Learn More About Zion National Park

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Learn More About Zion National Park

The mystical majesty of Zion National Park in Utah seems utterly otherworldly and it’s something you’ll certainly never forget. It is the distinctive reddish Navajo sandstone canyon which looks pinkish in certain lights and like yellow butter in other that gives Zion National Park its sense of the extraordinary. Scholars estimate that people first came to live in this area some 8,000 years ago, but they were nomadic people who were gathering what food they could find, and didn’t used the place as a fixed abode.


It took another 6,000 years before evidence of human agriculture was discovered: people were planting corn. And if you’re planning corn, chances are, you’re settling down into a place which you’re calling home, which is precisely what was happening. People were setting up villages in the area, and we know this because archaeologists have found traces of tools, fishing nets and the likes in this region, dating up until about 500 AD.

Some 200 years after that, so-called pithouses, where the semi-nomadic people known as the Anasazi took shelter from the elements, were found. Part shallow caves, part improvised shelters; these pithouses demonstrate how people were making a plan to make a life in a place that to all intents and purposes seemed overwhelmingly hostile. Just think of it: vast tracts of reddish stone, which are wide as they are deep, hard as they are slippery, little natural vegetation and a tendency to develop catastrophic weather – this area of the world is not your average Joe’s comfort zone and a place to call home.

More Zion National Park History

It was the woodlands which first attracted farmers associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – also known as the Mormon community – in the 19th century. They began to tame the land, use the wood, and one thing led to another. So, when some of these farmers intrepidly made their way to the bottom of the canyon, they discovered the soil to have fertile potential and they began to set up their communities, planting corn – like their ancient forebears had fruit. One of these farmers, a chap by the name of Isaac Behunin, is credited with having named the park “Zion”, drawing from a tractate in the bible and his Mormon heritage. This canyon floor was farmed by Behunin and several other families until 1909, when the park was declared a heritage site and a protected monument.

Jump ahead to the dire time of the Great Depression in the 1930s, and to United States President Franklin D Roosevelt’s idea to start the Civilian Conservation Corps, which effectively got young unemployed men out there into the world, and put them to use by getting them to help refine public land. By the sweat of their brows and strength of their bodies these young men reigned in the rivers, built the camp grounds and contained the occasional wildfires, thus making Zion National Park the oasis of beauty it is today. Indeed, many of the paths, campsites and protected canyon walls that you will still see there today, are the fruit of these men’s labor.


Hiking is probably one of the most popular pastimes in Zion National Park – and variations on that idea of hiking – whether you’re exploring the ground by foot, climbing a canyon or kayaking on the rivers around the area, let’s face it, it’s a form of hiking, just with different equipment. Either way, however you’re planning to get around, if you’re out for a day or less, you do not need a permit. But if you’re out in the wild exploring the park for longer than a day, even over one night, you do. It’s a good system that keeps the park authorities alerted in case you get into trouble.

Be warned, however, there’s a three month booking period and a tight roster as to where you can meander and when: you need to plan your time with great attention to detail and your own safety. The Zion National Park is magnificent, but it can be treacherous – particularly with regard to the weather. If you’re planning on canyoneering, be aware that the area is often subject to flash floods, which, in literally seconds could wash you away.

If you wish to cycle in the Zion National Park, you must head toward the Par’us Trail. It’s the only one in the park which is bicycle friendly. And it’s also one of the few areas in Zion National Park that are pet friendly too. But if you’re bringing your pup along, make sure you know all the rules about pet care in the vicinity.