In its 2013 guide to America’s Best Running Trails, Men’s Journal proclaimed the Trans-Zion Trek the most scenic of them all. Granted, few of us are ultramarathon runners who can log nearly 50 miles in one go, but the allure of the trail remains, whether you travel this in one day or backpack it in several. This mesmerizing trip is one for your bucket list.
Because no single trail links the park north to south or east to west, you will have to piecemeal your route along several of Zion’s finest footpaths. A shuttle is required for this trip, and permits are required for backcountry camping; get yours at the Kolob Canyons or Zion National Park Visitor Centers or online. Advance reservations are strongly recommended.
Your epic jaunt begins in Kolob Canyons — a lesser visited portion of Zion National Park that will surprise and delight you with its stunning vistas and minimal hiker traffic — at Lees Pass and the La Verkin Creek trailhead. Most backpackers will consider taking four to six days to finish the route, which ends at the Echo Canyon trailhead at the east entrance of the park, traversing Zion National park from its northwest to southwest corners and from canyon rim to valley and back again.
While there are many ways for you to complete this hike, the following itinerary is a good starting point:
- On day one, hike along the La Verkin Trail, making sure to include a side trip to Kolob Arch, one of the top five longest arches in the world.
- On day two, hike Hop Valley to Wildcat Canyon with a potential side trip to Northgate Peaks.
- On day three, hike the beautiful West Rim down to the valley, with a potential side trip to Angels Landing (note: this is the quintessential Zion photo opp).
- On day four, shuttle to Weeping Rock, and hike the East Rim Trail. The Trans-Zion hike will ultimately end at Echo Canyon on your final day.
Note that there are a number of options to piece this hike together, so consult a map and a ranger for your prime choices. Your campsites will be dictated by what’s available when you apply for your permit, so there will need to be flexibility throughout your trip. But as you think about daily mileage, do bear in mind that there can be long slogs through sand, and significant gains and drops in vertical elevation.
While the most comfortable seasons for hiking are late spring through the summer, a trip to Zion in the winter with snow-speckled red rock cannot be understated, though sections of this route will be far more difficult to navigate and travel if snow is present. Similarly, the fall foliage against a backdrop of sheer cliffs is stunning. Whenever you choose to go, you shall not be disappointed.
Trailheads and GPS Coordinates
Lees Pass and La Verkin Creek Trailhead (start of the hike): 37.27131, -113.11476
This trailhead is 3-4 miles past the entrance to Kolob Canyons and is very well-marked.
East Station Entrance Trailhead (end of the hike): 37.14069, -112.52644
Just before the east entrance of the park, take a left and drive up a narrow road to a parking lot.