Zion National Park West Rim
United States Utah Zion Lodge
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West Rim: Some people do this as a long day hike. We chose to backpack and stay overnight on the trail. I’m a slow mover anyway, but this left lots of time for stopping and enjoying the views into the canyons below and across to other plateaus. This trail has it all: upland forests (damaged by a 2006 lightning fire), desert plateaus with cactus and wildflowers and deep canyons with exposed slickrock.
We started by getting a ride from the main canyon to the trail head at Lava Pt – about 1 hour by car. At the Lava Point Campground we took the Barney’s Trail shortcut down to the dirt road (0.3 miles). Note on the map that we turned north and tracked the road 0.7 miles back to the campground, and then returned to the intersection with Barney’s Trail. From there the dirt road goes down to the West Rim Trailhead (+0.7 miles).
The West Rim trail heads south/southeast and starts with a gentle descent along a meandering trail on the upper plateau, also called the Horse Pasture Plateau. With a few ups and downs, you descend only about 250 ft in about 4.3 miles (starting from about 7460 ft). Along the way you get some great views of the west canyons including WildcatCanyon and the Left Fork of the North Creek, which leads your eye to the majestic South Guardian Angle peak. On the east, in the distance you can see the plateaus and peaks hiding the famous Virgin River and the Narrows canyon. All along the way there are golden eagles and other birds soaring on the updrafts from the desert and canyons.
Then the trail descends a bit more steeply dropping 400 ft over the next mile to Potato Hollow, and then ascends that same 400 ft over the next half mile giving you some views of the Right Fork. You get to go back down a few hundred feet and then back up to an elevation of about 7370 ft. Now the views open up to the west showing the Right Fork canyon and towering views of IvinsMountain and the InclinedTemple.
At about 7 miles you reach the intersection of Telephone Canyon Trail – which was closed due to sever storm damage. The views to the west continue as you climb a hundred feet or so over the next 1.6 miles. Finally we begin our final descent. We dropped about 500 feet over the next 1.5 miles to our chosen campsite #2 located just above the big drop to BehaninCanyon and RefrigeratorCanyon. This is also the spot where the Telephone Canyon Trail reconnects and where the West Rim Spring is located.
Our total for the first day was 13.1 miles, which included an extra 1.4 miles at the start exploring the road back to the campground (not included in description above). Our net descent was about 1100 ft, but there was about 1000 of ascent in there as well.
The West Rim Trail has nine designated campsites, starting with number nine at the northwest end and ending with sites 1 and 2 at the southeast end. You actually reach site 1 a bit before site #2. Site 2 is a great location with a sandy floor and plenty of rock “tables and chairs” and a well positioned sitting log/bench. It has great views down to the canyons below. That night, we only set up the bug net/nest of our GoLite Shangri La tent. That left us with starry filled sky all night.
The descent past BehaninCanyon starts with a 500 ft drop in ½ mile using switchbacks cut into the side of the cliff by the CCC in the 1930’s (need to check exact timeframe). The descent continues with some scrambling up across the slickrock of RefrigeratorCanyon. Now we get great views of the main canyon and the approaching Angles Landing. At about 3 miles you reach Scout’s Lookout at the base of the trail to Angel’s Landing. The Angles Landing trail is about ½ mile along a knife edge that juts out into the main canyon. It was already packed with people by the time we reached arrived so we passed right by. (See separate trip report for 6/17/2010)
From Scout’s Lookout you descend another 1300 ft or so over about 2.3 miles using the Walter’s Wiggles – a series of steep switch backs cut into the cliff by the CCC that leads into RefrigeratorCanyon and more switchbacks until you reach the trail’s end at the Grotto. In the last stretch we saw a spotted owl hanging out in a tree. After a few minutes it flew to the opposite back of the stream and spread its wings to soak up the rays.
Our total for the second day was 5.4 miles with a net descent of about 2400 ft.