HIKES IN THE UPPER EAST CANYON

The east section of the park holds the most scenic drive you will ever experience. Route 9 carves a wondrous snaking path through the beautiful Upper East Canyon's slickrock formations and drainages, connected to the main canyon via the amazing Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. There aren't very many official trails in this section, but there are plenty of random sandstone formations, drainages, and minor peaks to explore and photograph. This area is slickrock heaven! The Upper East Canyon is home to Checkerboard Mesa, one of the more famous Zion formations. Big-horn sheep can often be spotted from the road.

CANYON OVERLOOK TRAIL
Rating: easy short family hike. a Zion classicfamily-friendly
The Canyon Overlook Trail is one of the few official trails in the upper East Canyon. It is a nice short-but-sweet hike on a maintained trail that ends at a great viewpoint looking into the main canyon. Along the way, you get some great views down into the Pine Creek slot canyon below, as well as a little break in a cool shaded alcove with lush ferns growing out of the walls. If this is your first trip to Zion, this one is a must-do hike!
TRAIL INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
Canyon Overlook Trail
EAST RIM TRAIL
East Rim Trail Rating: fairly strenuous longer day hike. a Zion classic
Most people are familiar with the lower section of the East Rim Trail that leads to Hidden Canyon and the Observation Point Trail, but few people hike the 11-mile long East Rim Trail in its entirety. Though usually compared unfavorably to its bigger brother (the West Rim Trail), a day hike along the East Rim Trail takes one through some wonderful scenery from the East Entrance through Echo Canyon down to Weeping Rock in the main canyon.
TRAIL INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
EAST MESA TRAIL
Rating: moderate day hike.
While most people visit the Observation Point viewpoint by hiking up from the Weeping Rock trailhead in the main canyon, the East Mesa Trail is a leisurely alternative hiking route that starts on the upper east plateau. Following an old jeep trail through mostly level terrain to join up with the Observation Point Trail proper, the hardest part of this hike is actually the approach drive to find the initial East Mesa Trailhead. This trailhead also provides easy access to the Mystery Canyon technical canyoneering route.
TRAIL INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
East Mesa Trail
CLEAR CREEK
Clear Creek Rating: moderately easy hiking.
There aren't too many official trails in the upper East Canyon, but who says you can't wander around and do your own exploring? Clear Creek is the main dry streambed that follows Route 9 throughout the East Canyon. If you can ignore the occasional sounds of motorcycles and RV's coming from above, this is really quite a beautiful canyon to explore. Many sections actually do loop away from the road, so you can get that sense of being away from it all in only a few minutes.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
GIFFORD CANYON
Rating: moderately strenuous day hike.
Gifford Canyon is the north-south wash just east of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel in the upper East Canyon, south of Route 9 and across from the parking lot for the Canyon Overlook Trail. Gifford Canyon is a mostly open wash with sandy sections interspersed with short sections of exposed slickrock in the streambed. Though not the most interesting or photogenic canyon in Zion, this wash makes an interesting half-day hike for people looking to do some random exploring.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
Gifford Canyon
BRIDGE MOUNTAIN ARCH
Bridge Mountain Arch Rating: strenuous hiking/backpacking w/climbing. technical climbing/scrambling route
The Bridge Mountain Arch is a fascinating, yet relatively unknown landmark, easily viewable from the Zion Museum in the main canyon. The hike to the Bridge Mountain Arch is a long, strenuous seldom-done route that starts in the upper East Canyon from Gifford Canyon and makes its way up and down several washes to eventually reach the arch. This is a long and strenuous route with many challenges (including a short technical climb), but the views are very rewarding.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
PINE CREEK (Middle Pine Creek)
Rating: technical canyoneering route. a Zion classictechnical canyoneering route
Pine Creek is one of the most popular technical canyoneering routes in Zion National Park and exemplifies the beauty of subterranean slot canyons. Starting at the Canyon Overlook parking lot and ending at the Route 9 switchbacks in the main canyon, Pine Creek is one of the few beautiful slot canyons that features such easy access. Although it is one of the easier technical canyons in Zion, it is still serious business with several rappels, downclimbs, and many swims through cold water. This route features the beautiful "Cathedral" section (complete with an arch doorway) and the final rappel -- an intimidating 105-ft free rappel.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
Pine Creek
UPPER PINE CREEK
Upper Pine Creek Rating: moderately strenuous off-trail hike.
Upper Pine Creek is the large north-south drainage that crosses under Route 9 roughly .4 miles east of the mouth of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. This wash runs north from the road for over a mile and a half and makes for a great little half-day stroll in some typically beautiful Upper East Canyon scenery. Note that Upper Pine Creek should not be confused with (Middle) Pine Creek, the technical canyoneering route; this hike is a family-friendly stroll.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
THE EAST TEMPLE LOOP
Rating: strenuous off-trail rock-scrambling route.
The East Temple Loop is an unofficial route starting at the end of the Canyon Overlook Trail. From the viewpoint, you can scramble northeast up to the saddle just under the East Temple to get a great view of the surrounding slickrock formations of the upper east canyon. The route then scrambles down a side canyon into Upper Pine Creek to complete the loop. Good navigation skills and rock-scrambling ability are a must!
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
The East Temple Loop
SHELF CANYON
Shelf Canyon Rating: moderately strenuous off-trail route.
The upper East Canyon is home to seemingly countless little cracks and canyons, many with no official names. Shelf Canyon is one of the more interesting little canyons worthy of exploration; the upper section of the canyon slots up into a dark impressive alcove with many ledges (shelf formations) going up the west wall. But just as things start to get exciting, the hike is over! Though not particularly strenuous, the rock-scrambling obstacles may make this hike unsuitable for family hiking.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
PROGENY PEAK and TWO-PINES ARCH
Rating: fairly strenuous hiking/scrambling route.
Peak 6275 (unofficially known as "Progeny Peak") is a nondescript and mostly unnoticed mountain formation in the East Canyon, located just east of the East Temple and Upper Pine Creek. A hike to the top and back takes only a few hours and provides fantastic views in every direction. This is a steep off-trail route, so good scrambling and navigation skills are recommended. And as a bonus, "Two-Pines Arch" is a small arch formation that you can see along the way.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
Progeny Peak and Two-Pines Arch
"MANY POOLS" (The Root Canals, The Twins)
Many Pools Rating: moderately strenuous day hike.
Less than half a mile east of the small tunnel in the upper East Canyon is a pair of drainages north of Route 9 with many unofficial nicknames. "The Root Canals" (and "The Twins") refers to the drainages' resemblance to a molar's roots on the topo map. East Root Canal is also more popularly known by locals as "Many Pools" because of its many interesting pothole formations. This open wash makes for a lovely leisurely hike in some beautiful sandstone scenery and is most interesting during Spring runoff or after recent rainstorms.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
 
KEYHOLE CANYON (Starfish Canyon)
Rating: short technical canyoneering. a Zion classictechnical canyoneering route
Keyhole Canyon barely shows up on a topo map, but it is a beautiful short little subterranean slot canyon in the upper East Canyon. Keyhole is a short technical canyoneering route and will take roughly two hours to complete. It involves 2-3 rappels, many down-climbing obstacles, and a few wades and swims through cold water. Full technical gear is required and wetsuits are recommended. This is a popular route for beginning canyoneers before doing longer, more committing routes.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
Keyhole Canyon
JUGHANDLE ARCH (and the Center of the Universe)
Jughandle Arch Rating: Fairly strenuous rock-scrambling.
The Jughandle Arch is an interesting arch formation located in the East Canyon high above the Keyhole Canyon pantheon. Those with a keen eye can spot the arch from the road by looking north approximately two miles east of the small tunnel. Several fun hiking/scrambling routes make for an interesting day in the area, including hiking to the saddle just under the arch, hiking to the plateau above the arch, and an optional return route via the canyon to the west (known by some as "the Center of the Universe").
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
JOLLEY GULCH
Rating: easy short day hike.
Jolley Gulch is a small drainage located in the Upper East Canyon right off of the East Rim Trail. Most people see Jolley Gulch from the top as the East Rim Trail makes its way past the dramatic and deep head of the canyon, but for a short and fun day hike, you can also hike up Jolley Gulch from the bottom. While the scenery might not be as stunning as some of the other drainages in the area, Jolley Gulch makes for an easy and pleasant stroll through some off-the-beaten-track territory.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
Jolley Gulch
CHECKERBOARD MESA CANYON
Checkerboard Mesa Drainage Rating: moderately strenuous day hike.
With its distinctive cross-hatching patterns on a cone-shaped White Cliffs formation, Checkerboard Mesa is one of the most recognizable and photogenic landmarks in Zion National Park. Tourists can stop and view the formation at the Checkerboard Mesa parking lot and viewing area. The drainage just to the west is unofficially known as Checkerboard Mesa Canyon and makes for a pleasant little hike. This drainage is also the gateway for longer hikes on the Parunuweap side of the White Cliffs.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
SEPARATION CANYON (Separation Peak, Nippletop, Lonely Peak)
Rating: moderately strenuous day hike.
The Upper East Canyon has a plethora of drainages that are worthy of exploration and one of the more interesting ones is known as "Separation Canyon." A hike up this wash makes for a fun half day somewhat akin to "Many Pools" with many options for random exploration. A good destination is "Separation Peak," which is a minor peak at the head of the canyon that offers great views to the north and south. For those looking to spice it up a bit, the exposed scramble up to Nippletop and the hike further south to "Lonely Peak" make for a good strenuous day.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
Separation Canyon
COCKEYE FALLS to CRAWFORD WASH (and Lost Peak)
Cockeye Falls Rating: strenuous day hike with scrambling.
Located on the south side of Route 9 just .4 miles east of the second (shorter) tunnel, locally-named "Cockeye Falls" is one of the more noticeable landmarks in Zion's East Canyon. A hike up the Cockeye Falls drainage makes for an interesting adventure through a beautiful wash that gives access to the Parunuweap side of the White Cliffs and also Crawford Wash, one of the larger south-facing washes of the area.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
THE BARRACKS (Upper Parunuweap Canyon)
Rating: fairly strenuous river hiking/backpacking. backpacking route
In BLM territory east of the NPS boundary is a beautiful and remote stretch of canyon known as the East Fork of the Virgin River (aka "the Barracks"). This backpacking route starts off of Route 89 just south of Mt. Carmel Junction and follows the East Fork for almost 20 miles. "The Barracks" refers to the golden section where the walls are tall and narrow, reminiscent of the more popular Zion Narrows (the North Fork). Note: Lower Parunuweap Canyon (inside of the park) is an off-limits Natural Research Area, so the finish to this route escapes up and out by Checkerboard Mesa.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
Gifford Canyon
MISERY CANYON (Fat Man's Misery)
Misery Canyon Rating: strenuous technical canyoneering route. technical canyoneering route
Misery Canyon is a technical canyon that skirts the eastern border of Zion National Park. Although the canyon is completely outside of the park, the approach hike starts at Checkerboard Mesa Canyon. Misery isn't too technically difficult, but it is a long strenuous day that involves a handful of rappels, many downclimbs, and a few stagnant pools to wade through. The canyon ends in the beautiful Barracks section of the East Fork of the Virgin River (Parunuweap Canyon).
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
MEADOW CREEK and MINERAL GULCH
Rating: strenuous hiking/backpacking.
If you have ever driven on Route 9 between Zion National Park's east entrance and Mt. Carmel Junction, you may have noticed the intriguing Meadow Creek and Mineral Gulch canyon systems heading south from the road down into the deep and mysterious Parunuweap Canyon in the distance. While the scenery in Meadow Creek and Mineral Gulch might not be considered stunning, this area offers an interesting desolate hiking experience through some very isolated territory.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
Meadow Creek/Mineral Gulch
POVERTY TRAIL
Poverty Trail Rating: fairly strenuous hiking.
Poverty Trail is a starting point that allows you to do the East Fork as a long painful day hike. "Poverty Trail" was originally an old cattle route, but now it's a 4x4 dirt road from Route 9 south into BLM land. A high-clearance vehicle can drive the first few miles of this route but should go no further than the edge of the White Cliffs. The final two miles are quite rugged with deep sand and ATV's seem to rule the land here. This is the quickest, but admittedly the least interesting route into The Barracks.
ROUTE INFORMATION and PHOTOS...
PETROGLYPH CANYON
Rating: moderately easy hiking.
I debated for quite some time before finally deciding to post information on this "secret" area. After seeing many references to "Petroglyph Canyon" and after hearing people in Springdale direct random people to them, my thinking is that it is appropriate to acknowledge their existence. That being said, do not ask me where "Petroglyph Canyon" is; please ask a ranger at the Visitor Center for specific information. Please do not touch or lean against any rock art as this can do serious damage to these cultural treasures.
PHOTOS...
Petroglyph Canyon


Hiking symbols used for descriptions:
a Zion classic ZION CLASSIC: a must-do hike if you want to see the best of Zion!
family-friendly FAMILY-FRIENDLY: a good choice for those with children who like to hike.
backpacking route BACKPACKING: a route enjoyable as a multi-day hike.
technical canyoneering or climbing route TECHNICAL: canyoneering or scrambling route requiring technical gear and climbing and/or rappelling experience. Not suitable for casual hikers.

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