Highway 9 cuts right through the heart of Zion National Park. The road from the Park's south entrance to the east Entrance is 12 miles. After you enter the Park from the south entrance, you travel past the visitor center and the Zion Human History Museum. The road then follows the Virgin River until you reach the Zion Canyon Road (which is not accessible by car between April and October- shuttle required). From this point the highway winds up a series of switchbacks as you climb over 1,000 feet to the top of the canyon. Several pull outs are available for stopping and taking photos. As you reach the top of the canyon, you enter the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.
The Tunnel was completed in 1930. The tunnel is just over a mile long. It cuts through the sandstone mountain ending at a parking lot that leads to two popular trailheads. The Overlook trail is a short hike (1 mile round trip) that takes you to the cliffs edge where you can see the winding road you just traveled on. This is a spectacular view of the mountains that surround Zion Canyon. The other trailhead is to Pine Creek. This is a technical slot canyon requiring advance canyoneering skills, gear and a permit.
Once through the tunnel, the highway winds its way through Checkerboard Mesa. The unusual crack pattern in the sandstone hills resemble a grid much like you would see on a checkerboard. There are several pull outs along the highway and trailheads into some of the Zion backcountry.
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