THE TRANS-ZION TREK (The Zion Traverse)

Route Information Photos 1 2 3 4

hiking along the Connector Trail as part of the Trans-Zion Trek (Zion National Park) -- © 2007 Joe Braun Photography

A Long Trek across Zion National Park:

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.

Rating:
Strenuous multi-day backpacking route.
Access:
Start at Lee Pass Trailhead (along the Kolob Canyons Road), end at Grotto Trailhead (the 6th stop for the Zion Canyon Shuttle)
Time Required:
3-4 days
Length:
37 miles
Elevation Change:
Overall 1800-ft descent, but many ups and downs along the way.
Seasons:
Spring through fall. Winter is not recommended for casual backpackers.
Permit Required?
YES, a permit is required for each night at each individual campsite.

IMPORTANT: The Trans-Zion Trek used to start at Lee Pass in the Kolob Canyons and end at the East Entrance Trailhead in the Upper East Canyon (48 miles). Due to the 2019 rockfall that has closed the East Rim Trail at Weeping Rock, the trek now ends at the Grotto in Zion Canyon (37 miles). Ending this long backpacking route in the dramatic scenery of Zion Canyon is actually better than the anti-climactic ending in the East Canyon.

Working out the Logistics Beforehand:

Before attempting this hike, you must work out the logistics of planning your campsite spots for each night, getting wilderness permits for each intended campsite on each intended night, working out car shuttles/car spots, and planning for your water sources (including using available springs and streams and caching water at the handful of road crossings and trailheads). Many of these topics are discussed below.

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.

a stretch of trail along the West Rim Trail (Zion National Park) -- © 2016 Joe Braun Photography

Trails and Mileage:

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 37 miles.

Car Shuttles/Car Spotting:

The hike starts at the somewhat remote Lee Pass Trailhead in the northwestern corner of the the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park. While you can leave your car at the trailhead for you hike, you might consider paying a local outfitter for a shuttle ride to the trailhead so you don't have to worry about retrieving your vehicle at the end of the hike. Since the hike now ends in Zion Canyon, you can take the free Zion Canyon Shuttle out to Springdale and civilization. Be sure to get to the Grotto Trailhead before the last shuttle runs for the night to avoid being stranded in Zion Canyon.

a campsite along the Hop Valley Trail (Zion National Park) -- © 2008 Joe Braun Photography

Wilderness/Campsite Permits:

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 to get your permit(s), reserve designated campsites, and check on current conditions. Notes:

Leave No Trace:

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!

the start of the La Verkin Creek Trail (Zion National Park) -- © 2015 Joe Braun Photography

Sample Day-By-Day Itinerary:

Below is my 3-4 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.

a stream crossing in Hop Valley (Zion National Park) -- © 2008 Joe Braun Photography

Water Sources:

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. Be sure to check conditions at the Wilderness 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.

winter scenery along the West Rim Trail (Zion National Park) -- © 2024 Joe Braun Photography

Seasons and Conditions:

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. (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.

Joe's Spin:

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.

VIEW THE PHOTOGRAPHS! Backpacking in Zion

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