On Zion's Edge

Head East
By John R. Soares
  |  Gorp.com
Page 3 of 4   |  
Zion's canyon
Zion's canyon

Other enticing paths await on Zion's east side, accessed by the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and a 1.1-mile tunnel. Stop just beyond the eastern portal for an easy one-mile romp on the Canyon Overlook Trail, host to a massive arch and excellent views of Zion Canyon's lower reaches.

Backpackers delight in the relative solitude obtained by trekking from the park's east entrance to Stave Spring, Echo Canyon, Deertrap Mountain, and Cable Mountain. Spend days exploring this region or do a long daytripper from the entrance station to Weeping Rock in Zion Canyon. To the north, two other trails, reached by a maze of roads, offer access to Echo Canyon and Observation Point.

However, the most unusual and adventurous hike in Zion country is certainly the 17.5-mile journey from Chamberlain's Ranch northeast of the park through the Narrows to the Temple of Sinawava in Zion Canyon. It involves nearly constant wading and occasional swimming in the North Fork Virgin River; only the truly fit and prepared should attempt it.

Ah, but the rewards: multi-hued Navajo sandstone stretching up 2,000 feet to frame a thin strand of blue sky; enticing side canyons twisting out of sight; numerous seeps and springs to quench your thirst, many boasting hanging gardens verdant with moss and maidenhair ferns and ablaze with columbines and monkey flowers.

You can make it in one long day, or better, do an overnighter. An easier option exists: Day-hike upstream from the Temple of Sinawava three miles to Orderville Canyon. This compressed version offers a tantalizing taste of the entire route with neither the need for a permit nor such extensive preparation.

Just off Interstate 15, Zion Park's northwest section houses the Kolob Canyon region, home to scenery and trails that surely equal Zion Canyon. Day-hikers delight in stream-hopping up the canyon of Middle Fork Taylor Creek to gaze at the wet interior of Double Arch Alcove.

Backpackers have it best because they can spend days following La Verkin Creek. Its upper reaches feature steep canyon walls and springs that rival the Narrows. Sidetrips to Hop Valley, Beartrap Canyon, and Willis Creek invite daylong exploration. A half-mile side trail leads to a pine- and fir-framed view of massive Kolob Arch, a 292-foot span that rivals Landscape Arch in eastern Utah's Arches National Park for the title of world's largest.

The 14-mile West Rim Trail, with the park's most expansive long-range vistas, begins at Lava Point midway between Kolob Canyons and Zion Canyon. The first section stretches along the fire-scarred steps of Horse Pasture Plateau. After a few miles, top-of-the-world views reveal distant mountain ranges in northern Arizona and southern Utah. Nearer are slickrock domes of Navajo sandstone and the beginnings of water-eroded canyons plunging east toward Zion Canyon or west toward North Creek.

The path eventually descends with views of Zion Canyon to reach Scout Lookout. Before continuing to the valley floor, find your own power spot above the rim of Zion Canyon, then let the scope and sweep of the landscape replenish your physical and spiritual energy.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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