Hiking Guide Photos 1 2 3

Meadow Creek and Mineral GulchIf you have ever driven on Route 9 between Zion National Park's east entrance and Mt. Carmel Junction, you may have noticed the intriguing Meadow Creek and Mineral Gulch canyon systems heading south from the road down into the deep and mysterious Parunuweap Canyon in the distance. While the scenery in Meadow Creek and Mineral Gulch might not be considered stunning, this area offers an interesting desolate hiking experience through some very isolated territory.

Getting There:

The head of Mineral Gulch is a 100' dryfall and borders on private property, so the recommended start to this hike is Meadow Creek. Driving roughly 5.75 miles east from Zion's east entrance (or 6.6 miles west from Mt. Carmel Junction), Route 9 crosses over Meadow Creek. Roughly .4 miles west of the cross-over, look to the south side for a little dirt road and drive it for about half-a-mile. You will be parking on the paved remnants of the old Route 9--quite a unique parking spot!

Hiking Ideas:

Meadow Creek to Parunuweap and back makes for a very long day hike. It is roughly 5 miles to the confluence with Mineral Gulch, an optional 2.5 miles round trip to "7 Arch Canyon," and another 3 miles to the junction with the Barracks, so start early and allow plenty of time. Meadow Creek could also be used as an alternate start to backpacking Parunuweap Canyon, but the obstacles in Meadow Creek make that option a bit unappealing for those with a heavy pack. (See detailed description below.) IMPORTANT: Since this route is so isolated, be sure to be well-stocked with food, water, and other emergency supplies.

Detailed Description:

From your parking spot, make your way southwest and hike down a fairly easy shoulder that takes you into the bottom of Meadow Creek. (Heading into the wash further upstream could be an irritating waste of time.) The unscenic upper sections of Meadow Creek usually have some water flow and are a bit overgrown, so the hiking is a bit slow. Meadow Creek and Mineral Gulch Soon enough, you will come to the first waterfall obstacle: a 25-foot tall stepped waterfall that can be downclimbed or rappelled with the help of a 50' rope (bring your own). (A tree just above the fall is an ideal anchor.) Take care here as the shale is very slippery when the creek is flowing.

Roughly half-a-mile further downstream is a second, much taller waterfall that can be bypassed by following a trail of use to the right (west) of the stream. Take great care here as the bypass has a lot of loose dirt and is fairly steep. Once past the second waterfall, the canyon starts to widen and the going gets much easier, so try to rip through these miles as quickly as possible. Near the confluence of Meadow Creek and Mineral Gulch, the stream will completely dry up and you will feel like you are trully isolated in the backcountry.

Optional hike to "Arch 7" Canyon: If you can afford the time, a worthy side hike is to hike up Mineral Gulch from the confluence and after less than half-a-mile, turn north into "Arch 7 Canyon" -- a beautiful little side canyon with tall streaked walls and interesting sandstone formations. You can hike all the way to an alcove at the head of the canyon where you are surrounded by dramatic 200'-tall walls. Meadow Creek and Mineral Gulch "Arch 7" is an interesting little window arch located in the alcove and you can guess what it looks like. Also located in this canyon are a wall of some extremely faded petroglyphs carved into yellow sandstone. The red oxidation on the surface of the rock has dulled their appearance so they are barely noticable.

Lower Mineral Gulch: Downstream from the confluence with Meadow Creek, Mineral Gulch is a sandy open wash for another mile until it begins to slot up for several increasingly deep and dramatic sections--this is the golden spot of the hike. Half a mile from the junction with Parunuweap Canyon, a few small caves can be found on the eastern shelves above the canyon floor. Also in this section, seaps form and a small amount of flowing water makes its way down to Parunuweap. If your hiking goal is to get to Parunuweap Canyon, note that the section near Mineral Gulch is not the most dramatic scenery. (The dramatic narrows section of Parunuweap is several miles downstream.)

map icon linking to large map Mineral Gulch Map #1: Meadow Creek to Upper Mineral Gulch
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map icon linking to large map Mineral Gulch Map #2: Mineral Gulch to the Barracks
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References and Variations:

Meadow Creek and Mineral GulchIn preparation for this hike, I read two good sources of information: 1) Bo and Tanya's description which also offers a scrambling route out of "Arch 7 Canyon" as well as an (unrecommended) hiking route into Mineral Gulch from the east. 2) the 1988 edition of "Exploring the Backcountry of Zion National Park" (Brereton/Dunaway). Brereton offers a scrambling route from Poverty Trail into the lower slots of Mineral Gulch: an interesting possibility, but I was unable to find any such managable entrance/exit from the Mineral narrows when I did the hike.

Joe's Spin:

While this hike might have the honor of being the most remote and desolate route in the greater Zion area, I can't recommend this one to the general public; the upper sections of Meadow Creek are fairly tedious and there are many more exciting hikes you could do in the area. But if you're looking to get way off the beaten path and explore some very isolated territory, this would be one to consider.

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