West Rim Trail to Cabin Spring, The Grotto Trailhead, Zion National Park, Utah
West Rim Trail to Cabin Spring - 10.0 Miles
The Grotto Trailhead
West Rim Trail to Cabin Spring
|Round-Trip Length:||10.0 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||4,320' - 6,720'|
|Elevation Change:||+2,400' net elevation gain (+2,640' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Challenging switchbacks through an archetypal Zion landscape lead to Horse Pasture Plateau's densely vegetated mesa top and high desert springs. Hikers will enjoy remarkable backcountry scenery and light crowds en route to this rolling tableland of ponderosa and Douglas Fir set high above dramatically carved canyons far below.
From the Grotto Picnic Area Trailhead, cross the road and Virgin River footbridge. A paved trail briefly runs north and flat along the river, then abruptly banks west up the canyon wall for nearly two miles on a relentless series of lengthy, exposed switchbacks. The rapid elevation gain yields sweeping views of lower Zion Canyon, and a telling perspective on its extraordinary verticality.
The trail briefly levels out through Refrigerator Canyon, a shaded, colorful and steep-walled reprieve from the sun and breakneck grade. It's not long before the trail picks up again and meets iconic Walter's Wiggles, a set of 21 steep, tightly-wound switchbacks famously pictured in many Zion National Park photo collections.
Walter's Wiggles spill out onto Scout Lookout, a small bluff overlooking the Virgin River with access to Angels Landing. Follow signs to the official beginning of the West Rim Trail.
The West Rim Trail bears northwest from the Angels Landing junction, quickly leaving its predictable crowds behind. The trail moves steadily over colorful sandstone benches to the first of many memorable vistas of the northern Zion Canyon backcountry.
The trail soon crests and drops hastily into Little Siberia, a narrow, heavily wooded canyon populated by bigtooth maple, douglas fir, spruce and gambel oak. The descent bottoms out on a footbridge several yards above the canyon floor, only to immediately begin a steep climb up and out from it.
A paved trail-surface soon returns, along with an increasingly challenging grade toward the mesa top that's now almost directly above you. This last mile rises along switchbacks lined with an interesting variety of small plants and wildflowers, terrific views and very steep drop-offs (exercise vigilance and caution).
The trail finally eases upon reaching the densely vegetated mesa top and West Rim Trail - Telephone Canyon Trail junction (5 miles). Though a sign points to a spring approximately 100 yards ahead along the Telephone Canyon Trail, bearing left on the West Rim Trail leads to a heavier flowing spring no more than 200 yards from the junction.
Neither spring's output would be described as prolific, but these cool waters and shaded forests nevertheless provide a welcomed respite for weary backcountry travelers. Markedly different from the canyon floor and slickrock benches of lower elevations, take some time to enjoy this biologically rich environment before turning back.
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- N37 15.566 W112 57.081 — The Grotto Trailhead
- This trail is strenuous, especially in the summer heat. Be sure to get an early start to avoid crowds, peak temperatures and summer thunderstorms. Take all precautions with respect to sun protection and hydration.
- The West Rim Trail continues another 9.9 miles to its northern terminus. Its total N-S distance is 14.9 miles (some sources show it as 14.4), and is a favorite multi-day, through-park hike for many. While the Telephone Canyon Trail can also be taken to reach the same northern trailhead and is shorter, many consider the West Rim Trail route to be more scenic.
- Walter's Wiggle's were carved out in 1926.
- Cabin Spring was named for a park service cabin that burned down in the 1970s.
- Winter conditions beyond Scout Lookout can present technical obstacles - check with a ranger for trail conditions.
Take the Zion Canyon Shuttle to the Grotto Trailhead and Picnic Area.
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. )
Backcountry Info, Camping & Permits Desk (including camping in the Narrows)