|West Rim Trail—SuperHike
Length: 14.5 miles (one way)
Trail Map: Zion National Park Trails Illustrated - Buy
Description: A long, tremendous hike with awesome vistas of some of the most breathtaking mountains, canyons, and forests that Zion has to offer, challenging ascents, and even snow in the middle of the summer heat, West Rim Trail has a lot to offer.
The West Rim Trail is a seasonal backpacking trail that takes visitors south from just below the Lava Point Campground, trekking across the large Horse Pasture Plateau, then down toward Angels Landing and the Grotto Picnic Area. Part of the trek, a valley tucked in between the plateau and Mount Majestic, called Little Siberia becomes impassable due to snow and ice during the colder months. Though it is possible to march the entire length of the route in one day, most visitors make it a two-day trip, camping either at Potato Hollow or Cabin Springs, purifying their own water as they go. A permit is required to camp within the park.
Though generally a backpacking route, the West Rim can be negotiated in one long day of hiking. It is not even 15 miles, which is not that bad in and of itself. But much of the route is up and down steep slopes. Transportation will need to be arranged from the Grotto Picnic Area, back up to Lava Point; if traveling in a group with more than one vehicle, leave one of them at each location. From Lava Point to the Grotto is roughly 3,100 feet of elevation difference, so most hikers prefer to go from the top down.
Lava Point is located at the northernmost end of the east section of Zion, less than four miles south of Kolob Reservoir. Descending from Lava Point, the trail leads hikers past Goose Creek, Wildcat Canyon, Sawmill Spring, and then into the hollows of the plateau, past Sleepy, and down into the wooded ponds of Potato, where they will find the first of the camping grounds. This entire area of the plateau is heavily wooded and very beautiful. If doing the West Rim Trail as an overnight backpacking adventure, Potato Hollow is recommended as the nicer of the two camping areas. As it is not very far from the trailhead, backpackers often reach it early in the day, allowing a chance for short hikes into Corral Hollow, Sleepy Hollow, along the Scenic West Rim Route, or for the adventurous, even exploring Wildcat Canyon.
From Potato, the trail follows either the west rim of the plateau (along the Scenic West Rim Route), or Telephone Canyon, descending directly to the other camping ground, Cabin Spring. The Scenic West Rim Route offers peeks of the Right Fork of North Creek, and the deep bowl of Phantom Valley.
From Cabin Spring, also known as West Rim Spring, hikers will descend the switchbacks of the south face of the plateau, and into Little Siberia. Mount Majestic is to their immediate right, and the trail hugs the base of that massive rock formation until it reaches the bottom of the valley formed by the Telephone Canyon and Imlay Canyon confluence. At the valley, the trail passes Cathedral Mountain and ends up balancing across the top of the rim of Zion Canyon until it reaches Scouts Overlook. Hikers must descend Walters Wiggles at this point (unless they wish to continue on to Angels Landing), taking them down the switchbacks, and into Refrigerator Canyon. Refrigerator Canyon dumps hikers onto the switchbacks above the Grotto Picnic Area, the end of the journey.
The Lava Point Campground is located on the bluff above the trailhead. Though considered a ‘primitive’ campground, it is exceptionally beautiful, offering crystal views of the Cedar Breaks National Monument to the north, the vast system of canyons and monoliths of Zion to the south, and the star-filled skies at night.
The northernmost of the two authorized camping areas along the West Rim Trail, Potato Hollow is the first one that hikers or backpackers will come across if they start from Lava Point. Potato Hollow is an important watering hole for much of the wildlife of the plateau, and respectful, quiet visitors might be rewarded with sightings of deer and other wild animals coming to the pond to drink.
Cabin Spring (West Rim Spring)
This is the southernmost of the authorized camping areas for backpackers who have come down from Lava Point. It is one of several heavily wooded areas along the West Rim Trail. This is the very southern tip of the enormous Horse Pasture Plateau, a—mostly—level formation that stretches from this point, all the way north to Lava Point, and is riddled with forested hollows, canyons, and valleys all along its length.
This valley is known to have snow and ice in the middle of summer, and during winter months is dangerous, and generally considered impassable even with equipment.
The trail begins across the river from the Grotto Picnic Area. It travels over pretty level terrain until you hit the switchbacks that take you up to Refrigerator Canyon. Water is available here, as well as relaxing shade, and the shuttle system that can take visitors to other attractions, or to the park entrance.