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Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks
by Erik Molvar & Tamara Martin (Falcon Guides)
A short backpack up La Verkin Creek to Kolob Arch. This is the only trail suitable for backpacking in the Kolob Canyons area, and it provides access to Willis Creek and the Hop Valley for more extended journeys. The trail is immensely popular and is often crowded on weekends. A special permit system is in effect for camping along La Verkin Creek, and designated campsites will be assigned by the ranger who issues your wilderness permit. Permits can be obtained at the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center. An optional short side trip from La Verkin Creek leads to Kolob Arch, one of the few freestanding arches in Zion National Park.
A good friend of mine wanted to go backpacking for the first time and I wanted to take him to a place that would impress him, this hike was perfect, it definitely impressed! All the way from the scenic red cliffs at the trailhead to the staggering stretch of Kolob Arch it was a magnificent hike.
The hike starts at 6080 ft in the northern part of Zion NP. We parked at Lee's Pass about 100 yards south from the actual trailhead. Within the first mile we dropped down to 5400 ft but we quickly climbed up to 5800 ft after leaving Timber Creek. Continuing in a southeast direction we again dropped elevation to about 5200 ft. where we met La Verkin Creek. We followed La Verkin Creek East for about 2.75 miles before we reached our designated campsite. The one way distance from the trailhead to our campsite was about 5.75 miles. It was mostly downhill and the trail was nice. There were a few stream crossings on Timber Creek but the water was low enough that we just hopped rocks and didn't have to get wet.
After we made camp we continued up the trail about 0.25 miles to a junction with the Kolob Arch trail which we followed for another 0.5 miles to the trails end where we found some pretty incredible views of Kolob Arch.
After we returned to the trail junction we decided to continue up La Verkin creek another 3 miles to where it meets Bear Trap Canyon. Bear Trap Canyon is a cool little slot canyon that ends after about half a mile at a 30 ft tall waterfall.
Just a few notes for those interested: Park entry fee $25.00, Backcountry Permit for 2 people $10.00 (Only needed if you are camping in the backcountry), Must check-in at the Visitor Center near exit 40 off I-15 to pay fee's and get a campsite assigned to you (On this trail there are 17 campsites,), When we hiked there was still patches of snow above 6000 ft. but most of the campsites are closer to 5000 ft. and I don't think it got below 45 degrees. During the day it was in the mid 70's
We did a 5 day backpack, camping at site 15 above the Arch turnoff for 3 nights to explore upper La Verkin and Wills Creeks, and Hop Valley. For the last night, we hiked back to site 2 to shorten the uphill climb out.
The trail is pretty well maintained. Many easy crossings of Timber Creek are required. There are no crossings of La Verkin Creek. La Verkin Creek was heavily laden with silt. Check with the Rangers on waters sources for campsites 4-13 along the creek. Campsite 3 is at the crest of the divide between Timber and La Verkin Creeks and not close to any water source.
The La Verkin Creek valley is beautiful and the falls are pretty and a great spot for lunch. Weather at this time of year was fine, particularly in the La Verkin Creek Valley. Expect mosquitoes and flies. On Timber Creek (campsites 1 & 2) which is higher, the nighttime temperature dropped to the low 40's.
Be sure to register at the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center before starting your trip, even if you get your permit at the Backcountry Office in the Main Valley.
All in all this was a fine trip.
Part of the last .5 miles of trail is covered with downed tree's. You find the going a little easier by hiking up the small stream. You may get your feet wet, but on the hot day that not bad
A diverse and fun hike. Starting at Kolob is dramatic and the gradual downhill rolling terrain makes miles go by quickly. Once you hit the creek, you get miserable sand trail that saps the will on the way to Kolob Arch. The view of the Arch isn't great - but is the only one available. We used shuttle cars and went out via Hop Valley, a beatiful little flat bottom valley with meandering stream and many large threatening cattle, which made me needlessly think of bovine escape scenarios. All went well, however, and they were just barely interested in our passage. The lat part of the trail was sandy and sage-y, and it was with much relief we reached our shuttle car.
From the trailhead it's a easy walk mostly downhill. You will cross a seasonal creek before getting to LaVerkin Creek, but in August this seasonal creek is dry. You will reach LaVerkin Creek after about 3-4 miles. Water runs through LaVerkin creek year-round but water treatment is recommended. Upon reaching LaVerkin Creek the trail becomes a fine sand and I found using my walking sticks as cross-country ski poles very advantagous while trying in increase my efficiencny in the sand. Others with heavier packs and no sticks wished they had brought them. Kolab Arch trail spur is about 1/4 mile passed campsite #12 on the left. From there you have about 2 miles of increasingly fragmented sandstone rock to scramble over, but the view at the end of the trail is well worth the effort. Over all ona scale of 1-5, I would place difficulty of the trail in and back out, at 4 if you intend to enter and depart on the same day. If you throw in an overnighter, it becomes a 3. It's hard to make time in the sandy portion of the trail and the last 3-4 miles back to the trailhead after over 13 miles in and about 8 more as you turn northwest away from LaVerkin Creek, are uphill. It makes for a challenging day hike, but it can be done. I highly recommend it to everyone.
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