Zion National Park 62 miles S of Cedar City, (435) 772-3256. $25/car/7 days.
The landscape leading into Zion is filled with mesas and buttes. At the south entrance, where most people enter, a visitor center provides orientation. An efficient free shuttle runs over the park’s famous red roads from April through October (when parking restrictions are in effect), providing a 6-mile scenic ride along its deep canyon floor as well as access to trailheads. Located at the intersection of three separate ecosystems, this stunning park has more than 900 plant species (some are unique to the park). Famous formations include The Watchman, a 2,400-foot-high monolith standing guard at the south entrance, The Great White Throne, and the hanging gardens of Weeping Rock grotto. At the end of the road at the Temple of Sinawava, many people stop to frolic in the shallow river or to hike Riverside Walk--an easy paved path that leads deeper into the canyon and features nearly 2,000-foot-high canyon walls on both sides. A path beyond the end of this trail leads to the Narrows of the Virgin River, a gorge that is 16 miles long and up to 2,000 feet deep and sometimes only 20-30 feet wide; hiking it is a major adventure (flash floods are a concern, so fall is the best time to experience it).
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image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers