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2016 Fall Mountain Trip Part 11; Utah State Route 9/The Mount Carmel Highway and Zion National Park

After leaving Snow Canyon I headed through St. George via Utah State Route 34 and Interstate 15.  My next destination the following morning Zion National Park via Utah State Route 9/The Mount Carmel Highway.






This blog serves as Part 11 of the 2016 Fall Mountain Trip Series, Part 10 can be found here:

2016 Fall Mountain Trip Part 10; Utah State Route 8, Snow Canyon State Park, and Utah State Route 34

UT 9 is a 57 mile east/west State Route from I-15 in Washington County east to US 89 in Kane County.  UT 9 is notable due to the segment of the highway located in Zion National Park known as the Mount Carmel Highway which traverses the Mount Carmel Tunnel.

UT 9 begins at I-15 exit 16 in Washington where it runs on State Street.


UT 9 East encounters the former alignment of US Route 91 just east of I-15 at Telegraph Street and picks up the Virgin River.  UT 9 largely follows the flow of the Virgin River east to Zion National Park.

Immediately east of Old US 91 the route of UT 9 crosses the Virgin River and continues to a junction with UT 59 in downtown Hurricane.  UT 59 continues southward to the Arizona State Line where it becomes Arizona State Route 389.





From UT 59 the route of UT 9 swings north and crosses to the north bank of the Virgin River into La Verkin on Main Street.  UT 9 meets UT 17 in downtown La Verkin and turns east on 500 East.





UT 9 East climbs a plateau where the sandstone cliffs leading to Zion National Park become apparent.


This particular view was obtained from the La Verkin Overlook Road looking eastward on the Virgin River.





UT 9 continues to follow the north bank of the Virgin River through the communities of; Virgin, Grafton, Rockville, and Springdale before reaching Zion National Park.  When I arrived at Zion National Park in 2016 it was really too dark to see much from the car but I took these pictures of the entrance approach in winter of 2018.




Zion Canyon is carved out by the Virgin River which flows southward through Zion National Park.




UT 9 crosses the Virgin River at Floor of the Valley Road and begins to ascend Pine Creek Canyon on the Mount Carmel Highway to the Mount Carmel Tunnel.









The Mount Carmel Tunnel is 5,613 feet and was completed by 1930.  The Mount Carmel Tunnel follows the contour of Pine Creek Canyon at a constant distance of 21 feet from the canyon wall.  Construction on the Mount Carmel Tunnel began in 1927 and was the longest non-urban road tunnel in the United States at the time of it's completion.  Traffic over 11.33 feet in height is required to use the center of the tunnel on a one-way controlled configuration.  Traffic exceeding heights of 13.08 feet is prohibited within the Mount Carmel Tunnel. 




I stopped to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail which looks westward through Pine Creek Canyon towards Zion Canyon.




From the Mount Carmel Tunnel UT 9 follows Pine Creek into Kane Canyon and the East Entrance Station of Zion National Park.  











From the East Entrance Station of Zion National Park UT 9 continues about another 13 miles east to US 89 where it terminates.


UT 9 was formed during the 1977 Utah State Highway Renumbering.  The current route of UT 9 consists of segments which were part of UT 17 and UT 15.  The original UT 17 segment of current UT 9 ran from US 91 in Washington to UT 15 in La Verkin.  UT 15 followed the current route of UT 17 from US 91 to La Verkin and continued east through Zion National Park on the Mount Carmel Highway to US 89.

The present segment of UT 9 from La Verkin east to Zion National Park was added to the State Highway System in 1916 with an additional legislative extension to Mount Carmel Junction by 1923 which obviously was gapped until the Mount Carmel Tunnel was completed in 1930.  Originally a highway connection to Mount Carmel Junction was via the East Fork Virgin River through Parunuweap Canyon was surveyed in 1923 before the Pine Creek Route was chosen.  At some point in the 1920s Utah began signing state highways and by 1927 UT 15 was signed from La Verkin to Mount Carmel Junction.  The map from below shows the route of UT 15 and UT 17 in 1950.

1950 Utah State Highway Map

From the east terminus of US 89 I continued north to UT 12 where I turned east towards Bryce Canyon National Park.


Part 12 of this blog series can be found here:

2016 Fall Mountain Trip Part 12; Utah State Route 12, Utah State Route 63, Brice Canyon National Park, and Grand Staircase National Monument

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