Weeping Rock Trailhead: 15 miles round trip; 2,400 feet of elevation gain
East Entrance: 18 miles round trip; 1,000 feet of elevation gain
Trail type: Out-and-back
Multi-use: Hiking only
Dogs: Not allowed
Fees: National Park entrance fee, plus $15–30 permit fee if camping overnight, depending on size of group
Seasonality: Spring, summer, fall
Bathroom: At trailheads only
When gazing up at the huge bare stone walls and tree-crowned summits that soar over Zion Canyon, it’s hard to imagine a way to climb out of the gorge and stand atop the cliffs. Millions of people who come to admire the canyon from road level don’t realize that by following the right trail, you can invert the view and see it all from above. Hiking to the 6,400-foot summit of Cable Mountain is one way to do this.
Named for an old cable system that used to transport lumber from the forested mesa down sheer cliffs to the valley floor, Cable Mountain is home to one of the most phenomenal views of Zion Canyon. You’ll also find remnants of a support tower, a relic from the early 1900s when settlers were building homes near the river, once you reach the top. While this is an interesting sight of times gone by, the real spectacle is the commanding view over this iconic landscape. The overlook at Cable Mountain’s summit, is directly opposite Angel’s Landing, across a huge oxbow in the Virgin River that forms the canyon.
There are two ways to reach this incredible viewpoint, neither is easy but the reward is immense. The most direct route is from Weeping Rock Trailhead, a stop along the Zion Canyon Shuttle route. This trail packs all the elevation gain into only 7.4 strenuous miles, but is worth it to experience the splendidly sculpted sandstone narrows of Echo Canyon along the way.
This hike begins as the paved route to Observation Point, but departs at a signed junction and continues on the less-traveled East Rim Trail. Press on uphill, following rock cairns that mark the path across open slickrock. Don’t forget to pause, catch your breath, and look up to admire the towering white-rock cliffs you will soon be hiking. Once you reach the top of these, the ascent is more mellow, and the air is cooled by the breeze and the shade of ponderosa pines. A junction near Stave Spring is the spur to follow to Cable Mountain, which is now firmly within reach at three miles away.
The second way to get to the summit is along the East Rim’s opposite end starting near the park’s East Entrance. This route is longer, nine miles one way, and although it is still fairly strenuous, the total elevation gain is less and the climbing more gradual. While this hike misses out on the wonder of Echo Canyon, the high desert landscape that it traverses has more of a remote wilderness appeal.
Either of these routes can be done as a grueling day hike or a more leisurely overnight by camping at Stave Springs, the one water source. This requires a wilderness permit from the national park, and proper equipment for backpacking and treating water. As a one- or multi-day trip, the trek is not one for the inexperienced, but is a great option for intermediate hikers who are accustomed to a desert environment. Cable Mountain Trail is the perfect way to rise above the crowds of the shuttle stops and gaze over Zion’s grand landscape from the canyon rim.
Water is usually available at Stave Spring, near the junction of East Rim Trail and Cable Mountain Trail, but must be treated before drinking. Overnight trips require an advance permit reservation.
Nearest destination: Springdale, Utah — 7 miles, 30 minutes
Weeping Rock: Zion Visitor Center to take the shuttle to the trailhead
East Entrance: East entrance of the park to begin the hike from there
Trailhead GPS coordinates:
East Entrance Trailhead: 37.234284 N, -112.877425 W
Weeping Rock Trailhead: 37.270883 N, -112.938528 W