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Hie(way) to Kolob

Ready for an April road trip to remember?

Published online: Apr 24, 2022 Articles, Lifestyle, Road Trips
Viewed 1505 time(s)

Last issue, we highlighted St. George, Utah to Mesquite, Nev., as a lengthy but rewarding destination for snowbound spring-breakers, golfers and ATV enthusiasts. The suggested itinerary also included a side trip into the geological wonders of Zion National Park. One thing we neglected to emphasize is that you can actually sample Zion’s beauty at least one hour closer to home. Just hop off the I-15 at Exit 40. 

A half-mile from the freeway, you’ll find yourself at the doorstep of Kolob Canyons. 

For pioneering members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its name is a fitting reference to a sacred celestial wonder. Kolob’s pristine surroundings are also a recreational slice of heaven for casual visitors, canyoneers and shutterbugs of all persuasions.

How did such a place come to be? 

Like much of the sedimentary scaffolding found elsewhere in the park, the geologic makeup of the canyons represents approximately 150 million years of Mother Nature’s wear and tear. Other eons-long processes, like the uplifting of the Colorado Plateau, raised the formations at a higher rate than the laying down of sediment. That disparity created steeper stream gradients that cut the terrain into the eye-popping spectacles of Navajo sandstone we see today.

A quick stopover at the visitor’s center will get you started with maps and other informative pamphlets. Park rangers are on hand to answer questions, and the exhibit space offers a wealth of trivia on the local geology, vegetation, wildlife and history of the area.

Ready for a hike? If you’re able and willing, the best way to experience this quiet 30,000-acre section of Zion is by hitting the 20-plus miles of trails. It’s a perfect way to marvel at the towering box canyons of 2,000-foot high cliffs, as well as the area’s rich ecosystem. 

Depending on your time, interest and stamina, here are five popular hikes we found at zionnational-park.com that you’ll want to consider:

1.

Timber Creek is a quick 30-minute, 1-mile round-tripper that starts right from the Kolob Canyons picnic area. It is a marginal 100-foot climb up to a small peak, where you’ll be able to see all the way to the Pine Valley mountains.

2.

Middle Fork of Taylor Creek Trail runs just over 5 miles and features a pair of homestead cabins, taking about 3 hours to complete. 

3.

North Fork of Taylor Creek is an unmaintained trail with a rewarding photo op—a beautiful freestanding arch called Pico Rosado.

4.

South Fork of Taylor Creek is a 2-mile round trip to the South Fork of Taylor Creek. It starts about 3 miles past the visitor’s center on an unmarked path and leads into the canyon between Paria Point and Beatty Point.

5.

La Verkin Creek Trail begins at Lee’s Pass and follows one of the canyon’s most beautiful streams that will lead you to Kolob Arch. If the canyons have a signature feature, this is it. The formation is ranked as the sixth-longest natural arch in the world with a span of 287 feet. 

You can also experience a fair amount of Kolob’s splendor from the comfort of your car. The 5-mile scenic route has plenty of pull-outs for trailhead access and scenic overlooks. It ascends 1,100 feet and follows Taylor Creek up to the Timber Creek Overlook. There are 14 numbered stops along its course. (Ask for the explanatory brochure at the visitor’s center.) 

One of the more interesting photogenic landmarks in the canyons is the cabin of Gustive O. Larson. A prominent historian by trade, Gustive finished his cabin in 1931 and used his experience there to gain valuable hands-on homesteading experience. Unfortunately, he ended up losing the cabin after taking a hiatus from the area in 1936 to serve on a church mission. During his absence, the U.S. government established the Kolob National Monument, which enveloped the Larson property along with two others in the area. Larson is long gone, but the homestead remains.

We had the good fortune of visiting Kolob Canyons in the late fall, but its finest season has to be mid to late spring. This is the time to catch intermittent waterfalls cascading from the cliffs. Wildflowers are out in full force. Daytime temps are calm and cool, and post spring-break crowds are light to nonexistent. The views can be spectacular at any time of day, but we highly recommend early morning and the pre-dusk golden hour if you want to nab that perfect landscape photo.

Speaking of optics, be sure to keep your scopes ready for some wildlife viewing opportunities. The canyons are home to a variety of animal and plant species. Mule deer graze the hillsides. Rock squirrels and jack rabbits can be found at every turn. You’ll also find no shortage of feathered critters ranging from ravens to red tail hawks, the rare California Condor, golden eagles and even a few bald eagles. Fence lizards can be found along the trails. Lesser-seen residents include bobcats, mountain lions and foxes.

While it may not have the notoriety of its more grandiose sibling down the road, Kolob Canyons has its own special charms that make it a viable alternative for a late spring road trip. Head on down and give it a look. 


Source material: U.S. Geological Survey archives, National Park Service, visitutah.com and zionnationalpark.com.

Getting There

The Kolob Canyons district—known to locals as the Kolob Fingers—is located at Exit 40 on Interstate 15, 40 miles north of Zion Canyon. There are no services at the visitor’s center, but you can stock up plenty in Cedar City. For more information, including conditions, permits and road closures, visit the National Park Service at www.nps.gov/zion. You can reach the Kolob visitor’s center directly at 435-586-9548.  



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