Cable Mountain is a beautiful and fairly remote viewpoint overlooking the main canyon. The cable works at the top of the mountain are a historical leftover of a working cable system from the early 1900's that brought timber and supplies from the upper east plateau to the canyon below. Because of the amount of effort it takes to get to the viewpoint, the hike to Cable Mountain offers you escape from the crowds of the main canyon.
Cable Mountain is the large prominent peak above the Weeping Rock shuttle stop, just next to the Great White Throne. (Hidden Canyon is nestled between these two mountains.) If you look up at Cable Mountain from down in the main canyon, you will be able to see the small box silhouette of the cable works ruins. Our hike will take us up to the beautiful viewpoint right by the ruins.
There are three distinct routes to get to the Cable Mountain viewpoint. Each are day hikes of varying levels of difficulty:
- Hike up from Weeping Rock (strenuous):
This is the most strenuous, yet by far the most scenic route. If you are not acclimated to continuous uphill hiking, this route will take a full day and your legs and knees will burn! Starting at the Weeping Rock Trailhead, the 7th stop on the Zion Canyon Shuttle, start hiking up the East Rim Trail (the Observation Point Trail). The paved and well-traveled trail zigzags its way up and out of the main canyon into the beautiful and large side canyon of Echo Canyon. Once you cross over the intriguing lower slot section of Echo, the trail continues to climb up and around Echo as the cable works taunt you from far above. Soon enough you will reach a trail junction marked by a metal sign; the main well-paved trail continues up to Observation Point, but we will choose the path less taken: the East Rim Trail which heads over and up to Cable Mountain, Deertrap Mountain, and the East Entrance.
As you will soon notice, the East Rim Trail through upper Echo Canyon is more rugged and not as clearly defined; rock cairns often indicate the route over sections of slickrock. This is a beautiful section of trail that offers wondrous views of the White Cliffs formations. After making our way up and across the dry streambed, we have one more section of strenuous uphill: a series of sandy switchbacks that zigzag up and finally take us out of the canyon. Once you are standing on the east plateau above Echo Canyon, breathe a sigh of relief and take in the view.
The rest of the hike is relatively flat on a well-defined trail. We loop around clockwise on the east plateau passing (and ignoring) an access trail from the east and eventually leaving the East Rim Trail for our spur trail to Cable Mountain and Deertrap Mountain. From here it is a final 3 miles to the Cable Mountain viewpoint. (See map.)
Note: The elevation gain on this hike is roughly 2,100 feet. While the return hike is considerably less strenuous, the route through Echo Canyon and the final descent can be hard on the knees, so take it slowly. This hike has warn out even the best of hikers! Round-trip distance: 15.5 miles.
- Hike in from the East Entrance (fairly strenuous):
An alternative to hiking up from Weeping Rock is the more moderate hike along the East Rim Trail, starting at the East Entrance Trailhead. (A car or drop-off is required to get to this trailhead.) This route is less stunning than the hike up through majestic Echo Canyon, but the trail is more moderate.
Starting at the East Entrance parking lot, the East Rim Trail gradually climbs almost 1,000 out of the east canyon and up to the plateau above. Along the trail, we get interesting views from the heads of two little side canyons. The rest of the hike along the plateau is pleasant enough although not very photogenic. After roughly 6 miles of hiking, we reach the spur trail to Cable Mountain and Deertrap Mountain. Continue the route as described above. Round-trip distance: 17.5 miles.
- Hike in from the East Boundary (moderately strenuous):
Probably the least popular route is from the trailhead at the border of the park behind the Zion Ponderosa Resort, accessible via 4-wheel drive roads off of the North Fork Road east of the park. This hike starts in a charming ponderosa forest and follows an access trail that leads into the park to intersect with the East Rim Trail. Round-trip distance: 7.5 miles.
||Cable Mountain and Deertrap Mountain Map.
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More on the Cable Works:
The cable works were originally constructed by David Flanigan in 1901 to transport timber from the plateau to the main canyon below. The operation was shut down by 1930, but the ruins remain.
For your own safety and to preserve the delicate ruins, please do not touch, stand on, or disturb the structure. Over the past few decades, the structure has become more and more unstable and several beams have even fallen off. Despite the National Park Service's efforts to reinforce the structure, the cable works will probably completely topple some time in the not-so-distant future.
The Backpacking Option:
Although fast hikers might be able to visit both Cable Mountain and Deertrap Mountain in one day, a more enjoyable option would be to do both as a 2-day backpacking trip. A backcountry permit is required for any overnight stay, but because this part of the park doesn't get much traffic, there are no designated camping sites. Stave Spring is usually a reliable water source, but check with the backcountry desk as you get your permit. You are required to camp out of eyesight of the trails and the area past the Deertrap Mountain Trail may offer the best opportunities for good campsites. (See the official Zion Backpacking page for more info on permits.)
The hike to Cable Mountain isn't a Zion classic and it probably won't appeal to everybody. But despite the knee-destroying tendencies of the trail from Weeping Rock, this hike is a good opportunity to see some less-visited territory. The scenery in upper Echo Canyon and the view from the Cable Mountain viewpoint are both sublime.
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