September 22, 2009

A Hike up Parunuweap Canyon toward Zion NP

Just south of the intersection of US-89 and UT-9 at Mount Carmel Junction, where the turn to Zion National Park is from the east side, there is a significant, yet unsigned dirt road that branches off to the west. When we lived in the area and drove to Zion a dozen times, we often would look at that road and wonder where it went. So, on Sunday, we decided once and for all to check it out. The road starts out in very good shape as it enters a wide canyon. As the road approaches a farm house, it takes a sharp left and goes around the property. Shortly thereafter, the road narrows to a sandy ATV track that crosses the shallow river several times.

We have a 4x4 F150 and did not have any difficulty continuing down this ATV track, as it is wide enough for the most part. Basically, we just drove down the road until we found some nice cottonwoods to park in the shade under. Anyways, from where we parked, we just started walking down this beautiful valley along the ATV track. This track also made for a very easy trail for Hilina to follow on the soft sandy substrate.

We did not encounter a single vehicle the entire day, but that does not mean you won't. So, just be prepared to potentially have your beautiful canyon silence broken by the roar of weekend riders. The track basically criss-crosses the river over and over. At the time we were there, hardly any water was in the creek, but I suspect after rains it could be higher. The beautiful White Cliffs rise above to the north and nice forested side canyons head off to the south.

We walked this beautiful canyon until reaching the point where the ATV track climbs at tall pink sand dune. We climbed up onto the red cliffs for a view downstream. Later, we found out that that is where the real adventure begins as you essentially have to walk in the river downstream as it takes you to some beautiful slot canyons. Eventually the route enters Zion National Park, where it becomes a Natural Research Area, which is closed to the public. We definitely plan on doing that another day. But, for this day, we enjoyed the quiet solitude of a beautiful sandstone canyon!

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