Cliffed out: Visit to Utah’s Zion National Park a scenic splendor

Even in December, the weekend before Christmas when everyone might be getting the last of their shopping done, Zion National Park is bustling with visitors.

It’s easy to see why people come. The 2,000-foot high Navajo sandstone cliffs are stunning at sunset, glowing orange when framed against a deep blue sky. Large prickly pear cactus leaves and yucca covered with snow seem a contradiction to the cool temperature. The Virgin River gurgles down the middle of the main canyon, tinted a light green, soothing nerves frayed from dodging tourist traffic.

Native American presence in the canyon is believed to date back at least 10,000 years, based on archaeological sites and petroglyph carvings in the sandstone walls.

Cyclists had the right idea, pedaling past the roadblocks on the fairly level but serpentine pavement. Their only concern on the narrow road would be distracted drivers, one of which plowed off the side of the lane near the lodge.

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Cyclists ride down the main route into Zion National Park, just past Zion Lodge, on a clear December day.

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