Let me preface this post by saying Zion is an absolutely magical place and well worth the visit. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you may have noticed I tend to put a positive spin on most places but this time I really mean it. The Zion Traverse aka the Trans Zion trail is roughly 48 Miles that many people run in one shot but Queen B and I decided to enjoy it as a multi day backpacking trip. With good planning it is very runable. I highly recommend this hike.
Day 1 10/31/17 5 Miles
This morning, after climbing out of Goldstrike Canyon, QB and I started driving towards Utah. We stopped in Boulder City to eat fish tacos at the famous ‘Coffee Cup’ then proceeded to Zion NP, about 2–3 hours away. Pulling off the highway at the visitors center we got permits for a couple nights in the backcountry then drove up to the Lees Pass trailhead. The traverse is a 48 Mile tour through the park that many people run in one shot. Running it sounds fun but this time the plan is to backpack it over the course of 2+ Days. From Lees Pass we walked about 5 miles along the La Verken Creek Trail and got to campsite #6 right at sunset. From the beginning the scenery has been spectacular. The soft dirt path we walked on was nice and easy and well graded and there were views of huge red mountains all over the place. Tonight is clear, cool, and calm so we decided to cowboy camp. Hopefully being Halloween and everything this canyon isn’t haunted. If you ever do this hike make sure to check out the swimming hole at campsite #6 and get here early enough in the day to swim.
Day 2 11/1 25 Miles
Cowboy camping in the canyon was pretty cozy although the cool air woke me up a couple times. I’d rather sleep through the night but each time I woke up I was rewarded with a sky full of stars and some awesome shooters. The light of day didn’t reach us until close to 8am so I ended up sleeping in a little by default. From our campsite we walked about a mile until we reached a side trail to Kolob Arch. This added another mile plus to our day but the natural arch was worth checking out. Once back on trail we climbed a little then dropped into Hop Valley. This place was awesome! We followed a creek as it serpentined through a red rock canyon with cottonwood trees wearing yellow foliage. From Hop Valley we took the Connector trail that had some great views of distant rock formations then walked along Wildcat Canyon. I still have yet to see a big cat in the wild. Eventually we climbed up onto a plateau and followed the West Rim trail to our home for the night; campsite #5. It got breezy and chilly on the plateau so once we got to our site we bundled up and from a cliff watched the sunset over a landscape unlike anything that I’ve ever seen before.
Day 3 11/2 19 Miles
Right away this morning we enjoyed an impressive sunrise from the plateau then began our descent along the West Rim trail and into Zion Canyon. The fall colors of the park combined with the colors of the canyon were so cool. Early November is a great time to be hiking here; the crowds are thinner, the air is cool and good for hiking, and the foliage is worth seeing. The West Rim Trail passes right by the notorious Angel’s Landing Trail so QB and I decided to take a little detour. Angel’s Landing is an extremely narrow trail to a rocky outcropping in the middle of Zion Canyon. There are chains built in to the ground to make it safer but it’s still pretty gnarly, plus there’s lots of people getting in the way and stuff because it’s so popular. I mean it was scary and everything but it didn’t stand a chance of derailing us and was a great little side trip. From Angel’s Landing we walked down about a million switchbacks to the Grotto in the canyon floor. There was a mile of road to our next trailhead and since there was no trail along the road, we took the shuttle up to Weeping Rock TH. From here we power walked up a ton of switchbacks to get out of the canyon. It was about ten more scenic miles along canyons to the east entrance of the park where we ended our hike. So many tourists just go to the attractions in Zion Valley, while those are cool, there is so much more to see in this park and the Traverse is a great way to experience it. According to the ranger who gave us our permits, the east side of the park is the “Bitchinest!” We got to the East Entrance just before 5pm and got 3 quick hitches back to our car an hour and a half away in Kolob Canyon(1 from a kid who grew up in the town next to me in Mass). It was hitchhiking as it should be, it wouldn’t have worked out better if we had booked a shuttle ahead of time.