Directly east of Zion National Park lies East Zion, an area replete with breathtaking natural wonders and amenities. East Zion includes the Coral Pink Sand Dunes and the towns Mt. Carmel Junction, Mt. Carmel, Orderville, Glendale, and Alton.
The charming and breathtakingly colorful town of Mt. Carmel offers many of the same amenities found in other areas of East Zion, such as guided ATV tours, horseback riding, marked and unmarked hiking trails, and slot canyons galore. One of the most exciting tourist attractions in this little town, however, is the Maynard Dixon Gallery, or the Thunderbird Foundation for the Arts, just 13 miles from Zion’s east entrance. Maynard Dixon, a famous artist accredited with finding a new form of expression for the West, moved to Mt. Carmel in 1938 where he built his home and studio. These are now open for public tours from May to October. Tickets are $20 per person, and tours musts be scheduled in advance.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes
The Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park covers 3,730 acres of undulating, uninterrupted salmon pink dunes that are surrounded by high red cliffs, clear blue skies, and breathtaking views. It is a charming, secluded playground for hiking, off-highway vehicle riding, or simply playing in the sand. The park includes a 22-unit campground, hot showers, modern restrooms, and a sewage disposal system. Hikers not only have the option of exploring the boardwalk, overlook trails, and nature trail within the park, but they also have the opportunity of exploring the wide variety of hikes located just minutes from the park. The park is open year round and is 12 miles southwest of US-89 near Kanab.
Mt. Carmel Junction
In 1931, immediately after the completion of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, a young couple began homesteading the area known today as Mt. Carmel Junction. Though the land was initially prone to violent flash floods and was filled with gullies, quicksand, and layers of sand, the couple, Fern and Jack Hanson, successfully overcame these obstacles. They built the Thunderbird restaurant and lodge, the first restaurant and hotel in town. Today there is much to do and see in Mt. Carmel Junction, making it an ideal stop for tourists visiting Zion National Park. In addition to the historic Thunderbird establishment, Mt. Carmel Junction offers a golf course, ATV guided tours, horseback riding, and the Zion Ponderosa Resort. Magnificent slot canyons also dot the area, including the Upper and Lower Red Caves, Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon, East Fork Slot Canyon, and Red and Spring Hollows. Checkerboard Mesa, an impressive mesa with unique cross bedding, and the Great Arch can be seen from the nearby highway. Also near the highway is Pine Creek Waterfall, a short hike and an inviting family respite.
Orderville, so named because it was established by the United Order under the direction of Brigham Young in 1870, is a quiet but inviting town located just north of Mt. Carmel. In addition to hiking, slot canyons, and other natural nearby attractions, tourists can visit the Daughters of Utah Pioneer Museum. This museum, dedicated to preserving the unique history of the Mormon Orderville settlers, is located on Box Canyon Road, Orderville, and is open from May to September.
The town Glendale was established in 1871 by Mormon pioneers and was also part of the United Order. An entrance to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument lies in the heart of town. Glendale is centrally located between the Grand Staircase, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Zion National Park, and Bryce Canyon, making it an ideal place to camp or relax.
Alton lies at the base of the beautiful Sunset Cliffs, which are part of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The town was founded by, Wesley Roundy, who built two log cabins in the area in the early 1870s. At a community social in 1912, suggested names for the town were put into a hat, and the name Alton—taken from the Alton Fjord in Norway—was chosen. This quiet, little town, with its stunning scenery, is a perfect respite from the crowds and hustle of some of the busier parks and attractions.