Kolob Terrace Road, Zion National Park: Guns, Scenic Drive, and Mini Hikes

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Scenic Kolob Terrace Road—C.Helbig

We’re just back from Cambodia and Laos but my photos (and I) are still an unorganized mess, so I’m going to do a couple of posts to finish off my southern Utah series. I’m usually not a fan of car sightseeing, preferring to walk/ride, but Kolob Terrace Road, in Zion National Park, is a real gem. It starts in the town of Virgin, not far from Zion’s main visitor center, and is only 21 miles to Lava Point, one of the highest spots in the park. Kolob Terrace Road makes a great half-day excursion with plenty of short scenic hikes and viewpoints to give your legs a stretch.The majority of Zion visitors overlook this section of the park, so it’s gloriously peaceful.

Let me start with an interesting, though disturbing fact about the town of Virgin, which gets its name from the adjacent Virgin River. In 2000, a law was passed that every household in Virgin (about 200 of them) had to keep and maintain a firearm. This tidbit was featured in Michael Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine. You might take some comfort in knowing that exceptions are made for convicted felons and the mentally ill…but I digress. As we left highway 9 at Virgin and turned onto beautiful Kolob Terrace Road we were soon greeted by vermillion peaks that appear all the more vivid against the sun-bleached vegetation. The next three photos were all taken from the roadside.

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Kolob Terrace Road heading north—C.Helbig

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Late day glow along Kolob Terrace Road, Zion National Park—C.Helbig

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The great peaks of Zion, including the flat-top (redish) West Temple—C.Helbig

As usual, I got squirmy in the car and needed to get out for a walk. Our first hike started at the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead (mile 16), where we accessed the 4.4 mile (7 km) return trail to Northgate Peaks. This easy trail meanders through meadows and pine woodlands before reaching a lava outcropping with splendid views of the Northgate Peaks and North Guardian Angel. We were the only ones there—such a nice change from the busy hikes of the main canyon.

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Our lava perch at the Northgate Peaks Overlook—C.Helbig

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North Guardian Angel—C.Helbig

After lunch at Northgate Peaks Overlook we continued on to our second stop, Lava Point. I preferred the more dramatic roadside scenery up to Wildcat Canyon, but the sweeping views at Lava Point are certainly worth the short, additional drive through aspen forests. If we’d been there a month earlier, in mid-October, I’m sure I would have been raving about the fall colours. My photo below, from Lava Point, does not do the place justice.

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On our drive up Kolob Terrace Road earlier in the day, I had spied an interesting area of Navajo sandstone formations. I had become totally enchanted with these geological beauties on our excursion to South Coyote Buttes and was keen to scramble around more of them. For our third and final stop, on the way back down, we parked at the Hop Valley Trailhead. There is no trail to the formations, but they are clearly visible from the road and trailhead. It was  quick and easy to trailblaze to the Navajo sandstone and we spent a very fun hour exploring.

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Me and the Navajo sandstone near Hop Valley Trailhead—C.Helbig

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Same formation, different angle—C.Helbig

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The moon rising over the pines and sandstone—C.Helbig

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Aimless wandering near Hop Valley Trailhead—C.Helbig

Kolob Terrace Road also provides access to epic Zion hikes like Left Fork, West Rim, and Wildcat Canyon, some requiring backcountry hiking and camping permits. But, if you have less time or energy, a drive along Kolob Terrace Road with stops at a few short hikes and viewpoints is a wonderful way to see a stunning section of Zion National Park minus the crowds.

zion-map

Zion National Park map. Courtesy: npmaps.com

Categories: Hiking, Places, United States | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

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15 thoughts on “Kolob Terrace Road, Zion National Park: Guns, Scenic Drive, and Mini Hikes

  1. Always a Foreigner

    Amazing. The Navajo Sandstone is breathtaking.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You really have shown me so many stunning places Caroline. My knowledge of parks in the USA and Canada was fairly slim. Now I have a list of stunning places. Great photos as always. Looking forward to the Cambodian posts but look after the jet lag and post holiday mess first. Louise

    Like

  3. Mike Hohmann

    Great post. Many places in Zion, I’ve never seen. I will return and retrace many of your steps. Thanks for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent scenery 🙂 I can’t wait to read your recap of SE Asia!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Steven Hunt

    This is absolutely stunning Caroline. I soo want to go there.

    Thanks for sending along.

    Trish

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was just thinking about you yesterday! Great post and beautiful photos as always. The area near Hop Valley Trailhead is one of my favorites too; I’ve never even done the trail because all 3 times I’ve just wandered off on some cross country exploring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Meghan. I took a little break from the blog while in SE Asia. I didn’t feel like spending time on the computer. I’ve been thinking about you too as Mike and I talked quite a bit during our trip about getting involved in some outreach initiative like Habitat for Humanity. There are so many worthwhile causes, I guess we just need to make a decision and take a plunge.

      Funny that you’ve never done the actual trail, but I totally get it. I could have spent many more happy hours exploring around the trailhead. I’ll say it again: you live in a great part of the world!

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s great that you’re thinking about doing some volunteering. There are definitely a multitude of worthy causes; I wish you luck on deciding where to start. I tried a couple other volunteer things before I started committing my time to one and I understand how it could take a minute to sort through all the options!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for your lovely comments. I agree, Zion is such a wonderful park, it is easy to understand why it is so busy. It is a place that everyone should be lucky enough to visit. I want to go back and hike “Subway”, part of the Left Fork trail (among others!)…photos from there look awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Gosh how stunning it is. Your photographs are gorgeous. And I get what you mean by not being able to sit in a car too long. My bums actually freeze if they are packed into a car beyond an hour :-/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your kind comments. Cars, planes, boats…I’m not terribly fond of any means of transportation except the self-propelled kind, but something I must put up with to get to all the beautiful places in the world.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a striking moonrise capture–lovely contrast against that palette of sandstone and sky. Gorgeous photos, as always! Even more enviable, though, is the lack of Zion hordes in your shots. Zion’s amazing (making it difficult to begrudge the crowds), but I love that you found sweeping vistas–and solitude–just minutes away in Kolob Terrace. Would love to hike that Wildcat Canyon trail, especially with those epic views! My list keeps growing thanks to you.

    Liked by 1 person

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