Travels with Tucker

Travels with Tucker

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Of Hoodoos and Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Like Yosemite, Zion National Park is most famous for its main valley/canyon and many people don't venture much outside of that area.  In the case of Zion, it is just a short drive through a historic tunnel to reach the eastern plateau, which has very different scenery than the main canyon.  We took that drive and planned to combine visiting the eastern plateau with a longer jaunt outside the park to a unique Utah state park.

Just a few miles up the main canyon, the main park road goes through the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel, built in the 20s.  It is too small and short for today's trucks and RVs, so to drive through it with a trailer like ours requires a special permit so the rangers can close the tunnel and the RV can drive right up the middle of the road alone.  We were going to have to do this in a few days, so it was good to get a preview of this tunnel.  Just on the other side of the tunnel was a trail one of the three high lookouts in Zion.  This one, the Canyon View trail is by far the easiest of the three and gave spectacular views of the upper canyon.

The Canyon View trail is not as white-knuckle as the Hidden Canyon trail, thanks to the railings

The trail passes under this great rock formation
A glimpse of the view to come as we reach the end of the trail
Don't look down!
The road from the tunnel to the east entrance of the park is only about six miles long, but it passes over the most amazing plateau of hoodoos (eroded rocks).  We also saw quite a few big-horn sheep who seemed very unconcerned about people watching them!

The big white mountain in the back is Checkerboard Mesa
Big-horn Sheep with babies
The lone Pinyon Pine
Another view of Checkerboard Mesa
Another 25 miles past the east entrance to Zion is the largest sand dune area on the Colorado Plateau (which encompasses about one quarter of four states--Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.  These dunes are made of very fine sand eroded from the pink, white and red rocks of the Navajo Formation and so have a wonderful pinkish-orange color.  Unfortunately, their beauty is marred by the off-road vehicles that the state of Utah allows to ride all over the dunes.  We were really disappointed to find that a week of spring break had tracked up the dunes to the point that it was hard to find any untouched area.  Anyway, it was still pretty interesting, but not the photo opportunity I had hoped for.  I did get a few shots that gave a sense of what these dunes are like.

To give you an idea of size, there are people on top of the highest dune!

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