my milestones birthdays, we went to Las Vegas. While there, we did this monster road trip where we rented a car early in the morning, drove to St George, Utah, and from there visited both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, and drove back to Las Vegas arriving very late at night the same day. Unfortunately, one of the things I remember was that we were running out of gas on the way back and there were no services at the exits in Nevada northeast of Vegas. And when we finally did see a sign for fuel it wound up being several miles off the highway. We had to be on fumes by the time we finally fueled.
I have always been obsessive about not running out of fuel and our Las Vegas road trip only made that worse. At half a tank, Gary is saying, “I know, I know”. In the motor home, I can’t see the fuel gauge from the passenger seat, so he is always being asked about the fuel level. This trip to Zion, there won’t be any risk that we will run out of fuel. So, with plenty of fuel we headed into Zion.
As you enter Zion from the east, you are up on a plateau where, of course, there are lots of spectacular rock formations as shown above. To get to one of the main features of the Park, Zion Canyon, you have to switchback your way down off the mesa along a road that snakes down one wall of the canyon. Some of the terrain going down the canyon was so sheer that it wasn’t possible to carve a road into the side of the mountain. So they built a tunnel. This isn’t a tunnel that that goes through the center of a mountain. It is cut just inside the sheer cliff and follows it for a mile. If you clicked on the tunnel picture you would see that the center height is 13’ 1” and at the outer part of the curved ceiling it is 11’ 4”. Most busses and a lot of motor homes are between 12’ and 13’ high. They have made the tunnel an alternating one way road so that tall vehicles can hopefully navigate right down the dead center of the tunnel and avoid scraping either side of their roofs. The tunnel is vented out through its side wall inside that sheer cliff which creates dramatic views out as you pass them. Shown below is a shot we got out from inside the tunnel and also a view back toward the sheer cliff that shows one of those vent holes in the rock. Can you imagine the work it took to blast and chisel this mile-long tunnel through the edge of this solid rock? At least they are sandstone cliffs.
When you work your way down the canyon wall to the bottom of the canyon, you get this spectacular view looking back up Zion Canyon. There is just one road running up and back through the Canyon. They used to allow cars to drive up and back, but the traffic jams became so horrid that they eventually had to bar private vehicle traffic. You park at the Visitors’ Center and take a propane-powered shuttle bus up and back the canyon. We’ll post our pictures from the canyon in a future blog post.