By Susan Hanson
Originally appeared in the April/May 2016 issue of Virtuoso Traveler
Some 12,000 years ago, humans hunted woolly mammoths, giant sloths, and camels across this region of southern Utah. The Anasazi farmed here as recently as 800 years ago, while Mormon pioneers thought it to be heaven on earth. Today hikers consider Zion’s hypersaturated canyons, plateaus, pools, and monoliths, carved over millennia by the Virgin River, to be – as the 148,000-acre park’s name implies – the “Promised Land.”
KIDS WILL LOVE:
Zion’s narrowest gorge – aptly named The Narrows, with walls up to 1,000 feet high – is considered one of the world’s best slot-canyon hikes. Note: You’ll be sloshing through the Virgin River, so wear waterproof shoes.
For a sunrise shot, move beyond the more crowded viewpoints to the Canyon Overlook Trail or catch a dramatic sunset along Kolob Terrace Road.
“Try to enter or exit through the park’s east entrance instead of the more common Springdale one,” says Doreen Lopez, a Virtuoso advisor based in Salt Lake City. “It reveals an incredible landscape, with all sorts of checkerboard patterns in the rocks. I entered during a rainstorm once, and it was breathtaking.”
Families get a National Park three-fer with Backroads’ six-day multisport tour
, including a trek through Zion’s famed Narrows and biking past hoodoo rock columns in Bryce Canyon Park. At Grand Canyon, parents hike while kids explore the rim by mule; swap exploits over the evening campfire.
See More: 7 Must-Visit U.S. National Parks
Photo Credits: (Angels Landing) Martin McCarthy/iStock, (Canyon Narrows) liteserv/iStock, (Hiker) Blend Images/Alamy
To plan a visit to Zion National Park, connect with a Virtuoso travel advisor below.