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West Rim Trail, Zion National Park

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  • The West Rim Trail is a majestic tour of both the geology and the ecology of Zion. Easily the most popular backpacking route in Zion, this trail begins high in the alpine desert pines of Lava Point and meanders 3,300 feet down over 14 miles to the floor of Zion Canyon. Along the way, you pass the charred remnants of an old forest fire, exquisite fields of eye-catching wildflowers, edge-of-the-rim views of canyon labyrinths, and the awesome sculpted sandstone formations entering upper Zion Canyon. At the fork between Telephone Canyon and the West Rim, take the West Rim and save Telephone Canyon for another trip. The Rim is sweet stuff, featuring bold lookouts and swift mesa breakaways. Highly recommended by our staff.

  • Trailhead: From Springdale, drive west on State Route 9 through Rockville and into Virgin (15 minutes). Just after the Zion River Resort, turn right on the Kolob Mountain Road. Drive north for 23 miles, past exquisite scenery, until you reach the posted dirt road to Lava Point, on your right. Follow the road and posted signs to the trailhead. The conditions of the lower reaches of this road are often poor; we recommend 4x4 or high-clearance vehicles, though sedans and compact cars often make it through the rough section reasonably. Savvy hikers hire a shuttle to drop them off at Lava Point, thus avoiding the 2 - 3 hour drive to retrieve their car after the trip. (If you do not have the luxury of two vehicles, you must hire a shuttle... OR hike back UP to your car!)

    Mileage:
    Via West Rim: 14.4 miles (23.2 km), one-way
    Via Telephone Canyon: 13.0 miles (20.9 km), one-way

    Elevation:   3,302 feet (1,004 meters)!!
     
    Approximate Hike Time:
    Via West Rim: 6 - 9 hours
    Via Telephone Canyon: 5 - 8 hours

    Difficulty: Cardiovascularly moderate, with a few strenous sections. But your heart and lungs are not the only body parts at risk: your knees take a pounding descending 3,300 vertical feet.

    Crowds: The West Rim is the most popular backpacking route in the Park, part of the larger Trans-Zion Trek. This doesn’t necessarily mean the trail is crowded, but be prepared to see a number of smiling (or grunting) faces along the way.
  • Best Times of Day: When we hike the West Rim during summer, we hit the trail between 5 and 6 a.m. The early start reveals its value around 10 or 11 a.m., when the air begins to shimmer with heat and the cooling effects of high altitude are far behind. Backpackers and spring/fall day hikers can afford a later start, but may still want to get out early to catch the soft morning light over the labyrinth landscape of canyons and mesas.

    Best Times of Year: Autumn and late spring (late May - early June) are your best bets for the West Rim. Summer brings soaring temperatures and a busy trail; winter access is impossible without a a long, snow-covered hike with skis or snowshoes.
  • On the West Rim, gaze out on outstanding panoramas of Great West Canyon and the maze-like landscape of canyons and mesas south and west of the trail.
    Near the end of the trail, be sure to stop for a detour to Angel’s Landing. The summit is just a short, half-mile scramble away!
  • Water Sources: You can usually find water at Sawmill Springs and Potato Hollow, but check at the Visitor’s Center for up-to-date information. Purify all water to assure your safety.

    Camping: Camping on the West Rim is restricted to nine designated sites. When you obtain your backpacking permit, you will choose your temporary home from the list of available sites.

    Notes:
    Zion's most infamous technical canyons, Imlay and Heaps, begin near the West Rim Trail. Imlay begins a short distance from Potato Hollow; Heaps begins in expansive Phantom Valley and winds its way through the canyon walls to exit at Emerald Pools.
    Even veteran hikers awe along the West Rim... don't miss it!