Welcome to Utah – Zion NP

Virgin, UT

After a great stay in Valley of Fire,  we drove about a hundred miles northeast to the tiny community of Virgin on Friday, ten miles from the west gate to Zion National Park.  We booked a month’s stay at Zion River RV Resort to give us plenty of time to explore the area.

While not as spectacular as the Valley of Fire, the view out our front windshield is still pretty cool.

On Sunday we decided to take a drive up Kolob Reservoir Road, which weaves its way in and out of Zion NP land while rising up into the mountains.

Heading north on Kolob Reservoir Road

Rising into the mountains

We passed a sign that said that the road ahead was unplowed during the winter.  Since almost all the snow was gone, we drove passed the sign and continued up into the mountains.  At one point the road was completely covered and the Jeep got the opportunity to use four wheel drive in the snow!

After seventeen miles we came to a gate with a sign stating the road ahead was closed to all traffic except snowmobiles.  We could have gone around the gate and continued, but thought it would be difficult to explain to a ranger how we didn’t understand the wording on the sign and picture of a jeep surrounded by a circle with a line through it.  So we turned around and headed back down the mountain.  We’ll return to this spot in a couple of weeks to see if all the snow is gone.

On the way down we were treated to a view of a herd of elk by the side of the road.  They must not see many vehicles, as they were very nervous as we slowly approached.  We sat for a few minutes and watched them as they race across the road.

After crossing the road, the herd re-assembled with many of them kepting a sharp eye on us.

Going back down the road we were treated to many beautiful vistas of southern Utah.

About half way back down we came to a dirt road going to the west called Smith Mesa Road, so we decided to see where it led.

Turns out the Smith Mesa Road makes a long loop of about twenty miles around the mesa then steeply returns to Virgin.

There were a number of small ranches on the mesa and a number of signs advertising land for sale.   But the thought of driving at least ten miles on this dirt road just to get back to a paved road lowered the appeal of living on the mesa for us.

Tomorrow we head into the park for some hiking.  More on that later . . .

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14 Responses to Welcome to Utah – Zion NP

  1. Marsha says:

    Another fantastic find. Your campsite looks terrific.
    Oh dear. Paul and I both thought you there might still be snow there.
    What a marvelous shot of the Elk crosses the road. They are so beautiful and graceful.
    Is your Jeep red now instead of white? That is some rich looking soil. The vistas are awesome. Can’t wait to see your photos from being on foot. Give us am idea of your temps tomorrow. Enjoy

  2. What fun in such a beautiful area! We’ve been to the area many times and never have seen a herd of elk!!! Nice photos…enjoy!!!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, JoAnne! The herd was up the Kolb Terrace Rd. which was snow covered further up so I don’t think there ever many people. The elk were very nervous. But it was so exciting!

  3. Lisa says:

    Looks like you’re primed for some great adventures! Love the elk!

  4. Allison says:

    I love that part of Utah. Will you be going to Bryce? It’s a must see, hopefully on a bright sunny day.

    • placestheygo says:

      Allison, our plan is to visit every park and monument. We are spending the next three months in southern Utah. Bryce is up next, April 1st. This is my favorite. I am so excited to hike there.

  5. Love the Kolob road… there are some good hikes up there!!! Check out a hiking map or book. Upper Subway is good… but it’s an out and back since the water is too cold now and requires ropes for short repels. Going to do that come early fall one year. The area beyond your windshield at the park is all blm land with lots of hiking and or mtn biking… just walk down the hiway to the east and go in the subdivision road, across the nice, must see, bridge. when you get to the first house on the right, go left through a fence gate and you are on public grounds.
    I added you to my blog list… and love the elk photos.
    Oh, and Smith Mesa is our biking loop from the resort… up that steep hill and around and down the kolob road. Zoom! It’s a mess when it’s wet… otherwise nice.
    Box Canyon Mark

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Mark, for the suggestions. I did go back and reread your Zion Blogs. A few areas are still closed because of snow and falling ice. Angel’s Landing is closed for breeding. The last part of Kolb Terrace Rd is still closed for deep snow. But we are finding plenty. I found a website that does a great job describing hikes on and off the map. Tons of great ideas. There are so many hikes not on the park maps. There better because they are very empty.

      I totally understand what you mean about the Smith Mesa Rd. Someone drove it when it was muddy. There were two, foot deep tracks the entire route.

  6. Gay and Joe Taylor says:


  7. Oh Yes, Cant wait we head back north. Beautiful pictures.

  8. Erin says:

    What a treat to see the entire herd … and nice of them to stick around for a photo op.

  9. Bob and Jo says:

    Great photos, Utah is one of our favorites.

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