We went to Zion during the first week of April and found the crowds to be a bit overwhelming. By noon there was a line for the shuttle that stretched a city block. So we decided to go to a less-visited part of the park: Kolob Terrace Road.
As we were studying the map of Zion in our hotel room, we noticed a road called Kolob Terrace Road. This road travels through an adjacent canyon between Zion Canyon and the Kolob Canyons section. It accesses mostly backcountry hikes that are pretty long and/or strenuous, but it makes for a lovely drive.
From the town of Virgin it is 25 miles to the end of the Kolob Terrace Road, and there is no ranger kiosk or Visitor’s Center. In fact, the road winds in and out of the park, so you occasionally pass private cabins and even stray cows when you are outside of the park.
The road starts at a low elevation and climbs all the way up to 8,000 feet. Along the way, we saw a lot of different varieties of birds– most of them blue. We saw a ruddy duck with a bright blue bill in a pond just a few miles from the turnoff in Virgin. As we got higher up, we saw pretty blue pinyon jays. Even higher, there was snow on the road, and we saw mountain bluebirds and even a few of our favorite blue birds: Stellar’s Jays.
As you near the top of the canyon, you’ll come across a few reservoirs. The last one, at the end of the road was still iced over when we were there. It is called Kolob Reservoir, and there is a dirt road that surrounds it, though everything unpaved was under a foot of snow when we were there in April, so we certainly weren’t going around.
Driving out the Kolob Terrace Road was a unique experience. It wasn’t quite as beautiful as the more well-known parts of Zion, but it had a much slower feel, and was a perfect way to escape the crowds on our last day in Zion. It’s also a fun spot to find snow in the spring, or play in the summer.
Allow 2 or more hours to drive out Kolob Terrace Road depending on how many times you stop to look at the sights. The road is paved all the way to Kolob Reservoir. If you are in Zion early or late in the year, you can check road conditions at either Visitor’s Center before you make the drive. If you are interested in hiking here: this site has some great ideas for backcountry hikes: Joe’s Guide.