“The renowned 50-mile crossing of Zion National Park.”
— Tom Robson
Cave · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers
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.
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
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.
- 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.