The "Trans-Zion Trek" (also referred to as the "Zion Traverse") is a multi-day backpacking hike that connects several of Zion's trails into one long route from one corner of the park to the other. This strenuous and beautiful hike can take on average between three to five days and involves a lot of elevation gains and drops. Along the way, you will see some of Zion's most awe-inspiring scenery as well as many beautiful spots that most dayhikers never experience. Total mileage: roughly 48 miles. Before attempting this hike, you must work out the logistics of getting backcountry permits, planning your campsite spots for each night, car shuttles/car spots, and water sources (caching water and/or using available springs and streams).
IMPORTANT: This route has gained epic popularity in recent years, so you might not get the exact campsite(s) that you want. When you show up at the Wilderness Desk to get your permits, please come prepared with an understanding of the route and alternative backup plans.
Purchasing the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map beforehand and taking it with you is highly recommended for planning and tracking your progress along this long route.
CLOSURE NOTICE: Weeping Rock and the lower East Rim Trail/Observation Point Trail are currently closed due to a massive landslide. (On August 24, 2019, a large rockfall off of the face of Cable Mountain buried the Weeping Rock pantheon in sand and rubble. The trail was previously closed from a smaller landslide that blocked the trail in January 2019.) The last leg of the Trans-Zion Trek up the East Rim Trail is not possible at this time.
The hike starts and ends at two fairly remote trailheads -- Lee Pass in the northwestern corner of the park (the Kolob Canyons section) and the East Entrance Trailhead in the upper East Canyon near the park's eastern boundary. Outfitters in Springdale offer shuttle service to both trailheads, but because the trailheads are fairly remote, scheduling a paid pickup is unlikely and civilization is not within walking distance. Your best bet is to spot a second car at the ending trailhead or schedule a pickup with a willing friend (although this will probably involve a lot of waiting time for either the hikers or the driver). Alternatively, you could eliminate the final leg of the trek and end the hike in the main canyon where you will have no trouble getting back to civilization.
Click on any of the trail names below to see a much more detailed description of that section of the trek. Maps are provided with each of the individual trail descriptions. Total distance: roughly 47.9 miles.
As with any other overnight hike in Zion National Park, you must get a permit for the Trans-Zion Trek. Stop by the Zion Wilderness Desk or the Kolob Visitor Center to get your permit(s), reserve designated campsites, and check on current conditions. NOTE: You cannot squat at any campsite that you don't have a permit for and you can't camp randomly along the trails. (See the Zion Backpacking page for more info on permits.)
IMPORTANT! Along the La Verkin Creek Trail, Hop Valley Trail, and West Rim Trail, camping is permitted only in designated campsites. Choose your campsite when you get your permit; please do not squat at any campsite that you don't have a permit for. No camping is allowed along the Connector Trail or the lower section of the East Rim Trail in Echo Canyon. Along the Wildcat Canyon Trail, camping is permitted only off of the Northgate Peaks spur trail and east of Russell Gulch. Camping is also permitted off of the East Rim Trail on the east plateau above Echo Canyon. Be sure to camp out of sight of the trail or away from any springs.
Wilderness campsites are primitive. No open fires are allowed and there are no facilities, restrooms, or garbage cans. Pack out all of your trash and leave campsites clean for the next group. You are also required to pack out all solid human waste and toilet paper. Let's talk about wag bags!
Below is my five-day plan for the Trans-Zion Hike. It is by no means the definitive way to do this hike, but this plan should work well for most backpackers to balance each day and juggle the various camping regulations along each of the trails.
Figuring out your water sources is probably the most important part of planning this trek. La Verkin Creek is always a reliable source of water, but water in cattle-contaminated Hop Valley should be avoided at all cost. Along the way are many mostly reliable springs: the spring along Wildcat Canyon Trail (half-a-mile west of the trail crossing the streambed); Sawmill Springs, Potato Hollow, and Cabin Spring along the West Rim Trail; the Virgin River and Weeping Rock in the main canyon (and water fountains at the shuttle stops if you are not a purist), and Stave Spring along the East Rim Trail. Be sure to check conditions at the Backcountry Desk as many of these springs taper off during the drier months.
Another alternative is to cache water along the route. If you're willing to drive up the Kolob Terrace Road before your hike, you can leave yourself water near the Hop Valley Trailhead, the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead, and/or the West Rim Trailhead. Be sure to stash your water out of sight and record the coordinates for easy retrieval.
Late spring (May) and fall (October) are probably the most pleasant times of year to do the trek as the summer months can be much hotter. During the winter months, the sections of trail in the the upper elevations of the park (most notably the West Rim Trail and the Wildcat Canyon Trail) are usually buried in snow, so route finding could be difficult and the West Rim Trail could have treacherous ice along exposed sections as the trail makes its dramatic final descent into the main canyon. (Crampons or Microspikes could be extremely helpful.) March and April (during the spring thaw) are probably the most unpredictable months for planning the Trans-Zion Trek as snow conditions and melt vary greatly from year to year. Check the Kolob SNOTEL report to monitor snow buildup compared to previous years, and check the latest conditions at the Backcountry Desk at the start of your trip.
If you want bragging rights to say you did the longest hike in Zion, this is the one to do. This route is a lot of work, but you will see some amazing scenery that most day hikers will never witness. You will also gain greater appreciation for all of the different geological areas that Zion National Park encompasses. The only real downside to this "trek" is that there are many beautiful side hikes and spur viewpoints that you simply will not have time to go and see.