Zion Wild: The 5 coolest animals you (might) see in Zion National Park
It’s no secret that Zion National Park has two of the interior’s most iconic trails in Angel’s Landing and the Narrows.
Both trails are easily accessible via Zion’s super-simple shuttle system, they’re not overly challenging, and they have highly unique features that make them a draw the world over.
However, there are a few other very cool things to see and experience when on a hiking vacation in this southern Utah high-desert paradise. And here are five of them:
Yes, most people think they look scary. But, it’s important to know that these burly, furry arachnids are quite harmless and timid. They’re much cooler to see in their native Zion environment, moseying along the red rock and in between cactus gardens, than from outside a glass box warmed by a little electric sun. Tarantulas live in cool, shaded burrows and can be seen at almost all hours of the day.
If you happen to see a ringtail it will be because you made the wise choice to do a little nighttime exploring during your trip to Zion National Park. These nimble, largely tree-dwelling raccoon cousins are very timid and equally stealthy. They also tend to remain solitary, and their quarter-sized eyes help them hunt for the bugs, small rabbits, mice, and plants that make up their diet. Look high into trees and rocky cliff-sides to spot one.
One of the rarest animals on our planet at the moment, the California Condors that reside in Zion have been carefully monitored since birth, and remain tagged for ongoing tracking. With a little more than 500 soaring free over the canyons of the western United States, these birds are some of man’s closest natural connections to prehistory. With nine-foot, white-splashed wingspans, Zion’s condors can be seen floating on the warm updrafts over Angel’s Landing, and often close enough for agape onlookers to hear the desert breeze stream through their foot-long feathers.
The desert bighorn sheep is always on the bucket-list of visitors on hiking vacations in Utah’s national parks because of their status as iconic “western” wildlife. The sheep that dwell in Zion aren’t as big as their Rocky Mountain relatives, but you certainly don’t want to get up close and personal with a protective male, especially in the late summer and early fall. If exploring the park’s East Canyon beyond the tunnel, keep your eyes on the rolling red rock hills and roadside stream beds to see the park’s most popular ungulate.
The cat with almost as many names as lives, the puma/panther/mountain lion/catamount is Zion National Park’s largest carnivore. By no means rare but by all means invisible, the cougar is most active at night, and its favorite food is mule deer. Consider yourself exceptionally lucky if you happen to see one pounce past you on the trail; but rest assured, they’re much more interested in hooves than hiking boots.
Remember: do not approach any of the wildlife you happen to see while hiking in Zion. Leave No Trace ethics mandate that if you alter an animals behavior, you’re too close.