|East Temple as seen from the West Rim Trail|
The West Rim Trail is one of the top backpacking trips in all of Utah. It is the best and most renown backpacking trail in Zion National Park. For over a decade I've had it on my wish list and never seemed to get things started. Finally I made a short bucket list of things to do, short enough that I could accomplish some of these things each year. I have less than 10 things on this list. West Rim Trail made the list and I finally stopped making excuses and instead took those days off work. Time to stop planning and start doing.
I went as a walk-in to the ranger station at 6 AM, waited in line and got my lucky top-choice campsite: # 5. Why #5? Campsite 5 is right in the middle of the hike, it's right on the edge of Phantom Valley, it's right where I wanted to be for sunset and sunrise. And I got it. Yes! Campsites 4 and 6 are also on the plateau but were reserved in advance online.
|Lava Point Trailhead: 13.5 or 14.5 Miles to the Main Zion Canyon on the West Rim Trail.|
Pictured are my sister-in-law and my wife.
Starting at Lava Point at over 7,000 feet we began the long gradual hike toward Zion's main canyon which is near 4,000 feet. The first few hours are pretty, nothing spectacular. The hiking is easy with a gradual downhill journey. At about 3 miles, we got a fantastic view into the Left Fork of North Creek.
|First View into the Left Fork of North Creek|
and South Guardian Angel
|West Rim Trail: the Viewpoints and Views become more numerous and better throughout!|
|West Rim Trail sunset photograph|
|Inclined Temple as seen from the West Rim Trail at dawn|
|West Rim Trail: Camp Site 5|
I never sleep that great while camping, especially on the first night. The campsite is pretty basic with a log or two for sitting and some rocks in a rectangle around our tent site. You must carry all your water and can only fill up at natural springs. Our first and only opportunity for this would be at Cabin Springs, a few miles ahead. We broke camp in the morning and kept hiking with great views all on our right (to the West).
|Panorama of the Views from Horse Pasture Plateau over Phantom Valley. Campsites 4 - 6 each share this massive view!|
After Cabin Springs, the trail descends on a path cut into the stone cliff! There are switchbacks cut into the cliff that make a pathway about 3-5 feet wide which allowed us to hike single-file down into a hanging valley above the main canyon floor. We passed Behunin Canyon at the bottom of the switchbacks. It is here that we began to see day-hikers coming up from Angel's Landing. The closer we got to Angel's Landing, the more neighbors we had.
|West Rim Trail looks down on all these finger canyons: Phantom Valley on the Right, Behunin Canyon on the Left.|
|Typical scenery below Cabin Springs and |
the switchbacks with tall Pines and Cliffs
|West Rim Trail just higher than Scout's Lookout and Angel's Landing. The trail on the right is headed|
up the West Rim Trail. You can see the trail cutting diagonally up from the lower left of this
picture. That's the beginning of the ascent to Cabin Springs. It get much steeper later on.
West Rim Trail won't disappoint. 5/5 Stars! It's challenging without being technical, long enough to escape the crowds without being too long. It's perfect.
|West Rim Trail Photography and Backpacking|
Gordon's hike rating:
Hike Difficulty: ★★★ Moderate
Trail Condition: ★★★★ Excellent
Trail Hazards: ★★ Mild: wide trails but exposure to drop offs
Trailhead: Zion: Lava Point
Time Required: 2 days with an overnight camp on Horse Pasture Plateau
Distance round trip: 14 miles
Off the Beaten Path: ★★★ Yes, 3 Stars
Scenery: ★★★★★ Outstanding, 5 Stars
Photographic Potential: ★★★ Excellent, 4 Stars