Sunday, June 25, 2017

6/21 Drive to Zion National Park

If you could throw a rock a very long distance, Zion National Park is only about 150 miles from the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  However, since there is no bridge over the canyon and a lot of mountains and mesas get in the way, you have to drive the long way.  The most scenic route is going through Page, AZ, and then entering the park from the east, through the Zion - Mt. Carmel Tunnel.  It is not the tunnel itself which makes this scenic, although it is a neat drive-thru, it is the drive through the canyon to get to the tunnel which makes this the best way to go.  

Leaving Grand Canyon, you head south to U.S. 89 and then north to Page.  The land starts out fairly flat along U.S. 89, but as you get closer to Page, the road climbs up above the valley and cuts through the rock to the top of the mesa.  

Then you drive down the other side of the mesa and can see page and Lake Powell in the distance. 

If you have a couple of extra days, Lake Powell is a great place to spend some time.  I highly recommend the Wahweap Campground and the hotel on the lake.  Both are on the north shore.  This photo shows driving over the Glen Canyon Dam that forms the lake.  If you don't have extra time, at least stop at the visitor center at the far end of the dam, on the right.  It has some great views of the dam and lake and some interpretive exhibits. 

The lake is very low these days, which means some boating channels have been cut off.  There is more water than last year, but they also must release water into Lake Mead, which has also been suffering from overuse of water and drought.  And apparently, the rocks under the lake tend to leak, so there is some consideration that Lake Powell may cease to exist in the next couple of decades.  

A lot of varied terrain on the way to Zion National Park. 

About ten miles from the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel, the road dips into a narrow tunnel filled with the petrified remains of old beaches from an extinct ocean.  You can see the patterns of the layers of sand in the rock.  This is called Checkerboard Mountain because of the vertical cracks intersecting with the horizontal sand layers. 

Lots of pull-offs along the route, plus interesting places to hike. 

We have reached the tunnel.  You can tell because of the line-up.  RVs taller than 11' must pay a $15 fee to have opposing traffic stopped so they go through the tunnel in the middle.  It is surprisingly hard to drive on the double yellow lines!

Through the tunnel! 

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