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What Is Zion National Park?

By H. Lo
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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Zion National Park is a national park located in southern Utah, on the edge of the Colorado Plateau, in the United States. The park was first established as Mukuntuweap National Monument in 1909, but later expanded to Zion National Park in 1919 with Kolob Canyons later added in 1956 and the Zion Wilderness Area designated in 2009. Zion National Park is Utah’s oldest national park and is known for its scenic canyons as well as the geological process that, over time, shaped and recorded the history of the area. The park itself is 232 square miles (600.87 square km) with an elevation of 3,666 feet (1,117 meters) at its lowest and 8,726 feet (2,660 meters) at its highest.

A diverse array of animals and plants are able to thrive in Zion National Park. Different species of amphibians, birds and fish as well as mammals and reptiles all thrive in the area. The most common animals seen include various types of birds, deer and lizards; rarer animals include the Mexican spotted owl, peregrine falcon and the Zion snail. In addition to these animals, many species of plants are able to thrive within the park due to the diversity in elevation, temperature and water available. Different types of plants in the area include cacti, ferns and grasses, as well as trees and wildflowers.

Located in canyon country, Zion National Park is beautiful, yet dangerous, with flash floods, steep cliffs and dry desert. In its history, inhabitants of the area included the Anasazi, the Paiute, and later, the European descendants. After the Anasazi left, possibly because of drought, the Paiute made their home in the area as their lifestyle was suited to the desert environment. The Anasazi, the Paiute and the European descendents all had to deal with the dangers of the area in order to survive.

Zion National Park, open all year-round to visitors, boasts many attractions and activities. Zion Canyon is the most popular area of the park, with such sights as Angels Landing, Emerald Pools and the Narrows. Although Kolob Canyons does not receive as many visitors as Zion Canyon, it is another area of the park to visit, offering Kolob Arch and Timber Creek. With many other attractions, Zion National Park also offers visitors many activities such as bicycling, camping and hiking, as well as horseback riding and scenic drives. In addition, it is no surprise that canyoneering is available at the park.

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