Route Information Photos 1 2 3 4

a wonderful view half way up Mountain of the Sun (Zion National Park) -- © 2018 Joe Braun Photography

A Difficult but Rewarding Route:

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.

Strenuous and exposed scrambling/climbing route
Upper Pine Creek drainage (.5 miles east of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel)
Time Required:
8-11 hours
Roughly 6 miles total
Elevation Change:
800-ft ascent out of Upper Pine Creek, 500-ft descent down Lodge Canyon, 1100-ft ascent up Mountain of the Sun, and then back again.
Technical Challenges:
Navigation through rugged and remote terrain, several exposed Class 2-4 climbing obstacles.
Equipment Needed:
Climbing harness and rope may be useful for belaying.
Late spring through fall, although summer can be very hot.
Permit Required?

WARNING: This is a strenuous and exposed scrambling route in some very vertical territory. A fall along this route could be fatal, and due to its remoteness, rescue would be slow and difficult. This route is not recommended for casual hikers with no wilderness or climbing experience.

Mountain of the Sun Map Mountain of the Sun Route Map.
(Click on map to return to this page.)

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The guide below assumes that you have experience navigating and climbing in a rugged wilderness environment. Conditions change quite often, so use your own eyes to evaluate every obstacle if something is different than expected. Do not blindly follow this or any other description; use your own judgement and be safe.

Getting to the Trailhead:

The hike starts at Upper Pine Creek, located .4 miles east of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel and is the first large open drainage on the north side of the road. (There are several roadside parking spots close to Upper Pine Creek, from the always-crowded Canyon Overlook Trail parking lot, the few spots in front of Shelf Canyon, to a few smaller pull-off spots just to the east.) Once parked, carefully walk the road and look for a trail-of-use that will take you down into the sandy wash.

scrambling down Lodge Canyon on our way to Mountain of the Sun (Zion National Park) -- © 2018 Joe Braun Photography

Hike Up and Out of Upper Pine Creek:

Once in Upper Pine Creek, the hiking is fairly easy and the scenery is quite pleasant as sections of wide sandy streambed are interspersed with sections of interesting slickrock shelves. Roughly .6 miles from Route 9, look for a convenient ramp on the left (west) side of the wash to hike/scramble up and out of the canyon. This will lead to a wonderful open slickrock pantheon where you can see Deertrap Mountain to the north. Continue hiking NNW, working the slopes and crack lines up into the large slickrock bowl; you may encounter a few Class 2-3 scrambling obstacles as you make progress. About half way up, look to the north for an easy route to a slot with a tall vertical wall to the left of it; at the base of this sheer wall are a handful of faded petroglyphs. Cool! Continue up the ramp to reach the saddle between Upper Pine Creek and Spry Canyon. The views in both directions are pretty awesome.

From the saddle, continue down the other side, navigating and scrambling past any obstacles. While there is no one correct way, you should be able to find a fairly reasonable route into the wash below. Looking west, you will see the East Temple and Twin Brothers towering above you with the start of the popular Spry Canyon canyoneering route in between. But for this hike, turn right and follow the bottom of the wash north between the Twin Brothers and Deertrap Mountain. (Hugging the wall under the Twin Brothers is the easiest route.) Without too much effort, you will soon be standing on top of the saddle looking north down Lodge Canyon.

arrows point the route up to the summit of Mountain of the Sun (Zion National Park) -- © 2018 Joe Braun Photography

Descent of Lodge Canyon:

From the saddle, start hiking down the steep slope of loose sand, boulders, and scraggly vegetation. While there may be a trail-of-use in some areas, it's up to you to find the best way through the various obstacles. One notable landmark is a 100-ft tall slickrock "elephant trunk" slide/ramp that can be downclimbed even though it looks a bit intimidating from the top. Soon enough, the canyon levels out and the hiking gets a bit easier. Roughly .7 miles from the saddle, the wash opens up to a large area of bare slickrock on the left. This is a good spot for a break before you start the really strenuous part of this route...

The Ramp out of Lodge Canyon:

From the open slickrock area, look back for a large slickrock ramp that heads south on the west side of the canyon. This ramp is your ticket out of Lodge Canyon and up to the saddle between the Twin Brothers and Mountain of the Sun. The ramp is mostly hiker-friendly although there are a few small rock formations to scramble up. Take great care is there is exposure on both sides of the ramp. When the ramp reaches the saddle, you will get a clear view of Mountain of the Sun towering to the northwest. Take a good look at the formations and map out your intended route.

A hiker climbs up the side of Mountain of the Sun (Zion National Park) -- © 2018 Joe Braun Photography

Scramble to the top of Mountain of the Sun:

From the top of the ramp, hike northwest across the saddle to the base of Mountain of the Sun and start scrambling (Class 2/3) up the rock formations looking for a line of least resistance through the various obstacles. (There is no one correct route, but if you are too far to the left, you will get blocked by the yellow rock formations and if you are too far to the right, you will hit the smooth vertical wall of the east face of the mountain.)

Once above the yellow band rock layer, you should see a wall/crack/line that runs up just to the right of the summit. Head across to the low-angle slickrock to the wall and follow the chute up, staying close to the wall. As you get closer to the top, the chute becomes mostly sand with a lot of loose debris; watch your footing as it's very easy to send large rocks down. The line eventually ends at a vertigo-inducing view. Some people turn left here and do a very exposed Class 4 climb up to the left, but there is a better way...

the amazing summit view from the top of Mountain of the Sun (Zion National Park) -- © 2018 Joe Braun Photography

From the end of the line, head back about 20 feet and look for a vertical chute marked by a tree with an exposed root in the wall to the right. There may also be an old dead branch at the base. This is the less-exposed climb to the top. (Thank you to Courtney and Jeff B. for this beta!) It's a Class 4 climb up about 40 feet with several good handholds and footholds. Take great care though as a fall here could still be catastrophic. Soon enough, the climb relents and you will be hiking up the final layers of dirty and loose rock to be standing on the summit proper! Be sure to wander all around the top as there are great views in all directions.

The Hike Back:

It would be easy to simply say "return the way you came," but a few notes for your exit hike. When on the summit, it is very easy to lose track of the route that you took up above that final chute. Mark your way up (with sticks, temporary cairns, etc.) to find your way back down the summit block. If you are planning on returning to your car at Upper Pine Creek (as opposed to descending Lodge Canyon which is not described here), make sure that you have enough time, food, and energy for the hike out: scrambling back up the head of Lodge Canyon and the saddle above Upper Pine Creek can be very exhausting, especially in late afternoon heat.

Joe's Spin:

This is an amazing backcountry adventure through some really rugged and beautiful scenery, but the strenuous and exposed nature of this hike/scramble cannot be overstated. Allow as much time as possible for any navigation or obstacle problems.

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