By Mike Lavelle

In the last issue, my article addressed the first part of our week-long motorcycle trip. On the 3rd day (May 15th), we departed our motel in St. George to visit Zion National Park. We took I-15 north to SR 9 through Hurricane and Virgin, to Springdale, which is located at the entrance to the park. We parked our motorcycles and road the shuttle through the park. While it would have been nice to ride motorcycles through the park, the park had lots of vehicle traffic and riding the shuttle allows  you to get off at the various stations and lookouts throughout the park, which is what we did. You can catch the shuttle (which runs from early April to late October, and is free) at Canyon Junction and there is a parking fee (which was 12 dollars for the day). Riding the shuttle allowed us to visit the many stopping points along the way, like the Temple of Sinawava, Weeping Rock, The Grottoe, The Court of the Patriarchs, as well as the Zion Lodge and Museum (in separate locations).

The road into Zion Canyon is 6 miles and the canyon itself is 15 miles long, with a low point of 3,666 feet and a high point of 8,726 feet, which lends itself to having different climatic zones that draw different species of plants and animals. Within the park, with the variety of canyons, mesas, mountains and rivers, there are woodlands, forest, desert and riparian (the interface between land and a river) zones and very unpredictable spring weather.

On Thursday, the 16th of May, we departed to visit Bryce Canyon, traveling north on I-15 to Cedar City, where we exited to Scenic Byway U-14, also known as the Markagunt HIgh Plateau, this byway was once named by USA Today as a “Top 8 Unique Fall Destination.” Rising to approximately 10,000 feet (depending on what site you consult – we saw a sign that indicated 9912 feet), the 40-mile road climbs through the very scenic Cedar Canyon to the top of the pass, where there was still snow on the ground. One important factor we have experienced in these May trips is that one should prepare for a range of weather to include hot, cold, rain, and even hail. Additionally, it is not uncommon, in much of the greater southwest, for a hot day to be followed by a cold day, and was the case two days following our trip, even snow! If you are traveling by car or motorcycle, having layers of clothing for rain and cold is a good idea, this is especially true for the park area as well.

Coming down the mountain pass, on U-14, where it meets US 89,  we went north to SR 12, where we then went east to Bryce Canyon National Park. We drove to the parking area and took a shuttle into the park. Bryce Canyon National Park offers a very different, but complementary, experience from Zion National Park, as it is smaller but at a higher elevation, with its unique amphitheaters and hodoos, or spires of rock sticking up (best understood by seeing a photo of one). Returning home, we took SR 12 west to SR 89 north through Panguitch towards SR 20 west to I-15 south back to St. George.

In our next issue, I will write about our visit to Kolob Canyon, which is a separate part of the Zion National Park, and our ride home.

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Lucretia Free