Zion National Park, in the southeast corner of Utah, is a red rock and desert hiking wonder. Zion was Utah's first national park. Many opportunities for backcountry exploration exist within the boundaries of the park, including through slot canyons, atop ridge lines and mesas and past towering rock spires reminiscent of an old Road Runner and Coyote cartoon. Bring plenty of water and take extra safety precautions prior to heading into the Zion backcountry for hiking adventures.
Lower West Rim
The Lower West Rim trail leads to the Grotto, also called Cabin Spring. This 10-mile trail takes you deep into the Zion canyon country. There are steep drop-offs and the trail is ranked as strenuous by the park rangers. The trail takes you up onto ridge lines where there are views of the towering spires of the park. Adding the Lava Point trail to this trip brings you even further into the Zion backcountry, but should not be attempted in a day. It should be done as a multiple-day backcountry hiking and backpacking trip. During mid-April, look for desert wildflowers in bloom and golden eagles soaring the thermals overhead.
Hike the 14-mile Kolob Arch trail to get into the heart of the park and see one of the world's largest freestanding natural arches, the Kolob Arch. The park ranks this hike as strenuous and recommends planning for a minimum of eight hours to complete. Prepare to hike along steep drop-offs with exposure (no guard or handrails), and bring plenty of extra water or a filter, as the trail follows La Verkin and Timer creeks for a portion of the hike. Watch for tarantulas on the trail. You may see golden eagles above or roadrunners zipping across the ground.
The Observation Point trail rewards you with views of the park after hiking the eight-mile pathway. Rangers recommend planning a minimum of five hours to hike the trail. Once at the lookout, you see sweeping views of Zion Canyon. To make the hiking trip longer, or turn it into a backpacking multiple-day adventure, connect with East Rim plateau trails such as the Cable or Deertrap Mountain trails. Mountain lions are in the area and precautions should be taken when hiking during dusk and dawn because this is when they are active. Look for collared lizards or Mexican spotted owls during the hike.
Zion National Park
Springdale, UT 84767-1099
Article Written By Eric Cedric
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.