Pine Valley Peak is an objective offering quite easy access, even by Zion National Park standards, albeit still obscure. It is located in my favorite section of the park, the lush and high elevation area known as Kolob Terrace, southeast of Kolob Canyon and northwest of Zion Canyon. Pine Valley Peak itself is hemmed in by Lee and Pine Valley directly north of Tabernacle Dome and the Guardian Angel peaks. The Wildcat Trailhead, located at a huge bend in the Kolob Terrace Road, practically puts you at the foot of the peak. That being said, Pine Valley Peak’s somewhat precarious rock condition keeps most scramblers disinterested despite the fact that Pine Valley Peak is actually higher than North Guardian Angel, a much more popular objective and one we did later in the same day. Working on sparse beta, we were looking for a 5.6 route up the north face and/or a 5.4 route up the east face. What we found was something in between that involves a slabby pitch up the east face followed with a steeper and much looser north pitch that follows a chimney system to easier ground. The climbing is easy, with the trust in pro and rock, for the most part, void. Pine Valley Peak has been described as a large “white Hershey kiss”. I suppose I would have to agree with that assessment.
The name "Zion" meaning "place of refuge," was given to Zion Canyon by Mormon pioneers in 1919. The park is comprised of 229 square miles of protected wilderness and is home to Kolob Arch, the world’s largest, not to mention many big wall routes. We set out to climb both Pine Valley Peak and North Guardian Angel in the same day and found the going quite easy. We could have easily snuck in a 3rd or 4th peak with daylight to spare. There are no published routes up Pine Valley Peak and you will find little if any assistance from the web (2007). I would not give Pine Valley Peak an alpine rating as North Guardian has (II) since the approach is so short and I would rate the climbing lower to mid 5th class on very suspect rock. Using protection in this kind of sandstone is not sound. You are better off slinging the bushes. I placed two pieces of gear via two technical pitches.
They have reintroduced a significant elk herd in this region. I spotted the herd several years ago, about 45-50. I also saw, for the first and only time since, over 100 deer gathered together in this part of Kolob Terrace. I have never witnessed deer gather in such a large group. We visited with the lone occupant in these parts for many years before he moved to New Mexico and he told us of several mountain lion sightings. This part of Zion has a true alpine flare, offering a great escape from the heat of summer.
Getting ThereOut of Virgin, UT off of state highway 9, access the Kolob Terrace Road on the north side of the highway and start winding your way through and up beautiful countryside until you enter Zion National Park. The color of the road actually changes to let you know you are within the parks boundaries. As you continue north, the road will venture back east. You are looking for the Wildcat Trailhead on the right side of the road. This is a common trailhead as it is used for the popular Subway Canyon objective. There are restrooms at this location.
Red TapeYou will not need a climbing permit nor do you need to enter the park via the kiosks and thus pay a National Park fee to access the park. However, I always purchase an annual pass to US and Canadian National Parks. If you are going to make more than 4 visits per year, I advise this option.
Backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips in Zion National Park, including climbing bivouacs. Reservations are available for many backcountry trips in the park. A reservation does not guarantee that you will receive a permit. Reasons that a permit will be denied include high water, flash flood warnings, and wildland fires. Depending upon the backcountry zone, 40%-60% of the total number of backcountry permits are available through reservations. The remainder of permits are available as walk-in permits.
My favorite place for dinner in Springdale is the outdoor patio at Oscars. It also appears to be the local’s favorite. Most of the staff is into climbing as well, so it is a great place to plan your next climbing day and maybe even pick up a partner. Ask for Zach. The Mean Bean across from Oscars is one of my favorite independent coffee houses period. Ask for Joe.
When to ClimbSummer days are hot (95-110°F), but overnight lows are usually comfortable (65-70°F). Climbing in the middle of the day during the summer in southern Utah is not recommended. Carry plenty of water regardless. Afternoon thunderstorms are common from mid-July through mid-September. Storms may produce waterfalls as well as flash floods. Sandstone is weak when wet, so avoid climbing in damp areas or right after a rain. I climbed Pine Valley Peak in May, 2007 and we were snowed on (lightly) most of the day. You start at a much higher elevation than most objectives within the park. I highly recommend reserving Pine Valley Peak and neighboring objectives for the heat of summer. Avoid them for sure when the rock is wet. Winter in Zion Canyon is fairly mild. Winter storms can bring rain or light snow to Zion Canyon and much heavier snow in the higher elevations, i.e. Kolob Terrace. Clear days may become quite warm, reaching 60°F; nights are often in the 20s and 30s. Zion roads are plowed, except the Kolob Terrace road, which is closed in winter.
Camping/LodgingThere is at least one BLM campsite on Kolob Terrace road before you get to the National Park Boundary. There are two great campsites inside Zion’s south entrance. I have stayed at the South Campground just inside the gates. The scenic spots are on the North Fork of the Virgin River. This is a first come, first serve campground via self registration of $16 per night in 2005. This is a popular park however and I advise booking a site ahead of time at Watchman Campground if you think you are going during a popular period. Facilities include restrooms, drinking water, picnic tables, fire grates, RV dump stations. No showers are available at these park campsites but are available at an in town private facility for a fee. There is also a 6-site primitive campground called Lava Point, no water, no fee, and it is not open all year.
Springdale has tons of lodging options as well including a privately owned campground right before the entrance to Zion National Park. If you demand the luxuries of town, I recommend Majestic View Lodge. I have stayed here on several occasions and the rooms are first class with great views. There is also the privately run Zion Lodge which is in the heart of the park.
It is actually “illegal” in Zion to camp at the base of a climbing wall or in your vehicle.