Despite being the 4th most-visited national park in the country, many new visitors to the park know very little about its geography or history.
Whether you’re an old fan of this popular national park or planning your first trip and looking to impress your traveling partners with a little trivia, keep reading to learn a few facts about Zion that will help you sort the fact from the fiction.
Fact or Fiction: Zion Isn’t the Park’s Original Name
It’s hard to imagine this beautiful national park going by any other name. But it’s a fact that Zion National Park wasn’t originally called that. And “national park” wasn’t even a part of the name at first.
When President Woodrow Wilson designated the property as a national monument in 1909, it was called Mukuntuweap It would stay Mukuntuweap National Monument for almost ten years. Then, in 1918, the name was changed to Zion, but it still remained a national monument. Finally, a year later, it became a national park. Just last year, Zion celebrated 100 years since that designation was made official.
Fact or Fiction: Zion is the 2nd oldest national park in Utah
You already know that Zion became a national park in 1919. But what about the rest of Utah’s national parks?
Often called the Mighty 5, Utah is home to 5 national parks in total. Besides Zion, there’s also nearby Bryce Canyon, as well as Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands just a few hours away. Of them, Zion is the oldest national park in the state.
After Zion, Bryce Canyon is the next oldest in the state. It became a national park in 1928. After that, there was a lengthy period of time when no national parks were added to Utah. Canyonlands broke the hiatus when it became a national park in 1964. A short time later in 1971, both Capitol Reef and Arches became national parks.
Fact or Fiction: Angels Landing is the Highest Point in the Park
Anyone’s who has made the trek to the top of Angels Landing can tell you that from there, you can see out over the entire park. But while it’s certainly high–the elevation is 5,790 feet at the top–it isn’t the highest point in the park.
You’ll find the highest point of elevation in the Kolob Canyon section of the park. Horse Ranch Mountain is 8,726 feet high at the summit.
Fact or Fiction: The Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel is Over a Mile Long
Driving through the dark, narrow tunnel, it can be tough to figure out exactly how far you’ve traveled. But believe it or not, the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel is more than a mile long.
Construction on the historic tunnel began in the late 1920s. It was completed in 1930 and officially dedicated on July 4, 1930. At the time, it was the longest tunnel of its kind in the country. It opened up access for travelers to get from Bryce Canyon to Zion to the Grand Canyon faster than ever before.
In total, the tunnel stretches 1.1 miles in length. Because of its narrow width and low clearance, large vehicles can only travel through the tunnel during certain hours of the day. Traffic in the opposite direction is closed to allow these larger vehicles to pass. While you can ride your bike on the road through the canyon, you can’t ride through the tunnel because of the danger. The National Park Service recommends hitchhiking with trucks passing through the tunnel to get to the other side.
Fact or Fiction: Mormons Settlers Were the First to Live Along the Virgin River
While Mormon settlers did come to the area in the mid-1800s, they were far from the first to inhabit what is now Zion National Park. In fact, humans have passed through and settled in Zion for more than 10,000 miles. Native American tribes, including Ancestral Puebloan and Fremont cultures, hunted, gathered, and even settled in the region at various points throughout history.
Archeologists have found artifacts and indicators of early Native American settlements throughout the park. Most recently, the construction of the shuttle bus facility near the Visitors Center was halted when an Ancestral Puebloan food storage location was discovered. The site is now open to the public and is called The Watchman Archaeological site.
Sorting Fact from Fiction
Looking for more answers to your questions? Check out our blog to find tips and tricks for planning a trip, information about the park, and advice for exploring the surrounding area.
Of course, the best way to learn what’s fact and what’s fiction is by visiting the park and seeing it with your own eyes! Start planning your next visit today!