Waterfalls, birds put on show in spring at Zion National Park

Zion National Park is one of the world’s most famous destinations, on the bucket list for many an outdoor lover. How fortunate for us in Southern Nevada that it is practically in our own backyard. In less than a three-hour drive from Las Vegas you can be surrounded by a landscape of towering Navajo sandstone monoliths and deep canyons, with great diversity of plant and animal life. Whether you travel to Zion to hike, camp or just take the scenic drive, you will do so among some of the most stunning country on Earth.

The next couple of months are an ideal time to visit the park’s lower elevations. The trees will be forming buds, leaves beginning to pop out, and the earliest wildflowers will start blooming. The spring air will be filled with the music of birds as they court and nest. This is often the best time to see waterfalls and cascades that pour off the cliff faces, tumbling thousands of feet down the walls, fed by melting snow and spring rains.

On a visit to Zion, bring clothes for all seasons. Average high temperatures in the main area of the park, at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, are 63 degrees in March and 73 in April. But weather conditions are fickle in these months; a given day could be unseasonably warm or see snow. Furthermore, elevations in the park range from 3,666 feet in the southwestern part up to 8,726 feet in the northwestern section, so temperatures will vary widely even under the same weather conditions.

The most popular area of the park is Zion Canyon, which sits at about 4,000 feet in elevation. The seven-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is one of the most dramatic places on Earth, winding its way among sandstone monoliths towering as much as 2,000 feet above.

The canyon also offers a wide choice of hiking trails, and hikers have many opportunities to see the park’s protected and plentiful wildlife. Wild turkeys, famously reclusive in places where they are hunted, are commonly seen here, as are mule deer. There are 66 other types of mammals here, including rock squirrels, ringtails, porcupines, foxes, bighorn sheep and mountain lions.

As for birds, more than 280 species have been seen in Zion, including peregrine falcons, bald eagles and even the endangered California condor. Although they’re more often seen in summer, condors have been sighted at Angel’s Landing in Zion Canyon, at Lava Point up the Kolob Terrace Road and from the Canyon Overlook Trail, which starts at the east end of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.

One of the best trails for seeing the spectacular waterfalls of spring is the Riverside Walk. Flanking the North Fork of the Virgin River, it opens up a riparian environment of cottonwood trees, box elder, velvet ash and bigtooth maples. Most of these leaf out in April. Yet this is only a two-mile round trip, and is paved, so it’s suitable for any age or ability. It’s wheelchair accessible, with assistance, and popular for those with jogging strollers.

For more of Zion’s water features, try the Lower Emerald Pool Trail. Although this 1.2-mile round-trip paved hike is spectacular year-round, spring puts on the grandest show of water pouring from the cliffs. In one area of the trail you will actually be underneath and behind a waterfall. You might get a bit muddy walking through here or even have some water sprayed on you, but that’s a tribulation so unusual that most people just view it as a perk.

Across from the Emerald Pool Trail is the historic Zion Lodge, the only public accommodations actually within the park. The Western-style cabins are tops if you can get a reservation for one; they have gas-log fireplaces and private porches. Even if you are not fortunate to be staying at one of the 40 cabins or 81 motel rooms, the lodge is worth a visit. In its lobby you can sit in comfortable chairs to warm up after a hike, enjoy the historic photos on the wall and maybe stay for breakfast, lunch or dinner in the lodge restaurant.

The original Zion Lodge was built in the 1920s but succumbed to fire about 45 years ago. To accommodate guests it was rebuilt in a mere 100 days, but lost most of its visual charm. By 1992, management had realized the loss and remodeled the exterior to restore its classic looks. The cabins, which are on the National Register of Historic Places, were restored in the 1990s and simultaneously updated to modern standards. That made them my all-time favorite lodgings; I’ve found nothing to beat these cozy and very private accommodations, where merely opening the door admits one to an unspoiled natural place literally and appropriately named for heaven.

Through the end of March you can drive your own vehicle up Zion Canyon, but starting April 1 and on through Oct. 30 you need to take the park’s free shuttle service. Buses are wheelchair accessible.

If you want to increase your enjoyment of the park, you might want to take one of the many educational workshops offered by the Zion Canyon Field Institute. It offers classes year-round on such topics as geology, photography, wildflowers and native plants. Some are simply hikes with highly expert guides, such as the institute’s Thursday Treks or Wednesday Naturalist Walks. Thursday Treks run March 29, April 5 and May 3, and Wednesday Naturalist Walks run March 28 and April 25. Both of these are also offered throughout the year.

Other institute events are more in-depth workshops, such as one April 6 on Zion geology. This class features an indoor presentation followed by short hikes and trailside lectures. Participants will learn about the geologic forces that continue to shape this region, emphasizing the powerful role of water, especially the Virgin River.

"Zion through the Lens" is a photo workshop to be taught April 22 to 24 by institute director Michael Plyler, an award-winning photographer. The class will help budding photographers learn how to use a camera in manual mode as well as delve into topics including depth of field, exposure control, filters and composition. Many of the workshops can accommodate only limited numbers of participants and fill up fast, so reserve a spot early.

Back in 1919, when it became a national park, a little more than 1,800 people visited Zion; last year’s visitation exceeded 2.8 million. Most of them visited during the warmer months from May to September, peaking in July. So if you’re looking to witness Zion’s wonders in something close to solitude, spring is the time to go.

Barber sets up shop in grandfather’s old shop
Andres Dominguez’s new barber shop is filled with memories of his grandfather, who ran the El Cortez landmark for more than 30 years. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learning live-saving techniques in Stop the Bleed class
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to control bleeding during a Stop the Bleed course at the Summerlin Library. The class is designed to teach anyone how to control and stop life-threatening bleeding. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator Christmas House
Arguably better than a hotel holiday display, is Terry and Angie Fator's home located in southwest Las Vegas.
UNLV Winter Graduation Packs Thomas & Mack
UNLV's 55th winter commencement ceremony included approximately 2,146 undergraduate and graduate students who recently completed their studies. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Build-A-Bear comes to Reed Elementary School
Students participated in a Build-A-Bear-Workshop at Doris Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center art depicts names of God
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center founder Sharaf Haseebullah talks about new diamond-shaped art panels featuring some of the 99 names of Allah at the main entrance the Las Vegas mosque. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like