Zion National Park’s West Rim Trail is often used for backpacking, but it also makes for a great day hike starting at its low point in Zion’s main corridor.
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Length: 14.2 Miles
Trailhead(s): Shuttle Stop #6 – The Grotto
Elevation Gain: 3,200′
Trail Type: Out & Back
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Permit Required? No
Considerations: $35 Fee to Enter Zion National Park, Desert Hiking
Season: Year Round for Lower Trail Section, Spring and Fall Preferred; Upper Trail Section has Snow in Winter
Zion National Park’s West Rim Trail is often used for backpacking, but it also makes for a great day hike starting at its low point in Zion’s main corridor. This hike shares the beginning of the trail with those heading towards Angel’s Landing, but then continues on as far as you want to go while leaving the crowds behind. This hike is perfect to add to Angel’s Landing (see our description of the Angel’s Landing hike here), for those who want to see the incredible views around Angel’s Landing but are concerned about the climb to the Landing, and for those who want to see as much of Zion National Park as possible.
The West Rim Trail is 14.2 miles from end to end. The trail’s high point is Lava Point at 7,900′ and its low point is The Grotto at 4,475′. Unless you are backpacking or intending to shuttle hike (cars parked at each end of the trail) and thru hike the trail in one day, you will want to start this hike in Zion’s main corridor at the Grotto bus stop. Hiking from this point shares the beginning of the trail with those going to Angel’s Landing, which you can do as part of this day hike if you wish. From the Grotto, you can travel as far as you like along this 14.2 mile trail, depending on your strength and physical conditioning.
To get to the starting trailhead, take the national park shuttle to the Grotto stop. Cross the street and start up the West Rim Trail. The trail at the beginning of the hike is a little disappointing, as it is paved. The pavement is a necessary evil, however, to deal with erosion due to the steepness of the slope.
After a steady climb and a number of switchbacks, you will enter Refrigerator Canyon with walls on both sides of the trail. The temperature drops fairly significantly here, so take a break and cool off before moving to the next stage – Walter’s Wiggles.
Walter’s Wiggles is a series of 21 tight switchbacks that will prove to be a real leg burner, even if you are in excellent hiking condition. Just remember it is not a race to the top, so take your time if the switchbacks prove challenging for you. When you finish the switchbacks, you will arrive at Scout Lookout.
Once at Scout Lookout, you can take a right if you wish to climb to Angel’s Landing before continuing (see our article about Angel’s Landing here). If you are going to skip Angel’s Landing, take a left here to stay on the West Rim Trail. If you are not going to the top of Angel’s Landing, I would still take a few moments to look at the Landing from below. It is a challenging and adventurous climb to the top and people watching from below can be very entertaining.
Continuing on the West Rim Trail, you will have some fantastic views of Zion Canyon and Angel’s Landing. In a short while, these views will fade, as will the red of the rocks that make the main corridor of Zion so striking. The rock becomes progressively whiter with streaks of pink. The trail is no less interesting, but it is not as striking as what you witnessed in the main corridor. The trail will descend at first, but will then begin a somewhat steady climb to Cabin Spring which is 2.9 miles from Scout Lookout.
You can, of course, continue on from Cabin Spring as the trail still has 9.7 miles to its terminus at Lava Point. By the time you reach Cabin Spring, however, you will have seen the prettiest and most dramatic views of this hike. You will also have gained 2,500 feet over 4.5 miles since leaving the Grotto. If you continue, you will be hiking on a plateau above Zion Canyon. The hike is diverse and interesting, but by no means as pretty or dramatic as the hike to this point and only has limited views of what lies below the plateau. The world is your oyster, so do what feels right at the moment. Just make sure to be safe and, most importantly, have fun!
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Additional Information (Click below to follow the links.)
West Rim Trail Slideshow
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Gear We Use for Day Hiking
To see descriptions of the gear Chris & Mac use for day hiking, as well as links to manufacturers and retailers offering the gear for sale, please CLICK HERE.
Articles About Other Regional Outventures
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