The West Rim Trail 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!
Camping along the West Rim Trail is permitted only in the 9 designated campsites. A wilderness permit is required for any multi-day hike; choose your campsite when you pick up your permit at the Zion Wilderness Desk or at the Kolob Visitor Center. (See the Zion Backpacking page for more details.) Do not squat at any campsite that you don't have a permit for, and please pack out all of your trash, including your solid human waste and TP. Let's talk about wag bags!
Just about all of the designated campsites are appealing in their own way, but if you are doing the top-down two-day hike, logistically, campsites 1-6 are the ones to shoot for.
Note: A handful of first-come first-served drive-in tenting campsites are available at Lava Point. The camping area is primitive, but there is a pit toilet and garbage cans.
From Springdale, drive west to the town of Virgin, then turn north on the Kolob Terrace Road. It is roughly a 19-mile drive up through the Kolob Terrace Section until the well-signed dirt road turnoff for Lava Point. Once in the NPS boundary, at the road junction, stay right to head to Lava Point or turn left to drive down to the West Rim Trailhead. The final stretch to Lava Point is mostly level and is easily accessible by non-4WD vehicles. The road down to the West Rim Trailhead may be a problem for non-4WD vehicles in wet conditions.
When doing the top-down West Rim Trail hike, consider paying one of the Springdale outfitters' shuttle services for a ride to Lava Point. It will save you the effort of having to retrieve your vehicle after your hike.
The best times of year to hike the West Rim Trail from Lava Point are spring through fall. At an elevation of roughly 7900 feet, Lava Point is roughly 3400 feet higher than the floor of the main canyon, so cooler temperatures can be enjoyed in the summer, but winters can see a lot of snow build-up on the high plateau. The Kolob Terrace Road is typically closed for winter (not plowed) half a mile before the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead, so Lava Point is only accessible by snow mobile or snowshoe. The descent into the main canyon can also be treacherous with snow drifts and ice formations covering exposed sections the trail. The West Rim Trail typically clears up in April or May, but check conditons with the Wilderness Desk as things vary from year to year.
If you are doing the lower part of the West Rim from the Grotto, bring your own water. On the upper plateau, water is occasionally available at Sawmill Springs, Potato Hollow, and Cabin Springs (aka West Rim Spring), but check conditions at the Wilderness Desk. Early in the season, water is plentiful, but during the later months, these water sources may run dry.