You’ve probably heard about Zion National Park. But what about Kolob?

Before our trip we had never heard about Kolob, which is a pity, really. To quote Joe’s Guide to Zion National Park, a very nice website describing the many trails and routes for hikers in this wonder of nature,

The „Kolob Terrace“ is a lesser-traveled section of Zion, accessible via the Kolob Terrace Road that heads north from the town of Virgin. The drive through the Terrace up to Lava Point offers a good sampling of wondrous views, from golden valleys to the majestic North and South Guardian Angels high in distance.

2012-10-11-Zion-Kolob-Terrace
 

Leave the designated national park area driving south through Springdale, and soon you will be on your way to Virgin, a tiny dwelling with a remarkable bookstore (it is also depicted in the Wikipedia article). The Kolob Terrace road starts right there, it is easy to miss, but you don’t want to miss it!

2012-10-12-virginbookstore

 

It is a very scenic drive, distinctly differing from the vistas you’ll find in Zion, yet several parts of the area (and road) are national park controlled land, visible through the dark red tarmac of the national park, intersected by regular tarmac, and signs telling you that you are entering or leaving federal and national park land, which is why the Kolob Terrace Road is free of charge – you don’t need a national park ticket, but since you’ve already paid at Zion and your ticket is valid for a week, that wouldn’t matter anyway.

2012-10-11-zion-kolob-6

2012-10-11-zion-kolob-12

2012-10-11-zion-kolob-8

2012-10-11-zion-kolob-11

2012-10-11-zion-kolob-7
Drive slowly and carefully, bring water and food – aside from a camp ground at Lava Point there are no tourist facilities (and no gas station. Fill up before you leave for the tour).

What I found very interesting is that you get a chance to look over the upper part of Zion Canyon – the white mountain tops you can stare at from the main part of Zion national park are now well below you. The landscape has different features as well, in addition to the ubiquitous red sandstone you’l find lava flows and cinder cones, and the solitude of the area is a nice change of pace.

2012-10-11-zion-lavapoint

If the weather allows it you could use the unpaved road behind the Kolob reservoir to drive on; instead we chose to tour back and enjoy the views from another angle. If you stay in Springdale, this is a nice half-day road trip if you take your time to enjoy the views.

The second not so well-known part of Zion National Park does in fact require a ticket, and there is a ranger station and tiny visitor center right at the entrance to the road. Kolob Canyons are higher in elevation than Zion, view points are of steep spectacular canyons, and it is the closest access to Kolob Arch, possibly the largest free-standing arch in the world. The road is west of Zion, on the I15 (to Cedar City). Again, this is not as developed as the other parts of Zion, just a road that leads up into the mountains, to a few trail heads and spectacular viewpoints.

2012-10-12-kolob-canyon-road
We drove there on our way up to Cedar City and then Cedar Breaks, early in the morning in October, and there were only two more cars on the road beside us.

2012-10-12-kolob-canyon-stitch
When we stopped to take a few pictures on the uppermost parking spot, clouds started to drift into the canyon, It was an interesting experience to be eye-to-eye with those clouds, slowly filling the crevices of the canyons, and it looked nothing but spectacular.

2012-10-12-kolob-canyon-cloud

2012-10-12-kolob-canyon-cloud-2
Since we did not want to be stuck in the clouds, though, we took some more pictures and then drove back slowly.