The "Kolob Terrace" is a lesser-traveled section of Zion, accessible via the Kolob Terrace Road that heads north from the town of Virgin. The drive through the Terrace up to Lava Point offers a good sampling of wondrous views, from golden valleys to the majestic North and South Guardian Angels high in distance. The Kolob Terrace is home to one of the most popular canyons in Zion: the Left Fork of North Creek, aka. "the Subway." Primitive camping is available at Lava Point, the highest point in Zion National Park. Note that the upper sections of the Kolob Terrace Road are not plowed during winter, so this part of the park is typically inaccessible during the colder months.

WEST RIM TRAIL: OverviewWest Rim Trail

The West Rim is a backcountry classic of Zion: a 15-mile long trail that traverses the upper west plateau to connect Lava Point (the highest point in Zion) with the popular main canyon. Most visitors to Zion are familiar with the lower section of the West Rim Trail that leads to Angels Landing, but those willing to hike further will be treated to more wondrous views as the clever trail makes its way up to the canyon rim. From atop the plateau, continuous majestic views can be seen to the east and west. Alternatively, a top-down hike from Lava Point is time well spent!
Overview of Hiking Routes...

WEST RIM TRAIL (Top-Down from Lava Point)
Rating: fairly strenuous hiking/backpacking. a Zion classicbackpacking routeWest Rim Trail

Starting from Lava Point or the West Rim Trailhead, the trek down the West Rim Trail to the Grotto in Zion Canyon is a great adventure, either as a long day hike or as a two-day backpacking trip. While most of the trail is level or downhill, it is still a long journey and should be considered fairly strenuous. The "top-down" hike is aesthetically pleasing as the scenery starts out fairly subdued, but each viewpoint gets better than the last until the grand finale of the trail making its dramatic descent through the White Cliffs into Zion Canyon.
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Rating: short easy family hike. family-friendlyNorthgate Peaks Trail

The Northgate Peaks Trail is a short easy family hike to a fairly interesting viewpoint in the Kolob Terrace section of Zion. This unsung trail is a fairly recent addition to the park's canon of official trails, and it offers a good change of pace and escape from the crowds of the main canyon. The view at the end of the trail is more "subtle" than views from the West Rim Trail or the main canyon, but it gives you a fascinating peek into the Great West Canyon.
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LEFT FORK OF NORTH CREEK (Subway): OverviewLeft Fork of North Creek

The Left Fork of North Creek (a.k.a "the Great West Canyon") is one of the most beautiful and most popular canyons in the backcountry of Zion. The most famous section of this canyon is known as "the Subway" -- an amazing half-mile stretch that resembles a tubular tunnel complete with tracks going down the middle. The Left Fork of North Creek has much diverse terrain, and as such, there are several different possible routes, ranging from simple hiking to strenuous technical canyoneering.
Overview of Routes...

Rating: strenuous hiking/semi-technical canyoneering. a Zion classictechnical canyoneering routeThe Subway, Zion National Park

The Subway "top-down" route via Russell Gulch is the classic way to hike the Left Fork of North Creek. This route is a long strenuous day and it involves several short rappels, a few downclimbs, and several cold swims. Starting from the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead, the hike goes down Russell Gulch to join the Left Fork. The highlight is the half-mile section of canyon known as The Subway. Once beyond the Subway section, the canyon opens up and it is a less-interesting hike out to the Left Fork Trailhead. This amazing hike is well worth the effort! Note: A wilderness permit is required for this hike.
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Rating: strenuous day hike. a Zion classicBottom-Up Subway Hike

If you want to avoid the swimming and rappelling of the top-down route, you can hike the Left Fork of North Creek from the bottom. Starting at the Left Fork Trailhead, it is a little over three-miles (one-way) to get to the Subway. Although not technical at all, this hike is still quite strenuous and the scenery is less stunning than the top-down route, but you still get to see the beautiful lower section of the Subway. Note: A wilderness permit is required for this hike.
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DAS BOOT (Section of the Left Fork)
Rating: strenuous technical canyoneering. technical canyoneering routeDas Boot (Left Fork of North Creek)

"Das Boot" is the humorously-named half-mile section of the Left Fork upstream from the standard Top-Down Route. Leaving the standard Russell Gulch/Subway hike, this approach heads more southeast to join with the Left Fork further upcanyon. This section of the Left Fork is almost subterranean and involves several swims, rappels, down-climbs, and exposure to year-round cold water and is not suitable for hikers. Wetsuits are recommended even in the blazing heat of summer. Note: A backcountry permit is required for this hike.
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RUSSELL GULCH (Canyoneering Route)
Rating: fairly strenuous technical canyoneering. technical canyoneering routeRussell Gulch, Zion National Park

Most people know Russell Gulch as the large drainage and pantheon at the beginning of the Subway Top-Down Route. But while the standard route descends Russell Gulch, it crosses over and avoids the deepest sections of the actual drainage in favor of a more hiker-friendly approach to the Subway. In contrast, the Russell Gulch canyoneering route heads directly down the watercourse and involves three 100-ft big-wall rappels in the belly of the canyon before rejoining the Subway route near the confluence with the Left Fork. This spicier start may add 1-3 hours to a top-down Subway hike.
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Rating: moderate hiking/backpacking route. backpacking routeWildcat Canyon Trail

The Wildcat Canyon Trail is a 6-mile stretch of trail that connects the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead with the West Rim Trail (just under Lava Point) and is part of the "Trans-Zion Hike" that allows backpackers to hike from the Kolob section all the way down to the main canyon. The Wildcat Canyon Trail is also the starting point for some of the area's highlights: the Northgate Peaks Trail, the Left Fork of North Creek (the Subway), and the Right Fork. While not considered a "destination hike," this trail wanders through some very beautiful scenery.
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Rating: moderate hiking/backpacking route. backpacking routeConnector Trail, Zion National Park

The Connector Trail is a 4-mile stretch of trail that connects the Hop Valley Trailhead with the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead. This overgrown trail is probably the least hiked stretch of trail in Zion National Park. As the bland name would indicate, this is not a "destination hike" for day hikers, but it is useful for backpackers who are doing the "Trans-Zion Hike" through the park. The scenery, however, is actually quite sublime.
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Rating: moderately strenuous hiking/backpacking.Hop Valley Trail

The Hop Valley Trail is a 6.5-mile stretch of trail that connects the Hop Valley Trailhead with the La Verkin Creek Trail (in the Kolob Canyons section). While the scenery in Hop Valley is actually quite sublime, this section of park is part of a private inset of land where cattle still graze freely. Numerous stream crossings and the omnipresent cow droppings probably make the "Plop Valley Trail" less than appealing to the general public.
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Rating: easy short hike. family-friendlyHoodoo City, Zion National Park

"Hoodoo City" is my unofficial nick-name for some very cool rock formations. Just to the east of the Hop Valley Trailhead is a beautiful cliff formation of many hoodoos looking down at the valley below. The hike to the hoodoo formations is an easy 15-minute walk up and over to the hills. While this is not exactly a destination hike, it could be a fun little diversion for those looking for a shorter hiking experience with some interesting scenery.
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GRAPEVINE TRAIL (Grapevine Spring)
Rating: easy short hike. family-friendlyGrapevine Trail (Grapevine Spring)

Along the Kolob Terrace Road between the ever-so-popular Left Fork Trailhead and the Right Fork Trailhead is the overlooked and unloved Grapevine Trailhead. The Grapevine Trail is a short route that descends through the lava cliffs and provides fairly easy access to the bottom of the Left Fork, roughly 1.3 miles downstream of where the Subway route accesses the water. Grapevine Trail is not really an alternate start to the Left Fork (Subway) or the Right Fork routes; it's just a short hike down to a pleasant watering hole.
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Rating: Fairly strenuous rock-scrambling.East and West Northgate Peaks

The family-friendly Northgate Peaks Trail ends at a viewpoint that overlooks the Great West Canyon (the Left Fork of North Creek) and offers great views of the nearby peaks, most notably the majestic North Guardian Angel in the distance to the south and the closer Northgate Peaks to the east and west. The scramble to the top of both Northgate Peaks is a good little half-day adventure for those with slickrock-scrambling experience and a tolerance for exposure to heights.
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Rating: Fairly strenuous rock-scrambling.Pocket Mesa

Located less than a mile northeast of the Wildcat Trailhead, Pocket Mesa is a prominent peak formation in the Kolob Terrace landscape, but it is mostly overlooked and ignored by hikers who are intent on heading to the more famous Subway route or the Northgate Peaks Trail. A visit to the summit of Pocket Mesa involves a few hours of off-trail hiking, navigating through thick manzanita and gambel oak underbrush, and a short Class 2/3 scramble to the top of the mesa. The view from the summit offers good teaser views of various landmarks in the distance.
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Rating: Strenuous and remote day hike.Right Fork of North Creek (Bottom-Up Day Hike)

Located south of the famous Left Fork of North Creek (aka "the Subway"), the Right Fork is an even more remote and rugged canyon wash that makes for a long and strenuous day hike. Challenges include wilderness route finding, multiple stream crossings, bushwhacking, boulder hopping, and a few tricky scrambling obstacles near the end of the route. And while this canyon may not have the mass appeal that the photogenic Subway does, the Right Fork of North Creek offers a more quiet appeal to seasoned hikers who are happy to work hard to find backcountry solitude.
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Rating: Strenuous multi-day technical canyoneering route. technical canyoneering routebackpacking routeRight Fork of North Creek (Top-Down Route)

While the "bottom-up" route is a fairly long and strenuous day hike, the "top-down" route is a much longer and more physically challenging multi-day canyoneering route that involves rappelling, downclimbing, a few cold swims, and several route-finding challenges. Written up as the "Great West Canyon Route" in the classic old Brereton/Dunaway "Exploring the Backcountry of Zion National Park" book, this ingenious route descends Wildcat Canyon to the Left Fork headwaters, then ascends south to the saddle between the Left and Right Forks before following a ridgeline that finally drops into the heart of the remote Right Fork of North Creek.
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Rating: Strenuous remote day hike and rock-scrambling. technical canyoneering routeSouth Guardian Angel

The South Guardian Angel is one of the most distinct and compelling peaks in Zion National Park's Kolob Terrace section. Unlike the other peaks in the area, the South Guardian Angel is REMOTE. Located on the isolated plateau between the Left Fork of North Creek (aka. "the Subway") and the Right Fork of North Creek, any hike to the top of SGA involves the strenuous task of descending into the Left Fork and climbing out the other side onto the isolated plateau. While the scenery is spectacular, the length and difficulty of this hike keep this from being a popular route.
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Rating: Strenuous remote day hike and rock-scrambling.Langston Canyon

Tucked away behind a tall sandbar on the eastern side of Hop Valley, Langston Canyon might not even be noticed by those hiking through on the Hop Valley Trail, but this formidable side canyon offers up some beautiful and remote scenery. The hike up Langston Canyon to Langston Mountain is a long and challenging day in the remote backcountry and involves a lot of bushwhacking, steep uphills, boulder-scrambling, and navigation challenges, but the views and solitude just might be worth it!
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Continue to the Kolob Section ->

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.

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