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Epic backcountry journey from the high country into the heart of Zion


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Map Key

14.7

Miles

23.7

KM

Point to Point

7,450' 2,271 m

High

4,312' 1,314 m

Low

847' 258 m

Up

3,983' 1,214 m

Down

6%

Avg Grade (4°)

68%

Max Grade (34°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Commonly Backpacked · Geological Significance · Views

Overview

This 16.2 mile hike in Zion's backcountry is an escape from the more popular crowded trails, and grants access to some of the most breathtaking scenery and landscape in the park. Done from the top down, the West Rim Trail takes you through colorful high elevation meadows and aspen groves, sweeps down into shaded canyons, cuts across slickrock beds and hugs the base of rock walls rich in texture. The unique scenery is a constant along the trail, and the absolute tranquility is astounding.

Done as an overnight or a long day hike, the West Rim starts near Lava Point and ends at the Grotto which sits just at the base of the renowned Angels Landing trail in Zion Canyon. If done as an overnight, the West Rim Trail requires a backcountry permit from Zion which can be obtained online or in person at the Zion Visitor Center. Permits are limited, so try and reserve yours as early as possible to guarantee entry and select your campsite! Zion's backcountry is beautiful, but requires preparation and planning to enjoy. You must pack everything out (including human waste, there are no bathrooms along the trail), and the high elevation can be draining. Proper sun protection and enough water is critical.

Consult with a Zion backcountry ranger before doing this hike to learn about any currently flowing streams to refill and treat drinking water (there are a few streams that, depending on the time of year, are easily accessible and flowing. A backcountry ranger can verify if any are usable at the time of your hike).

Need to Know

This route requires a shuttle/drop off at Lava Point. The trail ends at the Grotto in Zion Canyon, where you can hop on one of the shuttles as it goes down canyon back towards Springdale where you can have a parked car waiting or another pre-planned shuttle to pick you up. If doing the West Rim Trail as an overnight, a backcountry permit is required and can be obtained online or at the Zion Naional Park Visitor Center.

Description

Arrange a hike or book a shuttle ahead of time to drop you off at Lava Point off the Kolob Terrace Road. Start hiking at Lava Point to access the West Rim Trail (you can drive a little over 1 mile to the West Rim trailhead from Lava Point, but the road is sometimes a bit rough for non-4WD vehicles).

From Lava Point, hike towards the obvious campsites to access Barney's Trail which will take you 1.2 miles to the official start of the West Rim Trail. Barney's Trail starts just left of campsite #2, follow this until it links up with the dirt road and eventually the parking area and trailhead for West Rim. Begin hiking the West Rim Trail!

The West Rim Trail begins with a few miles of mostly shaded, mellow hiking. Access to Sawmill Springs and Campsite #9 is about 1 mile down trail. At about 3 miles in, you'll start to see broadening views of surrounding Zion, most notable here is the view down into the Left Fork of North Creek and distant South Guardian Angel.

Enjoy a 2 mile descent into Potato Hollow where campsite #8 is, along with a spring (this spring may be flowing depending on the time of year, consult a backcountry ranger prior to your hike to learn its status and whether you can rely on it to fill and treat drinking water).

Hike up and out of Potato Hollow, the first major bit of uphill. After 400 feet, the trail begins to descend again before going back up and eventually reaching the junction with Telephone Canyon Trail. Continue along the West Rim trail which begins to open up and meander east, offering widening views of Heaps Canyon and Castle Dome. Telephone Canyon Trail eventually rejoins the West Rim Trail, after which you can access Cabin Spring (another potential source of water depending on the time of year). The remaining campsites are scattered about the plateau before the major descent into the base of the canyon (campsites are pre-assigned at the time you obtain a backcountry permit).

After Cabin Springs, the trail descends quickly into the canyon as it cuts across steep and exposed canyon walls. This section of trail is mind-blowing, both in scenery and ingenuity. While safe if done carefully and with awareness of the edge, be aware that the exposure here can be frightening. Enjoy the following section of trail as it descends and winds across slickrock formations, Angels Landing will begin coming into view. Continue following the trail as it works its way up and then down again to meet up with Scout's Lookout, where the famous climb up Angels Landing begins (this section of Angels Landing is now permit only, granted through Zion's lottery process).

From Scout's Lookout, head down Walter's Wiggles (the steep and iconic series of switchbacks) until you reach the Grotto! The hike from Scout's Lookout to the Grotto will take about an hour, and can be hard on the knees. Trekking poles make the descent down Walter's Wiggles a bit friendlier. Take a dip in the river to cool off before hopping on a shuttle to take you to the Visitor's Center. Have a car parked in Springdale (the town right outside Zion National Park) or book a shuttle or pickup ahead of time.

Flora & Fauna

A variety of wildflowers color the meadows in late spring and early summer, also along the trail are aspens, ponderosa pines, and cacti. Coyote, mule deer, hawks, condor, and bats can be seen and may live in this part of Zion.

Shared By:

Marley Nelson

Trail Ratings

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#2235

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#1

in Lava Point

#147

in Utah

#2,235

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Photos

Looking down over the trail to Angels Landing.
Dec 19, 2015 near Springdale, UT
The West Rim Trail never disappoints.
Apr 27, 2017 near Springdale, UT
On the way up
Oct 12, 2017 near Springdale, UT
First set of switch backs.
Jan 15, 2016 near Springdale, UT
Angel's Landing
Feb 4, 2015 near Springdale, UT
Zion National Park
Oct 2, 2017 near Springdale, UT

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