Monday, December 8, 2008

Kolob Canyon to Zion Canyon Backpacking Trip, Zion National Park, UT

Lafayette, CO - Ok, so I'm getting behind on the pictures again. As usual, we've been keeping plenty busy. Since our last entry, we wrapped up our California trip with a bit of climbing in Joshua Tree. We put our kitchen back together and installed a new garbage disposal (the old garbage disposal ruptured and spewed water, rice and other miscellaneous food bits all over the insides of the cabinets about 2 1/2 hours before our plane to California was due to depart). Suwei cleaned and rearranged her office and caught up on about 3 years worth of filing in the process. Suwei got another year older over the weekend. And...we just got a new backdoor installed this morning.

I also worked on posting more pictures. This current batch comes from a 5-day backpacking trip, Suwei & I did right after the wedding. I guess you could call this our honeymoon. We hiked from Lee Pass through Kolob Canyon via the Kolob Arch and the West Rim Trail to Zion Canyon (46 miles total including side jaunts). Joining us were Suwei's brother, Eng-Shien, our reverend, Bill, one of our volunteer wedding photographers, Erhhung, and our good friend, Jen, who I'm sure would have been very helpful if we gave her anything to do.

I must say this hike has been one of my all time favorites. Everyday was different and the views just kept getting more and more spectacular. I highly recommend it.

Here is the itinerary Suwei put together (click on the maps for more detail):

Day 1: Monday, Sept. 29

Start: Lee Pass Trailhead
Trail: La Verkin Creek Trail
End: La Verkin Creek Campsite (hopefully one of the following campsites which are big enough and still available: 9, 11-13)
Distance: ~7.5 depending on campsite obtained
* Lee Pass to Kolob Arch Trail: 6.5 mi
* Kolob Arch Trail: 1 mi roundtrip (just day pack)
Elevation Change: -837 ft (6064 ft start, 5227 ft end), 459 ft net gain, 1296 ft net loss
Water sources: La Verkin Creek
Average High and Low Temps: 74 F, 42 F

Description: The trail begins at Lee Pass and passes by the open finger canyons of the near by cliffs as it travels along Timber Creek. After coming around the corner and within view of La Verkin Creek, the trail descends the slope down to the creek bottom on a hard packed trail. Once on the creek bed, the trail heads up stream offering amazing views of the surrounding cliffs. The trail is 7 miles from Lee Pass to Kolob Arch, one of the main destinations of the route and possibly the nations largest free-standing arch. From there you can continue up canyon to Beartrap Canyon and Willis Canyon to extend your trip or offer day hiking options. This is a great area to spend a few days. Camping is permitted in designated sites only.

Day 2: Tuesday, Sept. 30

Start: La Verkin Creek Campsite near Lee Pass and Hop Valley Trail Intersection
Trail: La Verkin Creek Trail, Beartrap Canyon (no trail), and Hop Valley Trail
End: Kolob Horse Camp on Hop Valley Trail
Distance: ~6.5 miles
* Campsite to La Verkin and Hop Valley Trail Intersection: 0.3 mi
* Trail Intersection to Beartrap Canyon Waterfall: 4.7 mi roundtrip (just day pack)
* Trail Intersection to Kolob Horse Camp: 1.5 mi
Elevation Change: 454ft (5236 ft start, 5690 ft end), the chart below says: 5769 ft net gain, 5301 ft net loss, but I think that's just by unsteady hand...I think it's more just the rise at the end out of La Verkin Creek of about 800 ft.
Water Sources: Beatty Spring (near campsite #16 on LaVerkin Creek Trail, flowing as of 9/15/08), La Verkin Creek, none on the Hop Valley Trail
Average High and Low Temps: 73 F, 42 F

Description: The day begins at La Verkin Creek campsite to the intersection with Hop Valley Trailhead where we will ditch our backpacks and do a 4.7 mile day hike along La Verkin Creek through Beartrap Canyon to the beautiful Beartrap Waterfalls. This day hike is an out-and-back. Once back to the trail intersection, we'll pick up our backpacks and climb 1.5 miles (~800 ft) out of the La Verkin Creek on the Hop Valley Trail. Keep in mind that you will need to leave La Verkin Creek with enough water for the remainder of Day 2 and for the first 5 miles of Day 3 (I plan to leave La Verkin Creek with 1 gallon of water, ~4 liters). There is no water along the Hop Valley Trail.

Day 3: Wednesday, Oct. 1

Start: Kolob Horse Camp on the Hop Valley Trail
Trail: Hop Valley Trail, Connector Trail, and Wildcat Canyon Trail
End: Wildcat Canyon Trail before the Wildcat Spring, open camping (no designated campsites)
Distance: ~10 miles

* Kolob Horse Camp to Hop Valley Trailhead: 5 mi
* Connector Trail: 4 mi
* Wildcat Canyon Trail: 1 mi

Elevation Change: 1452 ft (5694 ft start, 7146 ft end), 1941 ft net gain, 489 ft net loss
Water Sources: None along the Hop Valley Trail, re-supply drop at the Hop Valley Trailhead
Average High and Low Temps: 73 F, 42 F
Description: The day begins on the Hop Valley Trail and oh-so-gradually climbs (632 feet over 5 miles) from the breathtaking valley floor of Hop Valley with it's flat sandy bottom and vertical walls rising on both sides to open fields with wide open views of the surrounding rock formations. At the Hop Valley Trailhead, Karl's truck will be parked with our re-supply. We will have at least 10 gallons of water and also a huge cooler to store food. Most likely we will reach the re-supply around lunch time or earlier. Let's plan on eating lunch there. (I think I might pick up a watermelon or 2 for a nice after lunch treat.) This will be our only water source for the remainder of the day and ~2 miles into Day 4 (so I will be departing the re-supply with 1 gallon of water...maybe an overkill but better safe than thirsty.) Once restocked and refueled, we will cross the Kolob Terrace Road via the Connector Trail to the Wildcat Canyon Trail. The Wildcat Canyon Trail offers views of the Northgate Peaks as it winds through the ponderosa pine forest up to open meadows. This area has no established campsites but does require a permit.

Day 4: Thursday, Oct. 2

Start: Campsite along the Wildcat Canyon Trail
Trail: Wildcat Canyon Trail and West Rim Trail
End: West Rim Campsite
Distance: ~11 miles
* Wildcat Canyon Camp to West Rim Trail: 4 mi
* West Rim Trail to West Rim Campsite: ~6.6 depending on campsite obtained
Elevation Change: 110 ft (7172ft start, 7282 ft end), 746 ft net gain, 636 ft net loss
Water Sources:
*Wildcat Springs (along the Wildcat trail 1-1/2 miles from the junction of Wildcat and West Rim trails, flowing as of 9/13/08)
* Sawmill Springs (near campsite #9 on the West Rim, good flow/small pond as of 9/12/08)
* Potato Hollow (near campsite #8 on the West Rim, small flow as of 9/5/08)
Average High and Low Temps: 73 F, 41 F

Description: The Wildcat Canyon Trail opens into the meadows before coming onto the edge of Wildcat Canyon offering sweeping views down into the deep canyon. After crossing the canyon, the trail climbs slightly until connecting up with the West Rim Trail. The West Rim Trail traverses across the high alpine elevation with sweeping views out into the Wildcat Canyon area for the first 6.5 miles as you drop into Potato Hollow. Next the trail climbs out of Potato Hollow before it splits into the Telephone Canyon Trail and the West Rim trail. The West Rim Trail follows along the rim with views of Phantom valley and the canyons to the south. The Telephone Canyon Trail provides a shortcut between Potato Hollow and Cabin Springs or a possible loop for hikers entering and exiting the same trailhead. Camping is in designated sites only.

Day 5: Friday, Oct. 3

Start: West Rim Campsite
Trail: West Rim Trail
End: West Rim Trailhead, Grotto Picnic Area
Distance: 7.5 miles
Elevation Change: -3018 ft (7298 ft start, 4280 ft end), 1574 ft net gain, 4592 ft net loss
Water Sources: Cabin Springs (near campsite #2 on the West Rim, small flow as of 9/6/08)
Average High and Low Temps: 73 F, 41 F at start, 83 F, 53 F in Zion Canyon

Description: At Cabin Springs the trail begins a short drop in elevation and descends 2,500 feet over 4.7 miles ending at the Grotto Picnic Area with views into Zion Canyon. About 5.88 miles along the West Rim Trailhead, we will hit the trail to Angel's Landing. If you have never hiked up to Angel's Landing it's well worth the 0.5 mile side trip. We can drop our packs and just bring camera and lunch. From the trail end we'll take the park shuttle to Watchman campground where we have a campsite reserved for the night. Showers are available at several establishments in Springdale. Dinner at Oscar's on the patio?

Here is a link to Zion's Backcountry Planner for info on permits:

And here is the link to the slideshow. It's a bit large this time. We took lots and lots of photos and actually liked a good portion of them. Also included is Eng-Shien's gallery of photos. Check them out here:

Kolob to Zion Canyon Hike, Zion National Park, UT

Zion Backpacking (Eng-Shien's)


Unknown said...

Looks like an awesome hike. I'm getting ready to do it on May 19-May 22. Did you guys have any trouble finding water on the trail?

Somehowlost said...


It was a very, very good hike, one of my favorites. We did not have any problems with water. That said, I would recommend reading through though our daily descriptions of the trail. Each one has a short bit on water sources. We stuck with those recommendations and did just fine. You may have to adjust those recommendation if it is extraordinarily hot or dry, but again they worked fine for us. Hope that helps. Have fun out there.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the information. I am actually going to have a friend do a water drop at the Hop Valley trailhead for the stretch to Wildcat Canyon. Did you guys have any trouble finding the open camping in Wildcat Canyon???

Somehowlost said...

Tim, If you stop about a half mile or so before the spring you will have no problems finding a spot to camp. Beyond that we didn't see too many spots that would make great campsites, at least not for groups of six or more.