While there are many hiking possibilities in the "desert section" of Zion National Park, the Chinle Trail is the one official trail of the area. Starting at a small parking area in the "Anasazi Plateau" residential development, the trail heads northwest up onto the Rockville Bench and into national park lands. The trail continues for roughly seven miles, crossing over a petrified forest and several washes of the area: Huber Wash, Scoggins Wash, and Coalpits Wash. The trail can be brutally hot during the summer and the scenery is less exhilarating than most other parts of Zion, but this trail is an opportunity to get away from the crowds.
The start of the Chinle Trail is rather awkward as it cuts through the "Anasazi Plateau" housing development, located off of Route 9 just southwest of Springdale. Drive up Anasazi Way only a few hundred feet, then turn right and head down a steep short road to the large designated parking area. The first 3/4 mile of hiking will be along the paved road of the community, then an obvious sign will lead you northwest on a dirt path. Once through the Zion National Park boundary gate, leave the troubles of modern day sprawl behind you...
NOTE: The Chinle Trail was around long before the "Anasazi Plateau" development was created in the 2000s, so it is imperative to make sure that access to this corner of the park is never blocked or denied. Far too many corners of the park are now sprawling with private residences; it would be horrible to lose access here as well.
The Chinle Trail (also referred to as the "Petrified Forest Trail" before the 1980s) is a fairly level and easy to follow trail, but it does go up and down several hundred feet in elevation as it crosses the various washes. The first two miles are rather bland as the trail heads up the open Rockville Bench, providing views of the impressive Mount Kinesava to the north. Once alongside Huber Wash, the scenery gets more interesting as the trail provides good views down into the wash before crossing over to the Petrified Forest. Many petrified wood samples can be found right along the trail and along the bench to the west of the trail; please do not take any rocks--it is illegal to do so and it is important to leave for others to enjoy.
Near the head of Scoggins Wash, the trail starts heading west; be sure to look to the east for wonderful views of the West Temple. 1.5 miles later, a signpost marks the Old Scoggins Stock Trail, a shortcut of sorts that leads down into Scoggins Wash for those interested in further exploration. The last mile of the Chinle Trail heads north through a more sparsely vegetated area above Coalpits Wash. The trail ends rather anticlimactically by descending into a sandy shallow section of Coalpits Wash. This area of the park is especially desolate since the Dalton Wash fire decimated the area in 2006.
For those wishing to explore further, you can hike the Upper Coalpits Wash for several more miles; the territory is actually quite sublime as the wash has some flowing water in this section, providing life for many cottonwood trees and other vegetation with the Towers of the Virgin looming in the distance. A small landmark of note are the oil well ruins: a small metal drill hole with a few pieces of metal and wood remnants scattered in the surrounding area. (Does anybody know the history of the drill hole? Please write me!) Exploration further up the wash would be worthy of a backpacking trip.
|Chinle Trail Map.
Note: While viewing the map, click on the map to return to this page.
For those looking for a leisurely backpacking experience, hiking the Chinle Trail and exploring Huber Wash, Scoggins Wash, and Coalpits Wash could make for a pleasant multi-day hike. In 2008, the National Park Service constructed several official campsites along the Chinle Trail. (Prior to this, open camping was permitted anywhere in the desert section.) Camping along the Chinle Trail is permitted only in the 6 designated campsites. A wilderness permit is required for any multi-day hike; choose your campsite when you pick up your permit at the Zion Wilderness Desk or at the Kolob Visitor Center. (See the Zion Backpacking page for more details.) Do not squat at any campsite that you don't have a permit for, and please pack out all of your trash, including your solid human waste and TP. Let's talk about wag bags!
The Chinle Trail is admittedly not one of the more exciting trails in Zion National Park and can be unbearably hot during the summer months. This is not a destination hike with any cool slot canyon or viewpoint, but during the cooler months, this could be an interesting option for those looking for more subtle scenery and very few encounters with other people.