Photo by Julia Goldberg Photography
Here are 10 Facts about Zion National Park that you probably didn’t know! These cool facts are great to learn or brush up on before going into the park! Also, looking for some cool hikes? Then check out our post on the Top 5 Hikes in Zion. Whether you're coming out for fun, bridals, a proposal, or even just wanted to learn more about this incredible park, here are the Top 10 interesting facts about Zion National Park.
#1. Zion comes from Hebrew
The name Zion is used anciently to mean “sanctuary”. It seems fitting once you see it– although it wasn’t its original name (that takes us to fact number two…).
#2. It wasn't originally called "Zion"...
When Mormon settlers found their way into the area in 1869 following their expedition to the Grand Canyon, they learned that Southern Paiute Indians called this place Mukuntuweap, meaning "straight canyon". It wasn’t until it became a national park that it was renamed Zion National Park (as it was easier to pronounce).
#3. It officially became a National Park in 1919
While it was protected by President Taft in 1909 as Mukuntuweap National Monument, those in charge felt it needed a name that was easier to pronounce (therefore more likely to attract visitors).
Bonus Trivia: Go to number #10 to see how to properly pronounce Zion to avoid looking like a tourist.
Photo by M. Felt Photography
#4. Yes, the wildlife really does steal your food.
Rock Squirrels will, in fact, sneak into your bag and steal your food if you’re not watching. Signs are posted to not feed the wildlife, so mind your snacks.
#5. It’s home to one of the tallest, most dangerous hikes in the world
Angels Landing is almost 1,500 feet high and a full 2.2 miles to hike (much of it uphill and on switchbacks– as well as chains and drops offs on either side of the trail). You may have even heard rumors of people falling, including adults and (unfortunately) children. That is, in fact, accurate. So tread carefully.
Angels Landing is only recommended for those with good hiking shoes and experience. If you brave the trail, however, you won’t find any views more spectacular than the top of Angels Landing. You can literally see 360 degrees around the whole peak.
It does require a permit. Here's how you get it.
#6. More than 4 million visitors come every year
Back in 1920, fewer than 4,000 visitors frequented the park. Today, the amount of visitors has grown so widely that often it can be difficult to move through the park (Zion is mostly traveled through one highway). To help alleviate traffic and obstruction, in the year 2000 Zion began a shuttle service to the West canyon.
This canyon is where several trailheads begin: Temple of Sinawava, Angels Landing, Temple of the Patriarchs, Emerald Pools, the Narrows, West Rim Trail, Subway, and Mystery Canyon. To get to those hikes, you DO need to take the shuttle (and in some cases get a permit).
Other beautiful hikes like Canyon Overlook will be the East canyon drive which you can do with your own vehicle (and will take you through an amazing tunnel carved right into the mountainside).
#7. It used to be home to the Anasazi
The Anasazi once inhabited the area and created many dwellings and rock art somewhere between 800 and 1,500 years ago– many of which are still able to be seen today.
#8. The Virgin River Not Only Formed Zion, It’s STILL Forming It
Thanks to rainfall and flash flooding that occasionally hit the park, the Virgin River redeposits tons and tons of sediment annually. This means the canyon is deepening and widening all the time (though not fast enough to really notice).
Photo by ShutterFreek
#9. The road from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park is only 72 miles apart
Wanting to hit two parks in one visit? Wondering how far it is from Bryce Canyon National Park to Zion National Park? Luckily it’s only about an hour and a half drive, though both parks will take longer than that to explore properly. We definitely recommend taking your time in Zion– it’s just fun to know you don’t have to travel far to see another amazing park full of incredible hikes.
#10. Locals can tell you’re a tourist by the way you pronounce Zion
Yes, there is a right way to pronounce Zion… at least according to locals in the area. Shopkeepers and friendly locals can tell you’re ‘not from around here‘ with or without full hiking gear and a camera. Why? Because visitors often pronounce the park’s name as “zi-ON” (with ON being emphasized), whereas locals say it more like “Zion” (rhyming with “lion”). If you want to blend in a little (or be able to tell locals from tourists), remember Zion rhymes with lion.