A 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).
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.
- La Verkin Creek Trail (Lee Pass to Hop Valley Trail junction): 6.9 miles. Starting at Lee Pass in the Kolob Canyons section of the park, hike down the La Verkin Creek Trail as heads to La Verkin Creek. Turn off at the junction with the Hop Valley Trail just past the Kolob Arch spur trail. Gradual elevation loss of 1000 feet.
- Hop Valley Trail (to Connector Trail junction close to Hop Valley Trailhead): 6.6 miles. Head south up sandy Hop Valley to the Kolob Terrace section and the junction with the Kolob Terrace Road. A gradual elevation gain of 1000 feet. Note: The Connector Trail veers off to the east just before reaching the official Hop Valley Trailhead.
- The Connector Trail (Hop Valley Trailhead junction to Wildcat Canyon Trailhead junction): 3.9 miles. After crossing the Kolob Terrace Road, head east on the more faint trail as it wanders through the open valley, then heads up to the forested plateau and the junction with the Wildcat Canyon Trail. Elevation gain of 500 feet.
- Wildcat Canyon Trail (Wildcat Canyon Trailhead junction to junction with West Rim Trail: 4.7 miles. A mostly level section of trail that wanders through a beautiful pine forest, an open meadow, then skirts around the White Cliffs above Wildcat Canyon to join up with the West Rim Trail. Roughly 5 miles with an elevation gain of 500 feet.
- West Rim Trail (to the Grotto): 14.2 miles. A long, mostly level stretch of trail along the high plateau with marvelous views to both the west and east. The last few miles of this stretch are a dramatic descent down a mostly paved trail chiseled through the White Cliffs to pass the famous Angels Landing and end at the bottom of the main canyon. Elevation loss of 3000 feet.
- Walk the Main Canyon Road NORTH from the Grotto Trailhead to the Weeping Rock Trailhead: 1.2 miles.
- East Rim Trail (Weeping Rock to East Entrance Trailhead): 9.8 miles. From the Weeping Rock Trailhead, hike the steep trail up the east side of the main canyon. At the trail junction in Echo Canyon, choose the less-traveled trail to the East Entrance that will wander across Echo Canyon, then zigzag all the way to the top of the east plateau. After several miles of mostly flat terrain on top of the plateau, the trail will then work its way down into the Upper East Canyon near the East Entrance. Elevation gain of 2000 feet during the steep ascent to the east plateau, then a gradual descent of 500 feet into the upper East Canyon.
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.)
IMPORTANT! 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.
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.
- Day 1: La Verkin Creek Trail
Starting at Lee Pass in the Kolob section, this is a short easy day hiking down to a campsite along the La Verkin Creek near the Kolob Arch. Be sure to take the side hike to see the arch. (Alternatively, you can get a jump on day 2 by camping at one of the Hop Valley campsites, but they are much less appealing.)
- Day 2: Hop Valley, Connector Trail, Wildcat Canyon Trail
This will be a long, strenuous, mostly uphill day. Slog up through sandy and muddy Hop Valley, trying to avoid the cow turds and getting your boots too wet. Once clear of the cow section, follow the Connector Trail and the Wildcat Canyon Trail through beautiful meadows to the forested plateau. Campsite 9 (Sawmill Springs) along the West Rim Trail is a good destination, although a more remote alternative is to camp along the Wildcat Canyon Trail somewhere in the meadow just west of Point x7635.
Note: Some guidebooks recommend camping at Lava Point, but Lava Point is almost a mile out of the way and is an extra 500 feet higher than the West Rim Trailhead. This would not be the best use of your energy.
- Day 3: West Rim Trail
Today is more leisurely. Finish the Wildcat Canyon Trail, then turn down the mostly level West Rim Trail and enjoy the dramatic views of the Great West Canyon. Shoot for campsite 1-5.
- Day 4: West Rim Trail/East Rim Trail
Follow the West Rim Trail's big descent into the main canyon and watch your knees on the steep, paved trail. If you are planning to end your hike in the main canyon, this will be a fairly easy day and you should plan on spending an extra 1-2 hours to do the Angels Landing spur trail to end the trek with a bang. You will still be eating cheeseburgers at the lodge by mid-afternoon.
If you are a glutton for punishment and intend on continuing up the East Rim Trail, this will be a long and strenuous day. From the Grotto Trailhead, hike north along the Zion Canyon Road for one mile to the Weeping Rock Trailhead and start hiking up the East Rim Trail. Since no camping is allowed anywhere in Echo Canyon, you will have to hike all the way up to the top of the east plateau before you can call it a day. (The stretch through Echo Canyon is probably the hardest part of this trek.) Once on the plateau, idyllic camping spots are quite sparse until you get to the nice pine forest near Stave Spring.
- Day 5: Finish the East Rim Trail
Compared to what you went through yesterday, this will be a very easy final day with an early ending. Follow the East Rim Trail as it levels out then gradually heads downhill into the beautiful slickrock formations of the upper east canyon and celebrate the completion of your trek at the East Entrance Trailhead. Now hopefully your car or friend with a car is there waiting for you!
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.
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.
"Far Far Fest":
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. Bo's best time for this 50-mile hike is 14 hours and 25 minutes. Amazing.
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