West Rim Trail: Point-to-Point Backpack

Zion National Park

Spectacular journey from high elevation to low among Zion National Park's vertical canyon walls.

Hiking Difficult

Distance
23 km
Ascent
1.4 km
Descent
435 m
Duration
6-7 hrs
Low Point
1.3 km
High Point
2.3 km
Gradient
25˚
VIEW ON MAP
West Rim Trail: Point-to-Point Backpack Map

Description

West Rim Trail is hands-down one of the most spectacular hikes in Zion. It begins in the high elevation realm with vantage above the canyons, then descends dramatically through a steep gorge, passing Angels Landing and finishing at the main road that leads to The Narrows. In 18.5 miles it packs in a nearly complete tour of the landscape’s life zones, from alpine to canyon floor.

This trail can be done as a long day trip or as an overnight backpacking trip. Starting at the top and hiking down is most common, simply because it is much easier than hiking up. Nine campsites are located along the route, but they can be hard to get because of the trail’s popularity. For that reason, hiking bottom-up may give you a better chance at campsites, because the ones nearer the low end of the trail are in less demand by two-day top-down hikers. Campsites must be selected at the time you reserve your wilderness permit.

The trailhead is at a gravel road near Lava Point in Zion National Park. You can also reach it via a short spur from the Lava Point parking. If doing the hike as a one way, it’s best to get dropped off here by a friend or a company, then ride the Zion Canyon shuttle back to your car at the visitor center or Springdale after you finish at The Grotto.

You can see a lot just from Lava Point, but this is merely a preview of what’s to come. The sparse groves of ponderosa atop this plateau grant views to the west and east of white-rock cliffs that form the rim of Zion’s great gorges. The trail follows a strip of plateau between two of these canyons, and the just scenery gets better and better.

The first really great vista comes at about 3 miles, with a gunsight-view down the Great West Canyon at South Guardian Angel Peak. Continue along rolling terrain in the cool mountain air and open pine forest, and take time to enjoy the other great viewpoints you’ll find. The trail meets a junction at about mile 7. Going left on the Telephone Canyon Trail shaves a little bit of mileage, but sacrifices the incredible scenery of the main West Rim Trail, which goes right.

The trail hugs the rim of a precipitous gorge called Phantom Valley for a few miles, though the slope begins mildly enough to be safe. It trends eastward and downward, following the canyon rim, and rejoins the Telephone Canyon Trail just before dropping chiseled switchbacks down a sandstone cliff into Zion Canyon. This is the entrance to a vertical world of stone. The trail traverses slopes of slickrock, dipping up and down ridges and saddles as cliffs riser higher on all sides.

Scout’s Lookout is the junction with the Angel’s Landing Trail, where you’ll meet the hordes of hikers approaching the Chains. Join them for the final mile to the iconic viewpoint if you wish, or continue down the trail through Refrigerator Canyon to The Grotto to finish the West Rim Trail.

Sources: https://www.citrusmilo.com/zionguide/westrimtrail.cfm

Difficulty

Difficult

Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Extreme Exposure

4 out of 4

Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area