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Backpacker Magazine – January 2014

West Rim Trail

Score a unique perspective of half-mile-deep Zion Canyon on this big-view shuttle hike.

by: Sarah Stewart

Photo by Deby Dixon
Photo by BP0114SW_Dixon_WestRim_bjk445x260.jpg
Photo by Deby Dixon

Utah: Zion National Park

West Rim Trail

xperience this popular canyon all to yourself on this 14.5-mile point-to-point leading from a remote plateau 3,500 feet above the Virgin River to neck-craning views in the heart of the national park. Pack in a gallon of water per person, and depart from the West Rim trailhead (1) near 7,890-foot Lava Point (shuttle info at right). Hike 3 miles south through pines to a teaser glimpse of white-crowned, 7,140-foot South Guardian Angel, which emerges to the west. Watch for mule deer as you cross an aspen-dotted meadow en route to a 1.5-mile, gradual ascent to a junction (2) at mile 6.7. Keep right to embark on two of the most scenic miles in the entire Southwest, Chelise Simmons says. You’ll trace the western edge of scrubby, spring-wildflower-strewn Horse Pasture Plateau for a continuous panorama of tree-topped mesas giving way to a maze of 1,000-foot, sand-colored monoliths and sheer, blood-red cliffs.
“You’ll want to sit down and stay there for hours,” Simmons says. “The views just get better and better.” Make camp
(3) at mile 8.9 among the pines at site #3 (dry) for a rimside view of white-walled, 7,060-foot Castle Dome beyond your tent door. Next morning, drop 600 feet in .9 mile to replenish all water for day two at Cabin Springs (4) at mile 9.8 (another gallon per person).
Switchback below the rim into a cloistered side canyon
(5) (aka Little Siberia), which can hold snow through spring, to a steep, .5-mile ascent where the sandy trail transitions to slickrock. Soak in views of The Great White Throne’s 2,000-foot walls and the snaking curve of the Big Bend of the Virgin River (6) at mile 12.2. From rocky Scout Lookout (7) (mile 12.6), detour .5 mile along a knife-edge spine (hold a provided safety chain) to 5,790-foot Angels Landing for a panorama of the inner canyon. Retrace your steps to descend Walter’s Wiggles—a series of 21 brick and cement switchbacks—and enter the cool, shaded slot of Refrigerator Canyon. Traverse down a final set of switchbacks to reach the riverbank and The Grotto trailhead (8). Take the free Zion shuttle bus (March to November) back to your car. 

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