Hikers in the know already have the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park in their sights when they arrive. This iconic backcountry trail runs for 15 miles along the upper west plateau connecting Lava Point and the Grotto Trailhead. Here’s what to know if you’d like day hike on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park.
What Is the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park?
This classic hike takes you from the highest point in Zion National Park – Lava Point – into Zion’s main canyon and the Grotto Trailhead. There’s a lower section of the West Rim Trail that’s exceedingly popular, which leads to the Angels Landing summit hike. If you are up for the challenge, continue farther up the trail for incredible views and labyrinthian paths through sandstone formations. You’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of the Great West Canyon.
How Do I Get to the West Rim Trail?
During high season in the park (April to October), you can take the free Zion park shuttle service from the visitor center to the Grotto stop. If it’s off-season, you’ll drive yourself to the Grotto Trailhead. Once you cross the road and the bridge, turn right and you’ll see the West Rim Trailhead, heading toward Angels Landing.
What Is the Bottom-Up West Rim Trail Hike Like?
For fewer crowds, take the West Rim Trail from the bottom. From the trailhead at the Grotto, follow the river for a spell, then start switchbacking up the slope to views of the Virgin River and Zion Canyon. After about a mile, the trail flattens out and traverses Refrigerator Canyon. More switchbacks follow (the famous Walter’s Wiggles), named for the park’s first superintendent. Soon after you’ll arrive at Scouts Lookout, where the Angels Landing Summit trail splits from the West Rim Trail.
Continue to follow the West Rim Trail north up the ridge to a flat, slickrock overlook with great views. If you’d like to continue, crest the ridge, go downhill a bit and cross the bridge over Telephone Canyon. Continue north, then west around Mount Majestic. You’ll enter some cool woods for a bit – enjoy the shade while you can. (If it’s winter, you’ll find more snow here than other areas of Zion due to the shade – it’s known as “Little Siberia.”) Climb through Behunin Pass, climb more switchbacks and reach the top of the rim at about 4.5 miles. Turn back, and it’s all downhill back to the Grotto, about 2,500 feet below you at this point.
What Is the Top-Down West Rim Trail Like?
For the Top-down West Rim Trail hike, start near Lava Point amidst tall ponderosa pines and aspen. You’ll traverse high alpine elevation with views of Wildcat Canyon for 6.5 miles. Then, as the views continue to get better and better, drop into Potato Hollow, then back out again before the spur trail to Telephone Canyon. Continue on the West Rim Trail, with views of Phantom Valley. Once you reach Cabin Spring, you’ll descend 2,500 feet over 4.5 miles before reaching the Grotto Picnic Area. The Telephone Canyon spur trail offers a shortcut between Potato Hollow and Cabin Spring. The best views come during the descent through the White Cliffs to Zion Canyon.
This hike can be done in one day or as a two-day Zion backpacking trip. At Cabin Spring, you’ll find campsites 2 to 6.
When Should I Hike the West Rim Trail?
In general, most Zion Canyon trails remain open in the winter, but you’ll have to check with the ranger for current conditions. The open trails typically include Weeping Rock, Emerald Pools and Angels Landing.
What Else Should I Consider When Hiking the West Rim Trail?
Keep in mind that the steep, strenuous West Rim Trail is in full son and can be especially challenging on hot days. If you’re nervous about heights, the first section up to Refrigerator Canyon (going bottom-up) can be daunting.
There is no water along the hike, so pack plenty with you. Do NOT count on West Rim Spring to provide water.
Depending on how far you plan to hike, plan on four to eight hours. Wear sturdy shoes and pack enough food and water for a full day, in addition to the ten essentials for hiking.
What Are Some Other Favorite Trails in Zion National Park?
Wildcat Canyon: Start at the Wildcat Trailhead and go past the Northgate Peaks Trail junction. Wind through ponderosa pine forest and meadows before reaching the edge of Wildcat Canyon. Cross the canyon, then continue to where the trail connects with the West Rim Trail.
Hop Valley: Start at the trailhead on Kolob Terrace Road and walk through open fields before descending into the Hop Valley. The valley floor is flat and sandy, which dramatic, walls rising up on both sides.
East Rim Trail: Start at the East Entrance Trailhead and climb 1,000 feet for views into Jolley Gulch. Walk the rim and you’ll start to see the Echo Canyon basin. Hike over the rim of the canyon and down to the floor of Zion Canyon, past Echo Canyon and down the Observation Point Trail to Weeping Rock.
Kolob Canyon/Taylor Creek Trail: Take Kolob Canyon Road to the Taylor Creek Trailhead. This 5-mile hike gains 450 feet of elevation and leads down into a narrow box canyon near the Double Arch Alcove. Once you reach the mouth of the canyon, you’ll enter Zion Wilderness and crisscross Taylor Creek. Notice the Kanarraville Fold and the two historic homestead cabins from the 1930s.