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.

Rating: easy short hike with some exposure. a Zion classicfamily-friendlyCanyon Overlook Trail

If you have a vehicle, drive east on Route 9 to go through the famous Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel and enjoy the ride through the wondrous slickrock of the Upper East Canyon. The Canyon Overlook Trail is one of the few official trails in the upper East Canyon; starting just east of the tunnel, it is a nice short-but-sweet hike that ends at a great viewpoint looking into the main canyon. If this is your first trip to Zion, this one is a must-do hike! Caution: while this hike is not very strenuous, there are a few exposed spots where a fall could be dangerous. Finding parking near the trailhead can also be a challenge.
Hiking Guide  Photos

EAST RIM TRAIL (East Entrance to Weeping Rock)
Rating: fairly strenuous longer day hike. a Zion classicEast Rim Trail

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.
Hiking Guide  Photos

EAST MESA TRAIL (to Observation Point)
Rating: moderate day hike.East Mesa Trail

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.
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: moderately easy hiking.Clear Creek, Zion National Park

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.
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: moderately strenuous day hike.Gifford Canyon

Located in the Upper East Canyon directly across from the Canyon Overlook parking lot, Gifford Canyon is a mostly open wash with sandy sections interspersed with short sections of bare slickrock in the streambed. While this drainage doesn't usually have flowing water, it retains a good amount of moisture and has lush vegetation in many sections. Though not the most exciting or photogenic canyon in Zion, this wash makes for an interesting half-day hike for people looking to do some random exploring and get a quick taste of the Zion backcountry.
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: strenuous hiking/backpacking w/climbing. technical climbing/scrambling routeBridge Mountain Arch

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.
Hiking Guide  Photos

PINE CREEK (Middle Pine Creek)
Rating: technical canyoneering route. a Zion classictechnical canyoneering routePine Creek, Zion National Park

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 100-ft free rappel.
Canyoneering Guide  Photos

Rating: moderately strenuous off-trail hike.Upper Pine Creek

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.
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: strenuous off-trail rock-scrambling route.The East Temple Loop

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!
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: moderately strenuous off-trail route.Shelf Canyon, Zion National Park

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.
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: fairly strenuous hiking/scrambling route.Progeny Peak and Two-Pines Arch

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.
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: strenuous canyoneering route. technical canyoneering routeSpry Canyon

Tucked away between the East Temple and the Twin Brothers, Spry Canyon is a large drainage that starts in the Upper East Canyon under Deertrap Mountain and makes its way down to Lower Pine Creek in the main canyon. The mouth of the canyon can be seen between the East Temple and Mount Spry when driving up the Route 9 switchbacks heading to the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. A descent of Spry Canyon makes for a fun canyoneering adventure through beautiful and rugged scenery, but several awkward rappels and difficult downclimbs make this a more serious affair than the more popular Zion canyoneering routes.
Canyoneering Guide  Photos

Rating: strenuous scrambling/climbing route. technical canyoneering routeMountain of the Sun

Mountain of the Sun is a relatively remote peak located on the east side of Zion Canyon across from the Court of the Patriarchs. (It gets its name from the fact that when you are at the Zion Lodge, it is one of the first peaks to catch the morning light.) If you have ever seen Mountain of the Sun from the top of Deertrap Mountain, the idea of hiking to the top may seem like insanity, but a clever route that navigates the surrounding drainages, faults, and ridgelines does provide access to the summit. For those with good scrambling, climbing, and route-finding skills, this route makes for an exhilarating and exhausting adventure.
Hiking Guide  Photos

"MANY POOLS" (The Root Canals, The Twins)
Rating: moderately strenuous day hike.Many Pools, Zion National Park

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.
Hiking Guide  Photos

KEYHOLE CANYON (Starfish Canyon)
Rating: short technical canyoneering. a Zion classictechnical canyoneering routeKeyhole Canyon

Keyhole Canyon barely shows up on a topo map, but it is a beautiful little subterranean slot that offers up some amazing other-worldly slot canyon scenery. This route takes roughly two hours to complete and involves 2-3 short rappels, and as such, it is quite a popular route for beginning canyoneers. This canyon also has many down-climbing obstacles, and a few wades and swims through cold water, so even though it is short, it should still be taken seriously. Full technical gear is required and wetsuits are recommended.
Canyoneering Guide  Photos

JUGHANDLE ARCH (and the Center of the Universe)
Rating: strenuous hiking/scrambling route.Jughandle Arch

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").
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: fairly short scrambling route with exposure.South Ariel Peak

South Ariel Peak is one of the more accessible peaks in the Upper East Canyon, located right off of Route 9 next to the popular Keyhole Canyon canyoneering route. A fairly straightforward scramble up South Ariel Peak takes you to some phenomenal views from the summit. But while the route is a fairly short and the lower sections are easy enough, a steep and intimidating Class 4 pitch near the top and big exposure along the summit's razorback make this a scramble to be taken seriously.
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: fairly strenuous hiking/scrambling route.Upper Keyhole Canyon

While most people know Keyhole Canyon as the popular little technical canyoneering route, canyoneers typically only see the lower half mile of the canyon. Upstream from the canyoneering route is a beautiful open wash with expansive sandstone formations in all directions. A visit to Upper Keyhole Canyon is a fairly strenuous hike that may take between 3-5 hours depending on how thoroughly you want to explore the area, including a few tall and narrow side canyons near the head of the wash and a great view of the backside of the Jughandle Arch.
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: easy short day hike.Jolley Gulch

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.
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: moderately strenuous day hike.Checkerboard Mesa Canyon

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.
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: fairly strenuous hiking/scrambling route.Checkerboard Mesa Canyon

Most tourists visiting Zion enjoy seeing the iconic Checkerboard Mesa from the parking lot and viewing area down the road. Although technical climbers occasionally make their way right up the front face of Checkerboard Mesa, a non-technical scrambling route up the east chute also leads to the top of the White Cliffs. While this is a fairly short hike, it involves a good deal of bushwhacking, scrambling obstacles, and backcountry navigation that lead to two separate viewpoints: one on the northern tip that looks down on the bare slickrock of the famous formation and a second higher viewpoint from the top of the actual summit block.
Hiking Guide  Photos

SEPARATION CANYON (Nippletop, Lonely Peak)
Rating: moderately strenuous day hike.Separation Canyon

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.
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: strenuous day hike with scrambling.Cockeye Falls

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.
Hiking Guide  Photos

Rating: moderately easy hiking.Petroglyph Canyon

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.

Continue to the Zion Narrows ->

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.

Please note: This web site and all images on this site are the property of Joe Braun Photography ©2023. Unauthorized public or commercial use of any of the images or text on this website without explicit permission is strictly forbidden.