We’ve compiled a list of seven Zion National Park facts that most guests don’t know. Keep reading to see how many of these trivia facts you know!
1. It’s the Second Most-Visited National Park
When you think about the most popular national parks in the nation, which ones do you think of? If you’re like most, names like Yellowstone, Yosemite, Acadia, and Glacier might come to mind. But what many visitors don’t realize is that when it comes to visitor numbers, Zion beats out every one of these.
Zion National Park ranks number 10 on the list of most-visited National Park Service sites. But if you narrow that list to only national parks, it climbs to second place! The only national park that sees more annual visitors is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Visitor numbers to Zion have been climbing in recent years, and currently, they top more than 5 million annual guests.
2. Zion Celebrated Its 100th Birthday a Few Years Ago
In 2019, Zion celebrated 100 years since becoming a national park. But the park actually existed before that time. In 1909, President William Taft provided federal protection to the area that we now know as Zion. At that time, it was named Mukuntuweap National Monument.
In 1918, the name was changed to Zion National Monument, and its size was increased at this time. Just a year later, President Woodrow Wilson gave it national park status.
3. The Current Zion Lodge Isn’t the Original
Most visitors to the park today stop by the Zion National Park Lodge to do so shopping, eat lunch, or simply check out the historic building. The lodge was built in 1967. However, many guests don’t realize that this wasn’t the park’s first lodge.
The first Zion National Park Lodge was actually built in 1925. At that time, it was funded by the Union Pacific Railroad and used to promote rail travel to the park. But a fire struck the original structure in the 1960s, destroying the entire structure. It took just 100 days for the new Zion National Park Lodge to be built.
At first, the new lodge didn’t look anything like the original Zion Lodge. But in the 1990s, the building underwent a remodel to help restore a more rustic look.
4. There’s a Second, Lesser-known Section of the Park
Most visitors to Zion head straight to the park’s Lower Canyon. Depending on what time of year you visit, this might mean riding the Zion Canyon Shuttle to get from one popular photo spot or trailhead to the next. They might have their heart set on hiking Angels Landing or enjoying the shade of the Riverside Walk on a warm day.
But far fewer guests make their way to the second section of Zion. This section is called Kolob Canyon. Most visitors don’t realize that it exists, largely because you can’t get to it from within Zion Canyon. Instead, you’ll need to travel 40 miles north on Interstate 15. Equally stunning as the rest of the park, Kolob Canyon features hiking trails largely devoid of crowds, and plenty of overlooks.
5. It’s Home to a Historic Man-Made Landmark
Take a cruise along Highway 9, also known as Zion Park Boulevard, and you’ll quickly find yourself climbing in elevation. But before you reach the Upper Canyon, you’ll first need to pass through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.
This historic tunnel was built between the late 1920s and early 1930s, and is over a mile long! It’s long and features several curves that plunge drivers into total darkness. When the tunnel was built, it was the longest tunnel of its type in the United States, making it a popular attraction all its own.
Today, traffic control at both ends of the tunnel exists to help larger vehicles like RVs pass. When a large vehicle approaches the tunnel, traffic will be switched to one-way to allow them to pass safely. This service costs $15 per vehicle. Large vehicles are not allowed to travel through the tunnel when Park Rangers are not present.
If you’re biking through Zion National Park, you’ll need to get a ride through the tunnel, as bikes and foot traffic are not permitted.
6. The Park is Home to the Second Largest Freestanding Arch in the World
When you think of natural arches, you no doubt think of Arches National Park. But many guests don’t realize that Zion is actually home to the second-largest freestanding arch in the world! This might just be the least-known of the Zion National Park facts on this list!
To get to this natural attraction, you’ll need to head to the Kolob Canyon section of the park. There you’ll find Kolob Arch. At 287 feet in length, it’s second only to Landscape Arch in Arches National Park, which spans 290 feet.
7. There are More than 100 Miles of Trails in Zion National Park
Because access to the park by vehicle is limited to a short stretch of road, many visitors don’t quite realize how large Zion really is. In reality, the park covers 148,733 acres in total. Within those acres, you’ll find more than 100 miles of hiking trails! While
For those needing an accessible or easier alternative, there are 15 miles of paved trails in the park. Riverside Walk, Pa’rus Trail, and Weeping Rock are a few of the most popular.
Putting These Zion National Park Facts to Work
Now that you’ve brushed up on your knowledge with a few Zion National Park facts, it’s time to put what you’ve learned to work! Whether you want to see the towering Kolob Arch for yourself or take a drive through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, these facts can help you fill your next ZIon itinerary with a variety of new activities and must-sees.
Ready to start planning your next visit to Zion? Start by booking your stay at Zion Wildflower Resort!
Located just a short drive from Zion National Park, our Zion resort offers the perfect base camp for your next adventure. Check out our lodging options today to find the right one for your next visit.