THE TRANS-ZION TREK 

Overview:
The Trans-Zion TrekA route made popular by the outfitters in Springdale, the "Trans-Zion Trek" is a multi-day backpacking hike that connects several of Zion's trails into one long route from one corner of the park to the other. This strenuous and beautiful hike can take on average between three to five days and involves a lot of elevation gains and drops. Along the way, you will see some of Zion's most awe-inspiring scenery as well as many beautiful spots that most dayhikers never experience. Total mileage: roughly 47 miles. Before attempting this hike, you must work out the logistics of getting backcountry permits, planning your campsite spots for each night, car shuttles/car spots, and water sources (caching water and/or using available springs and streams).

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Car Shuttles/Car Spotting:
The hike starts and ends at two fairly remote trailheads -- Lee Pass in the northwestern corner of the park (the Kolob Canyons section) and the East Entrance Trailhead in the upper East Canyon near the park's eastern boundary. Outfitters in Springdale offer shuttle service to both trailheads, but because the trailheads are fairly remote, scheduling a paid pickup is unlikely and civilization is not within walking distance. Your best bet is to spot a second car at the ending trailhead or schedule a pickup with a willing friend (although this will probably involve a lot of waiting time for either the hikers or the driver). Alternatively, you could eliminate the final leg of the trek and end the hike in the main canyon where you will have no trouble getting back to civilization.

Trails and Mileage:
Click on any of the trail names below to see a much more detailed description of that section of the trek. Maps are provided with each of the individual trail descriptions. Total distance: roughly 47.3 miles.

Backcountry Permits:
As with any other overnight hike in Zion National Park, you must get a permit for the Trans-Zion Trek. Stop by the Zion Backcountry Desk or the Kolob Visitors Center to get your permit(s), reserve designated campsites, and check on current conditions. (See the official Zion Backpacking page for more info on permits.)

West Rim TrailIMPORTANT! Along the La Verkin Creek Trail, Hop Valley Trail, and West Rim Trail, camping is permitted only in designated campsites. Choose your campsite when you get your permit; please do not squat at any campsite that you don't have a permit for. No camping is allowed along the Connector Trail or the lower section of the East Rim Trail in Echo Canyon. Along the Wildcat Canyon Trail, camping is permitted only off of the Northgate Peaks spur trail and east of Russell Gulch. Camping is also permitted off of the East Rim Trail on the east plateau above Echo Canyon. Be sure to camp out of sight of the trail or away from any springs.

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Day-By-Day Itinerary:
Below is my five-day plan for the Trans-Zion Hike. It is by no means the definitive way to do this hike, but this plan should work well for most backpackers to balance each day and juggle the various camping regulations along each of the trails.

Water Sources:
Figuring out your water sources is probably the most important part of planning this trek. La Verkin Creek is always a reliable source of water, but water in cattle-contaminated Hop Valley should be avoided at all cost. Along the way are many mostly reliable springs: the spring along Wildcat Canyon Trail (half-a-mile west of the trail crossing the streambed); Sawmill Springs, Potato Hollow, and Cabin Spring along the West Rim Trail; the Virgin River and Weeping Rock in the main canyon (and water fountains at the shuttle stops if you are not a purist), and Stave Spring along the East Rim Trail. Be sure to check conditions at the Backcountry Desk as many of these springs taper off during the drier months.

Another alternative is to cache water along the route. If you're willing to drive up the Kolob Terrace Road before your hike, you can leave yourself water near the Hop Valley Trailhead, the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead, and/or the West Rim Trailhead. Be sure to stash your water out of sight and record the coordinates for easy retrieval.

Jobs Head in winterSeasons and Conditions:
Late spring (May) and fall (October) are probably the most pleasant times of year to do the trek as the summer months can be much hotter. During the winter months, the sections of trail in the the upper elevations of the park (most notably the West Rim Trail and the Wildcat Canyon Trail) are usually buried in snow, so route finding could be difficult and the West Rim Trail could have treacherous ice along exposed sections as the trail makes its dramatic final descent into the main canyon. (Crampons or Microspikes could be extremely helpful.) March and April (during the spring thaw) are probably the most unpredictable months for planning the Trans-Zion Trek as snow conditions and melt vary greatly from year to year. Check the Kolob SNOTEL report to monitor snow buildup compared to previous years, and check the latest conditions at the Backcountry Desk at the start of your trip.

Joe's Spin:
If you want bragging rights to say you did the longest hike in Zion, this is the one to do. This route is a lot of work, but you will see some amazing scenery that most day hikers will never witness. You will also gain greater appreciation for all of the different geological areas that Zion National Park encompasses. The only real downside to this "trek" is that there are many beautiful side hikes and spur viewpoints that you simply will not have time to go and see.

I have to add a final note to honor my friend, Zion's hiking and canyoneering legend, Bo Beck who coined the idea of doing this entire trek as an epic test-of-endurance day hike (a.k.a. the "Far Far Fest"). Bo's best time for this 50-mile hike is 14 hours and 25 minutes. In the past few years, a few endourance athletes have even run this entire hike in under 8 hours. Amazing.

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