trans-zion trek, zion national park

IMG_1989May 16-19, 2014

A four day, 46 mile journey across Zion National Park from the Kolob canyons to the main canyon.

our trail
Starting in the Kolob canyons region, we took the La Verkin Creek trail from the Lee Pass trailhead to campsite 7 along the creek.  From there we turned onto the Hop Valley trail and then the connector trail which brought us to the Wildcat Canyon trail where we set camp.  That trail ends near the trailhead of the West Rim trail which we took to campsite 6 right on the rim.  Then from there, the trail took us all the way to Angels Landing and the main canyon floor.

Total distance: 46.5 mi
Max elevation: 7490 ft
Min elevation: 4416 ft
Total climbing: 6864 ft

Day 1 La Verkin Creek Trail to campsite 7, Kolob Arch
day’s miles: 8.9, trip miles: 8.9

Total distance: 8.91 mi
Max elevation: 6027 ft
Min elevation: 5066 ft
Total climbing: 1024 ft

We took a shuttle from Springdale to the Lee Pass trailhead of the La Verkin Creek trail.  From the trailhead, the trail descends a few hundred feet into a valley and runs along a small creek that eventually feeds into La Verkin Creek.  After heading south for a while with cliffs and canyons on our left, the trail meets up with the creek and turns east.  From there, the murky water guided us right to campsite number 7 where we spent our first night.  After making camp, we set out on the Kolob Arch spur trail to check out the second longest natural arch in the world.  On the way back, we cooled off in the ice cold waters of the creek that ran along that valley’s bottom.  Just past our campsite, another feeder creek made its way down the hill to meet up with La Verkin.  Its cool, clear waters were perfectly situated for us to stock up on water, since it would be the last reliable water source we’d see until the morning of our 3rd day.

Day 2 Hop Valley, The Connector Trail, Wildcat Canyon Trail
day’s miles: 13.2, trip miles: 22.1

Total distance: 13.16 mi
Max elevation: 7283 ft
Min elevation: 5269 ft
Total climbing: 2759 ft

After filling up water to last us until the next morning, we continued on the La Verkin Creek Trail.  Before long, the junction with the Hop Valley trail took us south, up and over a hill and into Hop Valley.  The valley was bordered by nearly vertical cliffs, and the very shallow Hop Creek wound back and forth across its wide, flat floor.  Hop Valley is a spectacular walk in a much less visited section of the park.  We encountered one couple and one small boy scout group the whole length of the valley.  After climbing out of Hop Valley, the trail traverses a wide meadow before meeting up with the road.  From there we turned onto the connector trail which links up the road crossing with Wildcat Canyon trail.  The connector trail starts in a meadow, then climbs up a sandstone shelf onto a ridge with some great canyon views, then enters a forest where it remains until meeting the Wildcat Canyon trail.  We set up camp that night in a field in the dispersed camping area a couple miles from the trail junction, just east of Russell gulch.

Day 3 Wildcat Canyon trail, West Rim trail to campsite #6
day’s miles: 12, trip miles: 34.1

Total distance: 12.05 mi
Max elevation: 7490 ft
Min elevation: 6896 ft
Total climbing: 1585 ft

We’d planned for enough water to get us through breakfast and the couple miles down the trail to the spring near the mouth of Wildcat Canyon and it worked out perfectly.  The spring was flowing, but it still took us a bit of time to fill up all the water we’d need again for the full day and the next morning.  There were a couple more springs on the map, but only one was flowing and we wouldn’t be passing that until well into the next morning.  While we were loading up on water another backpacker arrived and we chatted while we shared the spring.  Taking off from there, it’s only a few miles until the trail joins up with the West Rim trail, where we’d stay for the rest of the trip.  Near the Lava point trailhead of the West Rim trail, the trail is mostly flat and passes through unremarkable terrain with a few trees, nopales, and shrubs, but with views for miles to the east and west.  After about 2 miles, the canyons start to open up right off the western side of the trail.   The trail dips down into potato hollow then climbs back up to the ridge where both the junction with the Telephone Canyon trail and campsite #6 can be found.  The views from the rim are truly stunning.  We watched an epic sunset from the rim just past our campsite before turning in for our last night in Zion.

Day 4 West Rim trail to Angels Landing and the Main Canyon
day’s miles: 12.3, trip miles 46.5

Total distance: 12.28 mi
Max elevation: 7339 ft
Min elevation: 4416 ft
Total climbing: 1391 ft

We woke, packed up camp and took a little extra time having our breakfast before striking back out on the West Rim trail.  The whole morning took us along the rim with amazing views of the canyons stretched out alongside the trail, sometimes literally at the edge of the trail.

The trail then starts the long descent to the canyon floor.  On the way down we stopped at Angels Landing to make the climb to the lookout on the top.  It was an exhilarating climb up and down, especially on the portions where the path is thin and there are sheer 1,400 ft drop-offs on either side!

After making the side trip to Angels Landing, we continued the rest of the way down to the canyon floor and took a shuttle back to Springdale and the car!

the details
permits required and available on the 5th of the month 3 months in advance at 9:00am Mountain
there’s a ton of info in Joe’s Guide to Zion on the trans-Zion trek as well as other trips
the NPS keeps updated water source conditions on their site





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