Explore Geology

Zion National Park

Geologic Setting

Figure 1. Location map of Zion National Park.
Figure 1. Location map of Zion National Park.

Protected within the 593 square kilometers (229 square miles) of Zion National Park, the Kolob Arch is the world's largest arch with a span measuring 94.5 m (310 ft), a window height of 101 m (330 ft), and a thickness of 24 m (80 ft) (Biek et al. 2000). In other monuments and parks, this arch would be the centerpiece of a visitor's experience, but Zion is probably best known for Zion Canyon. This narrow chasm with sheer walls of Navajo Sandstone towering 610 m (2,000 ft ) above the canyon floor contains blind arches, alcoves, hanging valleys, waterfalls, and colorful surficial stains (desert varnish). Incised into Zion Canyon, the Virgin River is one of the last, mostly free- flowing river systems on the Colorado Plateau. About 2,130 m (7,000 ft ) of sedimentary rock records approximately 275 million years of changing environmental conditions in Zion.

Zion National Park is located in the semi- arid desert of southwestern Utah. Interstate 15 passes west of Zion and connects with Utah 9 leading to the park (figure 1). U.S. 89 passes east of the park and connects with Utah 9 to the park.

The lowest elevation in the park is 1,128 m (3,7oo ft) above sea level at Coalpits Wash in the southwestern corner of the park while the highest is 2,660 m (8,727 ft ) above sea level at Horse Ranch Mountain in the Kolob Canyons section.


Biek, R.F., Willis, G.C., Hylland, M.D., and Doelling, H.H., 2000, Geology of Zion National Park, Utah, in D.A. Sprinkel, T.C. Chidsey, Jr., and P.B. Anderson, eds., Geology of Utah’s Parks and Monuments: Utah Geological Association Publication 28, p. 107- 138.

updated on 06/27/2007  I   http://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/parks/zion/geol_setting.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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