Monday, September 7, 2009

Capitol Reef National Monument, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park is a United States National Park, in south-central Utah. It is 100 miles (160 km) long but fairly narrow. The park, established in 1971, preserves 378 mi² (979 km²) and is open all year, although May through September are the most popular months.
Called "Wayne Wonderland" in the 1920s by localboosters Ephraim P. Pectol and Joseph S. Hickman, Capitol Reef National Park protects colorful canyons, ridges, buttes, and monoliths. About 75 miles (120 km) of the long up-thrust called the Waterpocket Fold, extending like a rugged spine from Thousand Lake Mountain southward to Lake Powell, is preserved within the park boundary. Capitol Reef is the name of an especially rugged and spectacular part of theWaterpocket Fold near the Fremont River. The area was named for a line of white domes and cliffs of Navajo Sandstone, each of which looks somewhat like the United States Capitol building, that run from theFremont River to Pleasant Creek on the Waterpocket Fold. The local word reef referred to any rocky barrier to travel.
Only a few decades ago, Capitol Reef and the Waterpocket Fold country comprised one of the most remote corners of the lower 48 U.S. states. Easy road access came only with the construction of a paved State Route 24 through the Fremont River Canyon in 1962.
The town nearest Capitol Reef is Torrey, Utah, which lies eight miles (13 km) west of the visitor's center on Highway 24. Torrey is very small, but has several motels and restaurants. The park itself has a large campground, but it often fills by early afternoon during busy summer weekends. The Burr Trail Scenic Backway provides access from the west through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the town of Boulder. Overnight camping within the park requires a permit from the rangers at the visitor's center. Activities in the park include hiking, horseback riding, and a driving tour. Mountain biking is prohibited in the park, but many trails just outside the park exist.

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park (pronounced /ˈbraɪs/) is a national park located in southwesternUtah in the United States. Contained within the park is Bryce Canyon. Despite its name, this is not actually a canyon, but rather a giant natural amphitheater created by erosion along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce is distinctive due to its geological structures, called hoodoos, formed from wind, water, and ice erosion of the river and lakebed sedimentary rocks. The red, orange and white colors of the rocks provide spectacular views to visitors. Bryce is at a much higher elevation than nearby Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,400 to 2,700 m), whereas the south rim of the Grand Canyon sits at 7,000 feet (2,100 m) above sea level.
The Bryce area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1874. The area around Bryce Canyon became a U.S. National Monument in 1923 and was designated as a national park the next year. The park covers 56 square miles (145 km2) and receives relatively few visitors compared to Zion Canyon and the Grand Canyon, largely due to its remote location. The town of Kanab, Utah, is situated at a central point between these three parks.
Most park visitors sightsee using the scenic drive, which provides access to 13 viewpoints over the amphitheaters. Bryce Canyon has eight marked and maintained hiking trails that can be hiked in less than a day (round trip time, trailhead): Mossy Cave (one hour, State Route 12 northwest of Tropic), Rim Trail (5–6 hours, anywhere on rim), Bristlecone Loop (one hour, Rainbow Point), and Queens Garden (1–2 hours, Sunrise Point) are easy to moderate hikes. Navajo Loop (1–2 hours, Sunset Point) and Tower Bridge (2–3 hours, north of Sunrise Point) are moderate hikes. Fairyland Loop (4–5 hours, Fairyland Point) and Peekaboo Loop (3–4 hours, Bryce Point) are strenuous hikes. Several of these trails intersect, allowing hikers to combine routes for more challenging hikes.
The park also has two trails designated for overnight hiking: the 9-mile (14 km) Riggs Loop Trail and the 23-mile (37 km) Under the Rim Trail. Both require a backcountry camping permit. In total there are 50 miles (80 km) of trails in the park.
More than 10 miles (16 km) of marked but ungroomed skiing trails are available off of Fairyland, Paria, and Rim trails in the park. Twenty miles (32 km) of connecting groomed ski trails are in nearby Dixie National Forest and Ruby's Inn.
The air in the area is so clear that on most days from Yovimpa and Rainbow points, Navajo Mountain and the Kaibab Plateau can be seen 90 miles (140 km) away in Arizona. On extremely clear days, the Black Mesas of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico can be seen some 160 miles (260 km) away.
The park also has a 7.4 magnitude night sky, making it the one of the darkest in North America.
Stargazers can therefore see 7,500 stars with the naked eye, while in most places fewer than 2,000 can be seen due to light pollution(in many large cities only a few dozen can be seen). Park rangers host public stargazing events and evening programs on astronomy, nocturnal animals, and night sky protection. The Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival, typically held in June, attracts thousands of visitors. In honor of this astronomy festival, Asteroid 49272 was named after the national park.
There are two campgrounds in the park, North Campground and Sunset Campground. Loop A in North Campground is open year-round. Additional loops and Sunset Campground are open from late spring to early autumn. The 114-room Bryce Canyon Lodge is another way to overnight in the park.
A favorite activity of most visitors is landscape photography. With Bryce Canyon's high altitude and clean air, the sunrise and sunset photographs can be spectacular.

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park is a national park located in the Southwestern United States, nearSpringdale, Utah. A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile (593 km2) park is Zion Canyon, 15 miles (24 km) long and up to half a mile (800 m) deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River.
The park is located in southwestern Utah in Washington, Iron, and Kane counties. Geomorphically, it is located on the Markagunt and Kolob plateaus, at the intersection of three North American geographic provinces: the Colorado Plateaus, the Great Basin, and theMojave Desert. The northern part of the park is known as the Kolob Canyons section and is accessible from Interstate 15, exit 40.
The road into Zion Canyon is 6 miles (9.7 km) long, ending at the Temple of Sinawava ("Sinawava" refers to the Coyote God of the Paiute Indians). At the Temple, the canyon narrows and a foot-trail continues to the mouth of the Zion Narrows, a gorge with walls as narrow as 20 to 30 feet (6–9 m) wide and up to 2,000 feet (610 m) tall. The Zion Canyon road is served by a free shuttle bus from early April to late October and by private vehicles the other months of the year. Other roads in Zion are open to private vehicles year-round.
The east side of the park is served by the Zion–Mount Carmel Highway, which passes through the Zion–Mount Carmel Tunnel and ends at Mount Carmel Junction. On the east side of the park notable park features include Checkerboard Mesa (photo) and the East Temple.
n Canyon Scenic Drive provides access to Zion Canyon. Traffic congestion in the narrow canyon was recognized as a major problem in the 1990s and a public transportation system using propane-powered shuttle buses was instituted in the year 2000. From April through October, the scenic drive in Zion Canyon is closed to private vehicles and visitors ride the shuttle buses.
On April 12, 1995, heavy rains triggered a landslide that blocked the Virgin River in Zion Canyon. Over a period of two hours, the river carved away part of the only exit road from the canyon, trapping 450 guests and employees in the Zion Lodge. A one-lane temporary road was constructed within 24 hours to allow evacuation of the Lodge. A more stable—albeit temporary—road was completed on May 25, 1995 to allow summer visitors to access the park. This road was replaced with a permanent road during the first half of 1996.
The Zion–Mount Carmel Highway can be traveled year-round. Access for over-sized vehicles requires a special permit, and is limited to daytime hours, as traffic through the tunnel must be one way to accommodate large vehicles. The 5-mile (8.0 km)-long Kolob Canyons Road was built to provide access to the Kolob Canyons section of the park. This road often closes in the winter.
In March 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which designated and further protected 124,406 acres (503.5 km2) of park land as the Zion Wilderness.
Driving through the east side of Zion to U.S. Route 89 allows access to Bryce Canyon National Park in the north or to the north rim of the Grand Canyon in the south. Due to the narrowness of the Zion–Mount Carmel Tunnel, RVs and buses must obtain a special pass and can only drive through the tunnel during limited hours.
The more primitive sections of Zion include the Kolob Terrace and the Kolob Canyons. The Grotto in Zion Canyon, the Visitor Center and the viewpoint at the end of Kolob Canyons Road have the only designated picnic sites.
Seven popular trails with round-trip times of half an hour (Weeping Rock) to 4 hours (Angels Landing) are found in Zion Canyon. Two popular trails, Taylor Creek (4 hours round trip) and Kolob Arch (8 hours round trip), are in the Kolob Canyons section of the park, near Cedar City.
Hiking up into The Narrows from the Temple of Sinawava is popular in summer. Orderville Canyon, a narrower slot canyon, is also popular. Backpacking down The Narrows from the top takes 12 hours. Other often-used backcountry trails include the West Rim and LaVerkin Creek.