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Zion National Park - Eagle Crags


Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 5.4 miles

A little-used 7.66-mile out & back day hike to jagged pinnacles just outside Zion National Park
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Just southwest of Zion National Park, above the town of Rockville, lies Canaan Mountain, a 7,000-foot-high sandstone mesa defined by the appropriately named Vermillion Cliffs that encircle its flanks. The northern end of Canaan Mountain forms a narrow ripsaw ridgeline that ends in the Eagle Crags, whose pinnacles are clearly visible from the Springville entrance to Zion.

The 3.83-mile Eagle Crags Trail makes an excellent alternative to Zion Canyon hikes whenever the park seems too crowded, or rainy weather prohibits flood-prone treks. Avoid mid-summer, when pinyon gnats get fierce and crushing heat lessens the appeal. Take all the water you'll need. There is none on the route.

While the actual summit of Eagle Crags is inaccessible to all but accomplished rock climbers, one of its prominent subsummits (ECG009) is reachable via a trail hike followed by a stout talus slope, and a short but exposed scramble. A rope and light rack is advisable for the truly pinnacle-obsessed, but any hiker with stout legs and a good ticker can get within a hundred feet of topping out.

From the trailhead, hike SE along a faint single track that soon becomes clearer and it gets rocky. Soon you'll pass through a fence, then encounter a Wilderness Study Area boundary sign as the trail turns sandy.

The track continues SE in a business-like manner, passing through pinyon/juniper forests with increasingly dramatic views of the Eagle Crags, including the obvious "Mrs. Butterworth," named for its resemblance to the syrup bottle matron.

Follow the trail as it switchbacks up to a spur ridge on the NE corner of the crags, and an overhanging boulder that offers shade, and a convenient but waterless impromptu bivy site. Most hikers turn around here. Beyond the boulder, the trail becomes fainter and rougher as it follows a gradually descending traverse across a steep sidehill dotted with yucca.

This old cattle trail eventually spits out onto a broad, flat bench and arrows South. Look for an open slope that climbs to your right/West, toward the ridgeline above. Leave the trail (ECG006) and bash up loose sand, avoiding brush as necessary, following the occasional cairn. Wrestle your way to the saddle overhead, then turn right and scramble steeply up and left/ West around the base of a large cliff. Soon you'll be briefly stymied by a cliff.

Find the shoulder-width crack that lets you walk right through the rock. Scramble as needed along the ridgeline. Eventually the route becomes scrambly Class II-IV for the last 200 feet.  If you make it to the last waypoint, enjoy the 360 views from atop this table-sized summit. Reverse the route to restaurants and cold microbrews in Springdale.

To Trailhead: Start in the center of Rockville, 4.5 miles West along UT 9 from Zion's western gateway. Turn south on subtly signed Bridge Road. This soon crosses an old iron bridge and then curves east at a Y junction. Go straight as the road turns to graded dirt, then climbs steeply up towards the microwave relay towers visible above town. 1.45 miles after leaving UT 9, turn left/East and follow that fork .40 miles to the signed Eagle Crags trailhead at a small campsite/party spot. Sometimes the sign is missing.

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