OverviewWith a length of 14.9 miles, West Rim is the longest and arguably the most scenic established hiking trail in Zion National Park. The trail starts in the cool forested northern highlands of the park and heads south on top of Horse Pasture Plateau providing the hiker with spectacular views of slick rock mountains and canyons. Near its southern end, the trail begins a 3000 ft vertical drop to end at The Grottos Trailhead in Zion Canyon.
One way day hikes, are usually done from north to south. You can pay one of the commercial tour operators in Springdale, Utah to drop you off at the northern trailhead. Designated campsites along the length of the trail (that require advanced reservation), make it possible to hike West Rim as an overnight trip or as part of a multi-day trans-Zion backpacking trip (From Lees Pass Trailhead to Route 9 near the eastern entrance to the park).
Getting ThereDirections to the southern trailhead:
The Grottos Trailhead is located on the main park road 3.2 miles north of the town of Springdale. April through October, private cars are not allowed on the main park road (Zion Canyon Road). You must park at the designated areas and take the park shuttle during these times.
Directions to the northern trailhead:
From the southern entrance of Zion National Park in Springdale, UT drive 13.5 mile west on Route 9 to the town of Virgin. Turn north onto Kolob Reservoir Road. Drive this narrow paved road 21 miles until you see the sign for turnoff to West Rim Trailhead on the right side of the road. Turn right and drive the well graded dirt road one mile to a split. Right goes to Lava Point Campground and left to West Rim. The sign said road may be impassable when wet. I did not want to chance it and started my hike at the split. The road continued another 1.4 miles to reach the trailhead. The surface of the road was not rough but it had somewhat steep sections.
Depending on the amount of snowfall, the upper parts of Kolob Reservoir Road will be closed October through April. Please contact the park.
Route DescriptionAll distances are per my GPS.
Hiking from north to south will get you a net elevation loss of 3200 ft but beware that you still have to deal with short sections of uphill. My GPS measured a total vertical uphill of 1300 ft.
Follow the trail south over the top of Horse Pasture Plateau. After only 0.1 miles, you will go by the junction of Wildcat Canyon Trail on the right. The plateau is covered by beautiful tall pine trees. You can look back to see the cliffs of Lava Point.
At this point you will only have glimpses of the dramatic sites that will come to view later.
The trail will soon take you to the edge of a branch of Wildcat Canyon where you will have great views of South Guardian Angel.
You will quickly go away from the edge of the canyon and continue south over the plateau. Tall pine trees gradually go away. After 4.1 miles, the trail begins to descend into Potato Hollow.
At the bottom of Potato Hallow you are down to an elevation of 6775 ft. The trail then begins to go up a hill to reach a 7240 ft high point.
You will now have great views of slick rock mountains and canyons to the west.
After another short downhill and uphill, you will reach the first junction with Telephone Canyon Trail on the left (going on Telephone Canyon Trail will make the hike 1.4 miles shorter). Continue right on West Rim Trail. For the next few miles, the trail will follow the edge of a plateau that is covered by mostly bushes.
The views to the west are most spectacular.
The trail then reaches the south end of the plateau. It turns east and begins to descend.
You will then reach the second junction with Telephone Canyon Trail and continue to descend.
The trail then appears as a path dug into a wall making a few switchbacks going down the wall.
At the bottom of the switchbacks, you will be in a branch of Telephone Canyon.
You will now look up to see slick-rock mountains rising up above you.
The trail crosses a small side canyon over a bridge and then begins a 350 ft vertical climb.
After the high point, you will start to get views of Zion Canyon.
The trail begins its final descent. At an edge, you can look straight down to see Virgin River and the park’s main road at the bottom of Zion Canyon.
The mountain known as Angels Landing will now be in full view.
You will then reach the junction with the 0.4 mile long spur trail to Angels Landing. If you have time and energy, you could bag this mountain but beware that the trail has some exposed sections (see Angels Landing Page).
The trails becomes paved and, in summer, you are likely to see many people on the trail after this. You will go down a series of switchbacks.
And will then hike at the bottom of Refrigerator Canyon.
Continue down the trail to reach the bottom of Zion Canyon.
Cross the bridge over Virgin River to end at the Grottos Trailhead.
Essential Gear & CampingHiking Equipment.
Camping is only allowed at the designated camp sites that require prior reservation. Contact the park. See link below.
Red Tape & WeatherYou must pay park entrance fee. Please beware that there are no fee booths on Kolob Terrace Road. You must pay in Springdale or elsewhere.
No permits needed for day hikes. See “Getting There” for road closures. See link below for all rules and regulations:
See the forecast for Springdale, UT
The weather will be much cooler at the northern trailhead.