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Zion Traverse

 14 votes


48.7 Miles 78.4 Kilometers






6,334' 1,931 m


-6,646' -2,026 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (36°)

7,441' 2,268 m


4,327' 1,319 m




Getting forecast...

The renowned 50-mile crossing of Zion National Park.

Tom Robson


From north to south, this 50-mile epic spans Zion National Park in its entirety. This route can be done either as a multi-day backpacking adventure or as a crushing single-day run.
Features: Cave — Fall Colors — River/Creek — Views — Wildflowers
Dogs: No Dogs

Need to Know

If planning on doing this route as a multi-day backpacking trip, you must acquire a permit. Be sure to stop by the Kolob Visitors Center or the Zion Backcountry Desk to get your permit, check conditions and book campsite reservations.

Learn more at the Zion Wilderness Reservation System.

This run can be a challenge if only for its logistical aspects. In order to do this route, plan on going with another group (key swap), a designated shuttle/support driver, or by arranging a fee-based shuttle. A popular Zion area shuttle is the Zion Adventure Company.

Runner Notes

Considered by many serious runners to be a "bucket-list" run, this route is truly in a league of its own. Be aware, this runs the gamut with regards to elevation change, temperatures, water scarcity and desert terrain.


This route can be completed from either trailhead, but it's described here from north to south (Lee Pass Trailhead to East Rim Trailhead).

The trail begins at Lee Pass on La Verkin Creek Trail and passes by the open canyons of the nearby cliffs as it travels along Timber Creek. After coming around the corner and within view of La Verkin Creek, the trail descends the slope down to the creek bottom on a hard packed trail.

Once on the creek bed, the trail heads upstream offering amazing views of the surrounding cliffs. The trail is 7 miles from Lee Pass to Kolob Arch, one of the main destinations of the route and possibly the world's largest free-standing arch. Generally backpackers will stop to rest at one of the campsites along La Verkin Creek Trail before heading to Hop Valley Trail. A great side-trip at the end of the day is to see Kolob Arch via La Verkin Creek.

From Kolob Arch Trail continue east to an intersection with Hop Valley Trail. Head south on Hop Valley Trail, which heads up from La Verkin Creek Trail to an area filled with designated campsites. Continue south on this sandy and well-worn trail. The valley floor of Hop Valley is breathtaking with its flat sandy bottom and vertical walls rising on both sides. After experiencing the high walls of Hop Valley, ascend again to Kolob Terrace Road and the Hop Valley Trailhead.

From the trailhead, head east on Connector Trail. Though not a destination in and of itself, Connector Trail provides a useful connection between Hop Valley Trail and Wildcat Canyon Trail. Of course, like most of Zion, this trail is still very beautiful.

Eventually, you'll meet an intersection with Wildcat Canyon Trail. Stay straight (right) here to begin your journey on Wildcat Canyon Trail. Bypass the Northgate Peaks Trail and views of the Northgate Peaks as it winds through the ponderosa pine forest. It opens into the meadows before emerging onto the edge of Wildcat Canyon offering, sweeping views down into the deep canyon.

After crossing the canyon, the trail climbs slightly until connecting up with the West Rim Trail. This area has no established campsites but does require a permit.

From the West Rim Trailhead, traverse across the high alpine elevation with sweeping views out into the Wildcat Canyon area for the first 6.5 miles as you drop into Potato Hollow. Next, the trail climbs out of Potato Hollow before it splits into the Telephone Canyon Trail and the West Rim Trail.

Continue on West Rim Trail as it follows along the rim with views of Phantom Valley and the canyons to the south. Although it is a little scary to run so close to precipitous drop-off, this trail is well worth the journey. The views across Right Fork Canyon are astounding.

These include:
  • Church Mesa
  • Inclined Temple
  • Ivins Mountain
  • and Greatheart Mesa

Before dropping to West Rim Trail's bottom, plan on doing Angel's Landing. Thought not mapped in this variation, this run is not to be missed!

From the bottom of West Rim Trail turn left on Grotto Trail across the Virgin River and then turn left again on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive/Floor of the Valley Road. You'll run along the road for ~1mile, but the views are amazing and the traffic won't be too bad. Follow the signs for Echo Canyon or East Mesa Trail and turn right into that parking lot.

The climb from the valley floor to the East Rim Trail is epic. Pass Weeping Rock Trail and Hidden Canyon Trail as East Rim Trail switchbacks to an intersection with East Mesa Trail. Stay right and continue climbing to the plateau. The middle section of the trail wanders across the plateau where the altitude is higher and the weather is a little cooler than the main canyon. Eventually, this trail ends at the East Rim Trailhead after passing through Cave Canyon.

Nice work. You just completed one of the most epic routes in the world!

Flora & Fauna

Located in Washington, Iron, and Kane Counties in southwestern Utah, Zion National Park encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States. Within its 229 square miles are high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstone canyons, and the Virgin River and its tributaries. Zion also has 2,000-foot Navajo Sandstone cliffs, pine- and juniper-clad slopes, and seeps, springs, and waterfalls supporting lush and colorful hanging gardens.

With an elevation change of about 5,000 feet-from the highest point at Horse Ranch Mountain (at 8,726 feet) to the lowest point at Coal Pits Wash (at 3,666 feet), Zion's diverse topography leads to a diversity of habitats and species. Desert, riparian (river bank), pinyon-juniper, and conifer woodland communities all contribute to Zion's diversity. Neighboring ecosystems-the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Rocky Mountains-are also contributors to Zion's abundance.


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Oct 15, 2017
Ben Horowitz
2 nights w/ Stephanie and Brian, very fun! :D 48mi — 48h 00m
Jun 5, 2017
Nick Mayer
May 6, 2017
Christopher Harrington
Incredible adventure. Lots of sand. 49mi
Apr 20, 2017
Scott Boe
Apr 21, 2014
Zach Roth
End sucked! Super dehydrated 48.7mi — 12h 30m

Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 14 votes


  4.9 from 14 votes
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For the editor. The route description is wrong. Names are incorrect and trails are out of order. Also, the overview describes the route from east to west, but the map and elevation profile are from west to east. A bit confusing. Apr 30, 2015
Tom Robson
Boulder, CO
Tom Robson   Boulder, CO  
Hey Craig, take a look know and let me know your thoughts. Jun 5, 2015

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