You can thank the meandering Virgin River for Zion’s epic beauty. Due to the ferocious forces of erosion over 200 million years, the Virgin River has carved Utah’s sandstone into geological art. Beginning at over 9,000 feet to the north of the park, the north fork of the river winds its way for 190 miles toward southern Nevada and beyond. Along the way it sculpts legendary formations such as Zion’s famous Narrows, and the striated lines of the canyon walls provide a peek at what the center of the Earth might look like.
On the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, the road parallels the Virgin River as it winds its way down the canyon, and rockslides, floods and shifting boulders are evidence that the river isn’t quite finished carving Zion Canyon. In the town of Springdale on the park’s southern entrance, tubing down the river is a popular activity in the late spring and summer.
The water can be frigid during chilly parts of the year. When hiking in places such as the Narrows or slot canyons, always keep an eye on the weather forecast since the Virgin River is prone to flash floods at any time of the year.