KOLOB CANYONS (Zion National Park)
Zion National Park is comprised of two sections: Zion Canyon, which is the larger and most popular section that was first protected in 1909, and Kolob Canyons, which was incorporated into the national park in 1956. Kolob Canyons was initially named as its own national monument in 1937 before merging with Zion almost 20 years later. The road through this section of Zion was initiated in the 1960s.
Today, Kolob Canyons still stands apart, located about 40 miles north of Zion Canyon. There is no one park road directly connecting the two sections. Instead, visitors reach Kolob Canyons at exit 40 off Interstate 15. It is about an hour’s drive from Zion’s south entrance off Highway 9 to Kolob Canyons’ entrance. Because of this separation, fewer visitors make their way to Kolob Canyons, even though it is just as spectacular as Zion Canyon.
Hanging Valley, Timber Top Mountain & Shuntavi Butte
Nagunt Mesa, Elephant Arch & Hanging Valley
Although there is not a lot of evidence about the earliest settlers in the Kolob Canyons, the Anasazi or “Ancient Ones” left traces until around 1200 A.D. When priests traveled through the area in 1776, the Paiutes were already longtime residents, growing crops, gathering seeds, and hunting small animals. The Paiutes are still in the area today, but there numbers are very small. The Mormons moved into the area in the 1850s, establishing farms and ranches as well as cutting timber, raising cattle and sheep, and diverting water for irrigation elsewhere. The Mormons gave the area its name. In their scriptures, Kolob means the star nearest to the residence of God.
When you visit the area, you will see that Kolob Canyons is well named: The area is truly spectacular. Even though the area sits just miles from the interstate, you will feel like you are truly out in the wilds. The scenic drive through the park ascends 1100 feet in five miles with moderately steep grades and many curves. Part of the drive follows an earthquake fault line that separates the gray Kaibab limestone cliffs from the reds and beige of the Navajo sandstone.
Just as in Zion Canyon, the primary carving agent for the deep canyons is water; in these canyons, Taylor Creek and La Verkin Creek worked their wonders through the canyons. The cliffs are comprised of colorful rock layers of sandstones, siltstones, limestones, and lava. Arched alcoves and arches grace the walls. My favorite is Elephant Arch. Pinyon and pine forests dot the landscapes as do occasional sage, oak, and aspen.
At the right time of year, wildflowers add color and variety along the 10.6 mile scenic route (round trip). Mule deer are most likely to be seen in the fall and winter. There are several hiking trails throughout this section of the park. The most strenuous hike is 14.4 miles roundtrip to see Kolob Arch, possibly the largest free-standing arch in the world. I have never made that hike, but I am sure the arch is impressive.
[Look at upper right corner for eye and trunk. Then herd is in foreground, ears and trunks looking out!]
THERE ARE SO MANY NATURAL WONDERS IN UTAH.
WHERE HAVE YOU VISITED?