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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Zion Park During The Heat Of Summer

We're now moving into the hottest part of summer and temperatures in SW Utah can get very warm. In the St George and Zion National Park areas mid-afternoon temperatures often climb above 100 F. Still, this is a great time to visit and explore the area.

I'm just back from a long Boy Scout campout where we had a great time exploring the park. We knew it would be hot - we planned for that as we mapped out our itinerary. All of the kids said it was one of the best trips of their young lives. Here's an outline of what we did and where we did it.

We camped at Lava Point, on top of the mountain in the Kolob Terrace section of the point. Temperatures there run about 20 F lower than in Zion Canyon. The Lava Point Campground is small but the area is spectacular. The campground offers pit toilets, picnic tables and fire pits, but no potable water.

The campground is first-come, first-served, no reservations allowed. We arrive mid-week and found a couple vacant sites. It often fills up on weekends.

From Lava Point we drove down into the park every day. That's quite a drive, and we felt the pinch from gas prices, but still felt it worthwhile. Evenings were splendid at Lava Point, and nighttime temperatures were ideal for sleeping.

We hiked The Narrows, of course. In my opinion, it is one of the world's great hikes and it is perfect for hot weather. The kids had a great time wading and swimming up the river. We went up the main canyon and also explored the lower portion of Orderville Gulch. The Narrows hike was a highlight of the trip.

We also hiked to Observation Point. That's a dry hike but the lower half is shady during morning hours and so we started early.

There are a couple couple very nice swimming holes on Pine Creek, a small stream that flows into the Virgin River in the lower portion of Zion Canyon. The stream flows under what is called the Great Arch. It crosses Hwy 9 at the bottom of the famous switchbacks below the Zion Tunnel. Park at the bridge where Pine Creek crosses beneath Hwy 9 and it is just a short hike upstream to one swimming hole and a beautiful waterfall. A larger swimming hole is a little farther upstream. To reach it park at the middle switchback and just hike into the canyon.

We also enjoyed hiking up Kanarra Creek, east of the small town of Kanarrville, on the edge of the park's Kolob Canyons section. That hikes goes through some very nice slots and then up two small waterfalls. It is great on a hot summer day.

We basically did Zion as a waterpark. It was a very fun trip.

- Dave Webb


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