Archive for the ‘Geology’ Category

Rain in Zion – Consider yourself lucky!

Monday, November 25th, 2013
A waterfall cascades off a very large cliff formation in Zion National Park

A waterfall cascades off a very large cliff formation in Zion National Park

For some people rain is not desirable, but if you are in Zion National Park when it rains, consider yourself blessed. The formations of Zion National Park are part of a huge plateau that has been eroded and carved by the constant flow of water.

A waterfall courses over the rough surfaces of a sandstone formation in Zion National Park.

A waterfall courses over the rough surfaces of a sandstone formation in Zion National Park.

The tops of most formations are very flat and as rain water gathers on the plateau it quickly accumulates and then forces its way over the edge of the plateau often cascading in dramatic fashion down cliff faces, some of which are one to two thousand feet high.

Water shapes the formations in Zion National Park.

Water shapes the formations in Zion National Park.

During light rain their are many areas that just off the road where one can view or even experience the light water flows. However, be mindful not to enter a slot canyon or venture near a high water flow as these areas can be dangerous.

Small waterfalls stair-step their way down across formations in Zion National Park

Small waterfalls stair-step their way down across formations in Zion National Park

To photograph or shoot video during the rain, you simply need to cover your camera with some plastic or other water resistant material. Remember to bring a soft cloth to wipe the rain drops that may spot your lens from time to time.

View this video of the rains and waterfalls in Zion National Park.


Learn more about Zion National Park.

Observation Point – Utah’s Best View!

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Many experts claim that Utah’s best scenic view is Observation Point at Zion National Park.  This overlook stands you on the edge of a 2,200 foot precipice and offers a view across a major portion of the main canyon within Zion National Park, and far into the distance beyond the park boundaries.  Zion National Park is 30 miles in length and 15 miles across at its widest point, and Observation Point, at an elevation of 6,521′ is likely the best place to capture the grandeur of this vast expanse.

Observation Point at Zion

A view from Observation Point at Zion National Park

Most visitors to Observation Point at Zion endure a challenging four mile climb and 2,148′ ascent, from the Weeping Rock area in the bottom of the canyon, but there is a better way.

Observation Point Hiking Trail

Walking the forest trail to Observation Point from Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

From Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort’s property there is a park boundary trail-head that follows a more gentle rolling course across the Zion National Park plateau and through the forest to Observation Point.  This 3.5 mile walk (each direction) winds through the forest bending slightly northwest and then back to the southwest toward the overlook.  Approximately two miles into the hike, you’ll encounter views into a side canyon that are quite spectacular, but only serve to whet the appetite for what lies ahead.

Zion National Park Canyon

Viewing the canyon on the west, just before arriving at Observation Point.

In the last half of a mile, the course descends south to the canyon rim and then bends west before turning south again toward Observation Point at Zion.   In the last 200 yards you’ll ride the edge of the rim and encounter views into the back of the main canyon toward the Narrows, but the real view then opens up at Observation Point as you exit the forest of scrub oak, pines, and high desert foliage.

Observation Point at Zion National Park

A view over the rim at Observation Point

Sandstone layers of white, grey, ochre, and various hues of red color the striations that break out before your view.  To the left the canyon sweeps open in horseshoe fashion.  To the south the Virgin River winds through the fins and buttresses that have been eroded over eons.   To your right the main canyon cycles north and toward the narrows section of Zion Park.

Observation Point Viewers

A couple from Canada sits on the rim taking in the views at Observation Point

Plan to spend some time on the rim just soaking in all the views, and unlike others that you may encounter, enjoy the fact that you didn’t have to hike from the valley to Observation Point.

Observation Point - Best View in Utah

A young woman enjoys the solitude of this majestic vista at Observation Point.

The length of this hike from Zion Ponderosa is approximately one hour and fifteen minutes (each direction) for adults moving at a reasonable hiking pace.  Adjust your expected time based on the ability of those in your hiking group.

Zion National Park

A hiker rests on the rim to take photographs at Observation Point.

Groups are limited to sizes of no more than 12 people on trails such as this within Zion National Park.  Bring water, snacks, and appropriate other hiking supplies, and don’t forget your still and  video cameras.  Early morning is a good time to start on this hike so you can enjoy the softer light on the formations when photography is also best.  Learn more about Zion National Park.

Contrasting Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Many people coming to stay at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort have the opportunity to enjoy the scenic diversity of this region.   If you’ve spent time on our web-site you know that our ranch sits literally on the border of Zion National Park.   The good news is that Bryce Canyon National Park is just 75 minutes away and makes a perfect half-day or full-day excursion while staying with us.

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon Hoodoos colored by oxidizing minerals in rock

Bryce Canyon is quite different from Zion in that most of Bryce sits between 8,000 and 9,000 feet in elevation, while the most accessible parts of Zion are within the 4,000 to 6,500 feet elevation range.   Anciently this entire region was part of the bottom of a great lake.   Zion represents layers of sediment that were deposited in the lake much earlier than Bryce Canyon.     The layers of sediment that comprise Bryce Canyon National Park are predominantly limestone while Zion is mostly sandstone.

The harder limestone in  Bryce Canyon is eroded by water entering the cracks of the stone and then freezing and breaking.   This creates hard chunks or small boulders that break and fall away.   Zion is eroded in a much smoother fashion by flowing water or by wind.    In both cases it is rare to ever see the erosion effects actually occurring.    Flash floods in Zion National Park offer one time when you can see erosion in full-swing.  This usually occurs when rain comes heavily in one area for several hours and the water gathers on Zion’s upper reaches and flows into narrow slot canyons.   Within a matter of minutes the quickly accumulating water can rise to levels of over 40 feet, insde a slot canyon.  This rare occurring event represents a time when you will not want to be nearby.    At Bryce Canyon you’ll find that melting snow and heavy rains have less of an immediate impact.

Bryce Canyon is actually a series of rock amphitheaters on the eastern edge of a large plateau.   You can drive along the rim and stop at many points along the 20 mile road that traverses the Bryce Canyon plateau area.   You may also walk down inside the amphitheaters among the rock formations called Hoodoos.     Willdlife such as deer, porcupines, coyotes, mountain lions (cougars), and many types of birds inhabit this region.   It is not uncommon to see mule deer on your visit to Bryce Canyon.

How to get to Bryce Canyon:     Leave Zion Ponderosa and go five miles southeast on the Northfork Road.   Turn left at Highway 9 and follow this 14 miles to Mt. Carmel Junction.    Turn left on highway 89 and go north approx. 35 miles to Scenic Highway 12.  Turn right and follow this through Red Canyon and onto the plateau (approx. 10 miles).  Turn left at highway 63 (watch for signs).   Go south two miles to the Bryce Canyon National Park entrance.