East Rim Trail, Zion National Park


  • A series of long, mild switchbacks follows an old logging road around minor canyon rims and through pinyon/oak forests to gain the top of the mesa. From the high point, the trail passes Stave Spring (an unreliable water source) and meanders through a shallow valley of tall grass and wildflowers to the head of a white sandstone canyon. As the trail follows the northern canyon rim, the gorge below grows deeper and ever-more spectacular, viewable from many spurs off the main trail. As this canyon meets the much larger drainage of Echo Canyon, the hike begins a dramatic descent into the sandstone cliffs. As the trail reaches the valley floor, it continues down-canyon over rolling terrain, following thin paths marked with small rock piles called "cairns". Eventually, this path connects to the Observation Point Trail, passing through a cool, slotted section of Echo Canyon before beginning the steep, switch-backed final descent. ***This is one of the best backpacking trips in Zion. Combine this trail with trips to Deertrap and Cable Mountains for a great 2- to 3-day adventure.***
  • Trailhead: Exit shuttle at the Grotto and follow the West Rim Trail.

    Mileage: 5 miles (8 km), round-trip

    Elevation Gain: 1520 feet (463 meters)

    Approximate Hike Time: 4 hours, round-trip

    Difficulty: Strenuous

    Crowds: Common. However, the throng thins out as only the boldest hikers continue past Scout’s Lookout to the top.

  • Best Times of Day:
    Higher altitudes help moderate daily high temperatures, but this hike can still be sweltering during summer. Try to leave early (5 - 7am) for comfortable temperatures and phenomenal light.
    Winter hikers should check conditions at the Visitor’s Center; hiking mid-day should reduce icy sections of trail.

    Best Times of Year:
    Fall brings moderate temperatures and dry trails to these high, eastern mesas, and reduces the chance of heat exhaustion and gnats.
    In a drier year, Spring features glorious displays of wildflowers along the East Rim trail.

  • Peering into Jolley Gulch as it cuts through the trail and drops dramatically into an abyss of sandstone.
    Awesome northern views of Clear Creek Mountain, Cogswell Point, the Pink Cliffs, and the mountains of the Markagunt Plateau from high points along the trail.
    This trail offers two great side-trips: Deertrap Mountain holds unparalleled views of the middle of Zion Canyon from a number of outstanding perches, while Cable Mountain boasts not only fantastic views, but also the remnants of an old cableworks settlers used to bring timber from the high plateau to the canyon floor.
    During the final stretch of the hike, the trail crosses Echo Canyon in a cool, stone canyon. You can still find the remnants of an old dam/bridge at the junction. If you feel courageous (and warm), wade into the waters of Echo Canyon and see how far upstream you can make it!
  • Water Sources: Some sections of the trek follow year-round creeks, and other sections have reliable springs. Along the Connector Trail to Lava Point, there are no reliable water sources. Water is ESSENTIAL in the Zion backcountry (minimum of 4 liters per person/day); check in with the Zion Backcountry Desk for recent updates on water sources. For your safety, purify all creek and spring water before drinking.

    Camping: Please check with Park staff when obtaining your permit to choose sites along the way. Designated sites are marked on the inset map provided, but we encourage you to obtain a true topographic map for navigation and trip planning.

    Helpful Trip Reports:

    Steve Evans Trip Report Steve hikes solo from Lee Pass to Zion Canyon on an adventurous weekend trip, detailing his experiences along the way.

    Andrew Skurka Trip Report Andrew RUNS the entire Zion Traverse with a couple buddies, in the OPPOSITE direction of the usual route. Great details on logistics and suggestions.