Mt. Carmel

Mount Carmel Junction sits at the junction of U.S. Route 89 and State Route 9 in southwestern Utah. Mount Carmel is one mile (1.6 km) north of the junction.

The charming and breathtakingly colorful town of Mt. Carmel offers many of the same amenities found in other areas of Southern Utah, 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.

Only two families ever settled in Mount Carmel Junction, and one was Jack and Fern Morrison. Jack contemplated the idea that a road must be built connecting Zion Canyon to the east side of the park. Jack explored the area and came to the conclusion that the road must come down in the area now known as Mount Carmel Junction. There were old wagon trails that Jack used to navigate his way down to the valley. The hills were steep forcing Jack to attach a Cedar tree to the back of his Model-T-Ford. Jack was patient and in 1931 he was able to homestead the land now known as Mount Carmel Junction. The land was unkind. It was covered with gullies, quicksand and many layers of sand. The area was also prone to violent flash floods. Jack and Fern lost two children in the flash floods of the East Fork of the Virgin River that runs through the junction.

Artist Maynard Dixon, famed for his paintings of the American West, built a summer home in Mount Carmel Junction in 1939. After his death in Tucson, Arizona, in 1946, his ashes were buried on a high bluff above the Mount Carmel art studio being built on the property.

The Historic Rock Church in Mount Carmel was used to school the children living in the Mount Carmel area. The log building was built in 1880 and used as a church, school house and recreation hall. In 1890 it was converted into the stone structure. “The rock for the building was hauled by team and wagon from a hill about a mile south of town. Later a lumber wing was added, making it into a two-room school. At first the floors were of rough pine lumber. Then hardwood floors were installed, which made them ‘nicer for dancing.'” In 1919 it burned down. In 1923 it was rebuilt, this time with rock. After the small building was rebuilt, the rock structure was used almost entirely as a church. The children who once attended school in the log building rode to nearby Orderville in a covered wagon each day to attend school. The Historic Rock Church is on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1919, a Congressional bill designating Zion National Park was signed into law. In 1923 the task of finding a way to open Zion Canyon to the east side of the park began. Four different routes were considered including two options through Parunuweap and another through North Creek. The route chosen went up the side of Pine Creek canyon on switchbacks, through a tunnel and then along Clear Creek to the east boundary of the park, and hence to US-89 at Mount Carmel Junction. Construction work on the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel and the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway began in 1927. The tunnel especially was considered quite an engineering feat for the time, requiring boring 5,613 feet (1,711 m) through solid rock. July 4, 1930, the tunnel and highway were dedicated, linking Zion Canyon to the land east of the park and making it easier to visit Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Parks.