West Rim Trail, West Rim Trailhead at Lava Point, Zion National Park, Utah
West Rim Trail - 14.9 miles
West Rim Trailhead at Lava Point
|Round-Trip Length:||14.9 miles (one-way through hike distance)|
|Start-End Elevation:||7,455' - 4,320' (7,455' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-3,135' net elevation loss (+1,012' total elevation gain)|
The West Rim Trail is the longest section of the Trans-Zion Trekking Route, which runs 47 miles from the Lee Pass Trailhead in Kolob Canyons to the Park's southeast entrance at the East Rim Trailhead.
The West Rim Trail passes through mixed pine forests, pinyon-juniper woodlands, and deciduous - riparian systems on the 3,100' descent from Lava Point to the Zion Canyon floor. Visitors will enjoy varied terrain, magnificent views, and a comprehensive look at Zion's topographical and ecological extremes.
Good things to know before getting started:
*The dirt road from Lava Point to the West Rim Trailhead is impassable when wet. Call ahead for road conditions. If closed, you'll need to walk an additional 1.4 miles from Lava Point to reach the trailhead.
*Get an early, quick start to maximize your time on the trail's most compelling segments and avoid afternoon thunderstorms, especially July-August.
*Most of the trail is fully exposed - carry layers and sun protection. May-September hikers should plan for cool mornings at higher elevations, full sun in the early afternoon, and rain showers mid-late afternoon. Snow is possible November - May.
*There are three water sources on the West Rim Trail, each varying in reliability throughout the season: Sawmill Springs, Potato Hollow and Cabin Spring. Call ahead for status. All must be purified.
The trail heads south on a gentle grade down Horse Pasture Plateau to the Wildcat Canyon Trail split (.1 mile). Manzanita, ponderosa, and fir soon yield to widespread fire damage atop this and surrounding mesa tops. Prominent topographical features are susceptible to lightning strike-fires, and several have swept through this area in recent years.
Periodic fire is critical to a healthy Ponderosa ecosystem, clearing space for new growth and opening pine cone seeds in replenished soils.
The trail dips to Campsite #9 and Sawmill Springs (.9 miles : 7,295'), the first of 3 reliable water sources on the West Rim. It continues with little distinction until dropping through a narrow gulch into a slender meadow, a good place to look for deer and elk (4.2 miles : 7,205').
The trail levels through the meadow to Campsite #8 and Potato Hollow (5.25 miles : 6,815'), where the plateau opens at the base of a steep hill.
The trail turns sharply uphill just past Campsite #7 (5.35 miles : 6,837'), winding steeply to forested bluffs at 5.7 miles (7,040') and 6.0 miles (7,215'). The climb offers useful perspective on Horse Pasture Plateau (due north), upper Kolob Plateau (northwest) and upper Zion Canyon (northeast).
The trail negotiates a rocky, undulating ridge from the second bluff to the southern half of Horse Pasture Plateau. A final push levels on a broad plateau at the Telephone Canyon - West Rim Trail split (6.85 miles : 7,255'). Bear right on the West Rim Trail; a few steps away is Campsite # 6 (6.95 miles : 7,290').
The trail bends west from #6 and curls south along the plateau's west edge, beginning a 3 mile stretch of astonishing views across an elaborately carved landscape. Landmarks include Greatheart Mesa (7,405'), Ivins Mountain (7,019), and the Inclined Temple (7,150').
Travel eases to Campsite #5 (8.15 miles : 7,360') and Campsites #4 - #3 (8.6 miles : 7,340'), past which the first of several staged drops lead around the southwest edge of the plateau. Views on this stretch include Castle Dome (7,060'), Behunin, Mount Majestic, Cathedral Mountain and portions of lower Zion Canyon.
The trail takes a circuitous path under the plateau rim to its southeast side, where steep switchbacks (9.55 miles : 7,025') lead down a uniform pine forest with easterly views across a checkerboard of finely carved mesa tops and canyons. The trail passes Campsite #2 and #1 just before the second Telephone Canyon - West Rim Trail junction and access to Cabin Spring (10.15 miles : 6,745').
The trail drops steeply down switchbacks cut from a vertical cliff in a rapid transition from high ponderosa-fir tablelands into a maze of canyons, promontories and slickrock benches. Be mindful of drop-offs on this diverting descent, especially when wet.
The trail levels through a short section of Little Siberia, where you'll notice a changing, more inclusive ecosystem: ponderosa pine, fir, bigtooth maple, gambel oak, ash, willow and cottonwood commingle in these lower elevations and riparian corridors.
The trail nadirs on a bridge across a narrow slot (11.5 miles : 5,605') and begins a short, steep climb around the base of Cathedral Mountain. It moderates through a narrow chute and spills onto a level slickrock bench (12.3 miles : 5,845').
Follow signposts across the slickrock to pickup the trail on a steep descent to Scout Lookout (13.05 miles : 5,368'), a small bluff from which a chain-aided spur splits off to Angels Landing (5,790').
Enjoy good views of Angels Landing, the Virgin River and many Zion Canyon features before turning down Walter's Wiggles, a set of 21 tightly wound switchbacks that drop into Refrigerator Canyon. This towering slot canyon is aptly named for its cool temperatures and shade, a welcome reprieve after 13+ exposed miles.
Refrigerator Canyon abruptly ends midway up the west wall of Zion Canyon (13.8 miles : 4,930'), where a craftily built series of knee-crunching, rough-pour switchbacks lead to the canyon floor.
The trail loses 500' in just .75 miles and moderates along the luxuriant west bank of the Virgin River. Continue past Emerald Pools to the bridge leading back to the Grotto Trailhead (14.9 miles : 4,320').
Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View Interactive Google Map
- N37 22.891 W113 01.380 — West Rim Trailhead
- N37 22.312 W113 01.380 — .9 miles : Sawmill Springs and Campsite #9 spur
- N37 21.459 W113 00.578 — 2.0 mile mark
- N37 20.754 W113 00.350 — 3.0 mile mark
- N37 19.994 W112 59.815 — 4.2 miles : drop through gulch to meadow
- N37 19.257 W112 59.346 — 5.25 miles : Campsite #8 and Potato Hollow
- N37 19.196 W112 59.436 — 5.35 miles : Campsite #7 spur
- N37 19.023 W112 59.370 — 5.7 miles : Reach bluff #1
- N37 18.834 W112 59.449 — 6.0 miles : Reach bluff #2
- N37 18.285 W112 59.155 — 6.85 miles : West Rim Trail - Telephone Canyon split
- N37 18.250 W112 59.273 — 6.95 miles : Campsite #6
- N37 17.419 W112 59.264 — 8.15 miles : Campsite #5
- N37 17.124 W112 59.041 — 8.6 miles : Campsite #4 (#3 is 100 yards south)
- N37 17.053 W112 58.310 — 9.55 miles : Switchbacks down southeast side of plateau
- N37 17.207 W112 58.113 — 6.85 miles : West Rim Trail - Telephone Canyon split #2
- N37 17.159 W112 57.346 — 11.6 miles : Begin climb to Scout Lookout
- N37 16.859 W112 57.112 — 12.4 miles : Slickrock bench before Scout Lookout
- N37 16.496 W112 57.048 — 13.15 miles : Scout Lookout
- N37 16.178 W112 57.068 — 13.8 miles : End Refrigerator Canyon;begin final descent
- N37 15.566 W112 57.081 — 15.1 miles : Grotto Trailhead
- The best times of year to hike the West Rim Trail are late May and early October, when spring blooms and autumn colors peak, respectively.
- Walter's Wiggles were named after the first superintendent of Zion National Park, who helped engineer the twenty one switchbacks in 1924.
- Zion's elevation and topographical extremes receive different exposure to sunlight, precipitation and temperatures, creating microenvironments that host the richest diversity of plants in Utah - almost 800 native species.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Backcountry permits are required for all overnight trips (including climbing bivouacs), all thru-hikes of the Virgin River Narrows and tributaries, any trip into the Left Fork of North Creek (the Subway), and all canyons requiring the use of descending gear or ropes.
The person who obtains the permit must be 18 years of age or older, and must participate in the trip. The person named on the permit is held responsible for the actions of the group and for compliance with all permit conditions and backcountry rules and regulations.
Visitors with reservations are required to pick up a backcountry permit. Permits are available at the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon Visitors Centers. Permits are available in person, the day before or the day of your trip. Please bring vehicle information with you, including descriptions and licence plate numbers of all vehicles involved in the trip.
BACKCOUNTRY CAMPSITES - WEST RIM TRAIL (ordered from North to South)
To access this site follow the sign off the West Rim trail to "Sawmill Spring". For those seeking solitude, this site is ideal. This site has a maximum group size of 6 and is available on a walk-up basis.
This site is located behind Potato Hollow Spring (a seasonal water source). Grassy and covered by Pine Trees. This site also provides great views of Imlay Canyon to the east. This site has a maximum group size of 6 and is available for reservations online or on a walk-up basis.
Exposed site with great night-time sky views. Excellent site for star gazing. The site is just a few minutes walk from Potato Hollow Spring (a seasonal water source). This site has a maximum group size of 4 and is available on a walk-up basis.
This site is close to the junction of Telephone Canyon and the West Rim Trail and is the last site before dropping into Potato Hollow. This site has a maximum group size of 6 and is available for reservations online or on a walk-up basis. This site was affected by a wildfire in 2007.
This site is about two miles from Cabin Spring and enables visitors to enjoy views both to the north and south. This site has a maximum group size of 4 and is available on a walk-up basis. This site was affected by a wildfire in 2007.
This is a large site that can accommodate a group and has great views of the deep canyons off the rim. This site has a maximum group size of 12 and is available for reservations online or on a walk-up basis. This site was affected by a wildfire in 2007.
This site has great rim views and is approximately one mile from Cabin Spring. This site was affected by a wildfire in 2007. This site has a maximum group size of 4 and is available for walk-up permit only.
This site is a small, secluded site near Cabin Spring. This site was affected by a wildfire in 2007. This site has a maximum group size of 2 and is available for reservations online or on a walk-up basis.
The only site along the Telephone Canyon Trail, site #1 is a short walk from Cabin Spring and offers distant views of the Dixie National Forest and northern regions of Zion. This site was affected by a wildfire in 2007. This site has a maximum group size of 12 and is available for walk-up permit only.
Of Note: Campsite #1 is actually located south of Campsite #2
WATER SOURCES - WEST RIM TRAIL
Cabin Springs - N37 17 15.2 W112 58 04.2 - 6,736'
The springs are located near campsites #1 and #2 near the edge of the canyon rim. It seeps from the ground andcollects in a small pool where logs have been arranged in a square.
Potato Hollow Springs - N37 19 15.0 W112 59 14.4 - 6,760'
The springs are located near campsite #7 and #8 in the bottom of Potato Hollow. It is a seep from the ground that pools in a few natural areas.
Sawmill Springs - N37 22 06.2 W113 01 02.0 - 7,173'
The springs are located near campsite #9 and close to the West Rim Trailhead. It is a seep from the ground that pools in a few natural areas.
Directions to Trailhead
From Springdale, drive West on State Road 9 through Rockville and into the town of Virgin. Just after the Zion River Resort, turn right (north) onto Kolob Terrace Road. Drive 23 miles to the Lava Point Campground turnoff on your right. Turn right onto the graded dirt road and follow signs to the West Rim Trailhead. 4x4 or high clearance vehicles are recommended on this dirt road, especially the final 1.4 mile descent to the trailhead. This last segment is impassable when wet. If so, you must park at the top and walk 1.4 miles (-450') to the trailhead. It's highly recommended that you contact the Park at least one day in advance for road conditions and contingency plans.
Zion Canyon Visitor Center
Closed: December 25
Spring: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Summer: 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Fall: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Winter: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Kolob Canyon Visitor Center
Closed: December 25
Spring: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Summer: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Fall: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Winter: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.