Trail Type: Point to Point
Start: Zion Lodge (Shuttle Stop 5)
Finish: Court of the Patriarchs (Shuttle Stop 4)
Duration: 12-14 Hours
Season: Spring, Fall
Difficulty: 4A IV R
Located in Zion National Park between Lady Mountain and Isaac Peak, Jacob Canyon is an advanced canyoneering route that requires hiking, scrambling, chimneying, downclimbing and rappelling. It is not suitable for beginners. But if you have the skills, you’ll be treated to vertiginous views of popular places within Zion National Park (and beyond!) before you make your way into some of the most unspoiled, unsung, unpeoply wilderness areas in Utah’s most popular park.
The route to Jacob Canyon starts on the Middle Emerald Pools trail. After about a quarter mile (just past an informational plaque), there is a lightly trafficked, unmarked path on the left that leads to the summit of Lady Mountain.
The steep, strenuous trail gains 2,345 feet of elevation in a mere 1.6 miles and involves three sections of technical climbing. Though it was the first trail in Zion National Park, the Lady Mountain trail is no longer maintained by the National Park Service. Long sleeves and pants are recommended to protect your arms and legs from overgrown brush.
Once you reach the sandstone summit, look for a metal “compass” disc and you’ll be rewarded with commanding 360-views of the park. Feel free to thumb your nose at the ant-like hikers marching up the switchbacks to Angels Landing — you have the superior view.
When you head over and down to Jacob Canyon, you’ll quickly realize why this route is best in spring or fall. Its southern exposure makes it too hot to enjoy in the summer months and it is too treacherous in the winter months. Rappel and downclimb your way to some stunning narrows, then continue down to the wide, vegetated canyon below. Your mantra here is “leaves of three, let it be” as poison ivy is often mixed in with the rest of the greenery.
The stroll through the forested canyon is beyond beautiful. Enjoy its serenity, because soon you’ll come to a few more rappels followed by a 150-foot downclimb followed by a 240-foot rappel. (Adrenaline junkies won’t be disappointed!) One last rappel passes by a spring. Then channel your inner jackalope for some boulder hopping to the Court of the Patriarchs.
Follow the trail past the horse coral and water tanks to the shuttle stop.
Visitors are required to use the shuttle system from March until November. To get the earliest possible start, stay at Zion Lodge so you don’t have to ride the shuttle into the park. If you are camping at Watchman or staying in Springville, check the schedule and plan accordingly. That goes for your return trip as well.
Before You Go
Zion National Park requires canyoneering permits for any route that uses descending gear or ropes. Permits can be acquired in-person at the visitor center or online using your Zion Wilderness Reservations account. You will also need a physical map and a reliable GPS device.
Though Jacob Canyon is usually dry, there is a possibility of flash flooding in narrow sections. Be sure to check current watches and warnings before embarking on this unforgettable adventure.
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