Explore otherworldly realms in this national park

Whittled by water into slot canyons and rock cliffs, Utah’s Zion National Park is an adventurer’s paradise. Here’s how to visit.

Adventurers access the Subway slot canyon in Zion National Park by hiking or canyoneering.
Photograph by JOSH HYDEMAN

Located in southwestern Utah, Zion’s water-carved canyons, mesas, and rock formations are so astounding they were among the earliest additions to the U.S. National Park System, with President William Howard Taft setting aside some 15,000 acres in 1909. Originally called Mukuntuweap National Monument, it was later renamed and expanded. A few hours’ drive from Las Vegas, the popular park now draws millions of visitors each year.

Adventurers seeking otherworldly realms should aim their sights on a slot canyon called the Subway. Getting to this permit-required wonder is half the fun (and challenge). There are two ways: by hiking nine miles round-trip or by canyoneering, a mix of hiking, rappelling, and other activities. For this image, photographer Josh Hydeman did the latter. “By the time we got there, it was late in the day,” he says. “The canyon looked like a cave. There was a meeting of light and color and moment and beauty.”

Zion is “riddled with narrow, dark, beautiful canyons filled with water,” says Hydeman. One of the best examples is the Narrows, a favorite of hikers who are prepared to get wet. For other visitors, the park offers wheelchair-accessible trails, wildlife-watching, and stargazing. Rock climbers test their mettle on some of the tallest sandstone cliffs in the world. While ascending, they can also track sightings of bats, helping scientists to protect these keystone species.

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