Sunday, May 3, 2015

Zion Canyon: Mt. Carmel Highway—Don’t Miss It!

After finishing our lunch at the Visitor Center we took the 12 mile scenic Mt. Carmel Highway.  The highway starts just past the Visitor Center of Zion National Park.  Unlike the first part of Zion National Park where we had to ride a Shuttle Bus; we were able to drive the jeep on this road. 

There are pull offs that offered spectacular views.   We were definitely more comfortable being in our own vehicle.  We stopped to take pictures at almost every opportunity.  The textures in the rocks along this road were unlike any we had seen before.

It was easy to see the different layers of sandstone that made up the formations.  In many areas it is easy to see the layers that were splitting and falling down the slopes.   Many places it seems as if a small wind could send an entire rock formation plummeting to the road. 

The road was narrow, with steep climbs and had very sharp switchbacks and curves. Luckily I trust George’s mountain driving. 

At one pull off we saw a group of Big Horn Sheep.  It was amazing to be so close to them.

The landscape from Mt. Carmel Highway is spectacular.  Yet another day to experience the "Glory of God".


 One of the viewpoints reveals a park landmark, Checkerboard Mesa.  The hill is about 900 feet above the Mt. Carmel Highway.  The face resembles a giant, extended checkerboard of orange, brown and white.   The left to right indentations are due to north to south winds.  The vertical cracks are from weather: freezing and thawing.

After a short distance, we came to a 1.1 mile tunnel that follows the profile of the canyon.  The tunnel was constructed using mining techniques rather than the traditional blasting tunneling techniques. There are “windows” sporadically through the tunnel that provide light and some ventilation.  These holes also provided a place to empty the rocks from the tunnel construction.  The tunnel is rock-faced, with concrete reinforcement throughout.  At the time of its completion it was the longest non-urban road tunnel in the United States.

We thought the views from Mt. Carmel Highway were even more picturesque that the other sections of Zion Canyon.   Most of the Highway allowed us to be close to the beauty.

Another beautiful day comes to an end.  We are exhausted and yet exhilarated by the beauty and nature that we have been blessed to see.

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