The climate that created Zion's intricate slot canyons, bowing arches, and hanging gardens is the same reason for its fragile state, which requires care and management to preserve it as much as possible.
It may seem strange to think of cliffs, arches, canyons and giant slabs of rock as fragile, but it's a true statement. Pieces of the arches are falling off at a regular basis throughout the entire Colorado Plateau from the constant effect of erosion, compounded by human impact.
More than most other environments, desert plants and animals live difficult lives, built around lack of regular water and sandy soil. Where there is water, like the hanging gardens, there are few nutrients to feed them. Animals hunt and scavenge, perfecting the art of survival as long as their short lives last.
It's a difficult balance for the national park service to maintain. After all, people should have access to this site, but preservation and conservation are important themes as well, with Zion boasting over 800 native species, many of those endangered.
This is why the park service has implemented their Leave No Trace campaign, promoting a few key ideas that will help keep this national park as pristine as possible for future generations.
Remember, it's not just you following these rules, it's a community effort to responsibly use the park in a way that everyone can benefit.
- Whether you're deep in the backcountry, or just strolling along the paved Pa'rus Trail, it's important to stay on the paths. Designated trails minimize the impact on an area by reducing the amount of compacted soil.
- When on a hiking trail, a single file line is recommended, just like the Tusken Raiders from Star Wars. It will hide the size of your group, thereby reducing environmental impact.
- Desert plants are incredible survivors, but soil compacted by thousands of visitors is nearly impossible for plants to grow through.
- Vehicles are tightly controlled, so recognize and follow restrictions.
- Campsites should be small and tidy. "Yardsales" are frowned upon, so keep it close.
- Do not dig trenches around your tent, leave the campsite as you found it.
- Do not create new campsites, use ones that have been previously developed.
- Camp at least 100 yards from roads, trails and, most importantly, water sources.
- As always, bring a couple trash bags to pack out whatever trash you bring in.
- Help out general trail maintenance by picking up trash along the trail.
- Bury solid waste and pack out toilet paper. Zion is a desert, so even toilet paper takes a long time to decompose.
- Don't use soap directly in a water source, it will be someone else's drinking water.
- There are certain areas, such as the Zion Narrows, that are designated as highly sensitive to human impact and human waste disposal is important. Follow park recommendations and guidelines in these areas.
- If your campsite has a fire ring, then only burn wood that you brought or purchased.
- Firewood gathering is prohibited in the park.
- Fires are not permitted in the Zion backcountry, so bring a gas-fueled stove.
- Always be sure to completely put out any fires. Small children should be able to play in the firepit when you leave.
- Always be respectful of wildlife.
- Feeding wildlife is dangerous to you and them. The animal could get sick or become habituated to humans.
- Following an animal can make it nervous, which in turn can make it dangerous. Therefore, do not follow animals.
- Pets and wildlife are not a permitted combination, so please keep them in designated areas.
- Be quiet and respectful of other visitors. They are at Zion to enjoy it as well, so make sure your fun doesn't interfere with theirs.
- Sound carries extremely well in the narrow canyons, so be extra mindful of noise while in those areas.