The La Verkin Creek Trail is the main connecting trail through the Kolob Canyons section of Zion. Starting at Lee Pass along the Kolob Canyons Road, this trail runs almost 11 miles in length from end-to-end, heading south to loop around the Finger Canyons and then turning east to join up with and follow La Verkin Creek to the NPS boundary. An in-and-out hike to see the Kolob Arch makes for a strenuous and rewarding day and is probably the most popular use of the trail. Numerous campsites along the trail also allow for longer visits to explore Willis Creek and the lonely northeast corner of the Kolob Section. The La Verkin Creek Trail is also stage one of the famed Trans-Zion Trek that traverses the entire park from the Kolob Canyons to the East Entrance.
|Rating:||Fairly strenuous hiking/backpacking|
|Access:||Lee Pass Trailhead (along the Kolob Canyons Road)|
|Time Required:||7-10 hours (for day hike to Kolob Arch)|
|Length:||14 miles (round-trip for hike to Kolob Arch)|
|Elevation Change:||Gradual 1000-ft descent from Lee Pass to La Verkin Creek|
|Seasons:||Spring and fall are most pleasant; summer can be very hot. The trail is typically accessible in winter, but conditions could be unpredictable.|
To get to the Lee Pass Trailhead, drive roughly 3.8 miles from the Kolob Canyons entrance along the Kolob Canyons Road. This trailhead is the start of the La Verkin Creek Trail and there are several parking spaces along the road. The trail heads south offering great views of the Kolob Finger Canyons to the east and quickly descends 400 feet into the valley below. Once in the (mostly) dry wash of Timber Creek, the trail descends more slowly as it makes its way past the various Kolob Finger Canyons. At 3 miles, the trail leaves Timber Creek to pass around Gregory Butte and then heads east to slowly descend and join up with La Verkin Creek.
At the intersection of the trail and La Verkin Creek, the stream flows through a small slickrock chute and makes for a great spot to take a break and sit by the water, especially on hot sunny days. For the next two miles, the trail follows the sandy banks of the river, passing several campsites along the way. The hiking is mostly level here, but the deep sand in spots can really slow you down, especially on a really hot summer day.
After visiting the arch, most dayhikers will retrace their steps and hike back out to Lee Pass. Remember that Lee Pass is 1000 feet higher than La Verkin Creek, so the hike out will be more difficult than the hike in. Allow plenty of time and get out after dark!
Beyond the Hop Valley Trail junction, the La Verkin Creek Trail continues to follow the river as it heads northeast into the narrowing canyon. While the canyon never actually slots up, it does offer some sublime remote scenery. The trail alternates between following the stream to traversing the forested hills high above the watercourse. There are several river crossings where you are likely to get your feet wet. Two miles from the Kolob Arch Trail is the mouth of Beartrap Canyon, a beautiful dark side canyon that is more slot-like and dramatic than any of the other canyons in the region. From its mouth, it is only a quick half a mile hike upstream to Beartrap Canyon Falls, a wonderful Zen-like 30-foot high waterfall and alcove. The waterfall prevents any travel further up this canyon. Return the way you came.
If you choose to explore further up La Verkin Creek from Beartrap Canyon, you will be entering territory that few people bother to see. From the mouth of Beartrap Canyon, the trail continues another 2.5 miles to the northwest border of the park and the scenery is admittedly overgrown and less interesting. After roughly a mile of hiking along La Verkin Creek, the official trail turns east into the dry Willis Creek. Hiking here can be annoying with a fair amount of bushwhacking; you will count the number of logs you have to climb over or under.
Near the border of the park, Willis Creek opens up into a valley filled with pinyon pine trees. An actual trail still exists that climbs out of the valley, but it is so lightly travelled, nature is claiming it back and it may be difficult to find and follow. You'll know you're on the right track when you locate the lonely trailhead marker and broken gate at the NPS boundary. Although the trail used to continue east to the Kolob Reservoir, the surrounding land is private property, so continuing through is not permitted. While this area might not be the most exciting destination hike, you might enjoy the fact that you are in the least-visited corner of Zion National Park! Retrace your steps to return to civilization.
|La Verkin Creek Trail Map #1:
Lee Pass to the Kolob Arch.
Note: While viewing the map, click on the map to return to this page.
|La Verkin Creek Trail Map #2:
Kolob Arch to Willis Creek.
Note: While viewing the map, click on the map to return to this page.
Camping along the La Verkin Creek Trail is permitted only in the 13 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!
Just about all of the designated campsites are great; many are in great spots well off the trail, either right next to La Verkin Creek or under a grove of pine trees. Campsites 5-11 are good choices if you are hiking to the Kolob Arch and back in two days. Campsites 1-3 are less interesting, but provide a good camping opportunity for those who don't want to hike too far. Campsites 12 and 13 are quite remote and secluded, and I would only recommend these if you plan on hiking far up Willis Creek. (Note: There used to be 20 campsite along the La Verkin Creek Trail, but the NPS eliminated three of them in 2005 and four more in 2012.) Names and descriptions below are from the Zion Backcountry Desk.
If you are doing the Kolob Arch day hike, bring your own water. If you are backpacking, La Verkin Creek is a dependable source of fresh water although it can run a bit silty. Remember to purify as the creek is downstream of farming on the high plateau above the park. Alternate sources of clear water are a small stream near campsite 7 as well as the stream in Kolob Arch Canyon (Icebox Canyon). Beatty Spring (.2 miles east of the Hop Valley Trail junction) is also usually reliable, but it's downstream of Hop Valley cattle grazing...
This is one of my favorite backpacking/camping areas in Zion, but this isn't one of my favorite hiking trails. Parts of the trail are sandy and monotonous and the scenery is more subtle than the main canyon. But the campsites along the creek make this a great experience and the side hike to the Kolob Arch is well worth the effort. Beartrap Canyon up to the falls is also worth the extra effort. For most people, however, hiking further up Willis Creek to the end of the trail might be a bit anti-climactic as this section is less photogenic. It is still enjoyable to be in the most isolated corner of the park.