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Explore Zion with field of experts

The Zion National Park Forever Project (formerly known as the Zion Canyon Field Institute) is now in its 20th year of hosting field programs. Below are the events scheduled through July, yet be assured, many of the same programs, plus additional offerings, will also be conducted later in the year.

Most field classes meet at the Zion Human History Museum, are limited to five people and are open to those ages 15 and older, except where noted. Hikes are different lengths, depending on the program, ranging from easy to strenuous. Workshops, classes and service projects fill fast, so be sure to sign up early. Be prepared for changing weather conditions and dress in layers. Wear a hat and sunscreen and bring food and water. Binoculars come in handy.

If your visit doesn’t coincide with a scheduled offering, or your group wants to be by itself, consider arranging a “Custom Explore Zion” outing — a half or full day with an instructor or naturalist. For more information on this option, or the following programs, contact the Forever Project at 435-772-3264 or visit zionpark.org.

March 25 and other dates, Thursday Treks: These naturalist-led hikes provide an introduction to the geology, flora, fauna and human history of the park. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., $50. Also scheduled for April 15, April 29, May 6, May 20, June 3 and more.

March 27, Spring Birds in Zion: Spend a morning in the park tracking and observing birds along the Virgin River. Learn about springtime bird behavior and migration. 8 a.m. to noon, $45.

April 10, Mojave Wildflowers: Join botanist Matt Ogburn and explore the wildflowers near St. George in the small area in Utah that is part of the Mojave Desert. Bring your camera and enjoy the ephemeral annual display as well as colorful perennials and cactuses. 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., $65. Meets at St. George BLM office.

April 17, Low Desert Wildflowers: Visit the extreme southwest corner of Zion by Coalpits and Huber washes, where you’ll learn about and see the Mojave flora blooming. 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Limit six participants. $65.

April 30, Zion and the Colorado River Basin: Explore the hydrocentric locations along the Virgin River to learn about human-ecosystem connections. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., $45.

May 1, Basin to Plateau: Hike through the Spring Creek drainage to see wildflowers and surprising geologic formations near what was the shore of the Pacific Ocean some 750 million years ago. Limited to six participants. 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., $70. Meets at Kolob Canyons Visitor Center.

May 13, Archaeology Field Day: This service project involves spending a day with a Zion archaeologist doing site work and other tasks. Expect to get dirty and tired. Limited to two participants. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., $65.

May 14, Outside Looking In: One of the best views of Zion is from outside its boundary. Join a naturalist to hike the roughly 5-mile Eagle Crags Trail while learning about the geology, flora and fauna of the area. 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., $65.

May 17, To the Rim and Back: This is a strenuous, all-day, round-trip hike from the East Rim Trail to Deertrap Mountain or Cable Mountain. Along the way, you will learn about the geology, flora, fauna and area ecosystems. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., $65.

June 5, Hanging Gardens of Zion: Explore some of the park’s hanging gardens associated with small seeps and springs. Learn about the ferns, orchids, monkey flowers and primroses that thrive here. 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., $65.

June 23 and July 7, Zion Narrows Service Project: A 7-mile, naturalist-led, interpretive hike takes you into the Zion Narrows. Learn about the power of flash floods and how this canyon was formed. Expect to get wet and negotiate slippery algae-covered rocks with a walking stick. 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., $65.

July 9, Cedar Breaks Wildflowers: Escape the heat in Cedar Breaks National Monument and walk with botanist Matt Ogburn on a wildflower tour. Wildflowers abound here, including Markagunt and Rydberg penstemon, columbine and Parry primrose. 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., $65. Meets at Cedar Breaks entry station.

July 10, Wildflower Photography at Cedar Breaks: Join photographer Michael Plyler, during peak wildflower season in Cedar Breaks National Monument, as he discusses ways to maximize your abilities to interpret beauty through the lens, and photographing the big picture versus the close-up. 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., $85. Meets at Cedar Breaks entry station.

July 17, Cedar Breaks Geology: Tour geologic sites surrounding Cedar Breaks National Monument. Participants will visit ash-flow tuffs on Brian Head Peak, remains of lava flows near Navajo Lake and Mammoth Cave, a large lava tube. Limited to six participants. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., $65. Meets at Cedar Breaks entry station.

Many of Deborah Wall’s columns have been compiled into books about hiking in the Southwest. She is also the author of “Great Hikes, a Cerca Country Guide” and a co-author of the book “Access For All, Seeing the Southwest With Limited Mobility.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.

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