Trans-Zion Trek, Zion National Park


  • This trek ranks with the most spectacular hikes in the world, showcasing the spectrum of Zion’s plant communities and dramatic geology. The trail takes you into deep canyons, along high ridgelines, across mountain creeks, through deep sand, and onto exposed rocky rims, bringing you to the many zones of this diverse desert oasis. Few attempt this strenuous hike, but those who do earn unforgettable memories and a certain feeling of accomplishment.


    Elevation profile for the Trans-Zion Trek. 20,400 feet of elevation change over 48.3 miles!

    For an awesome and in-depth look at the Trans-Zion Traverse, check out ultra runner Andrew Skurka's website, where he has written up a detailed route description, complete with photos, a downloadable Databook with mileages and logisitcs information, and this great summary video:

  • Trailhead: Most people begin this hike at Lee Pass to avoid an extremely steep hike up to Lava Point. As a one-way journey, this hike requires a shuttle, available from Zion Adventure Company. For those with two vehicles who want to self-shuttle, leave your vehicles at the following trailheads:

    East Entrance: From Springdale, drive into the Park and continue east along SR 9, straight, up numerous switchbacks, and through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Continue, twisting and turning around fins of rock, through another short tunnel and past the immense Checkerboard Mesa. Just before the East Entrance Station, turn left onto a narrow road and drive a short distance to a dirt parking lot and picnic area, which serves as your trailhead.

    Lee Pass: From Springdale, drive west on SR 9 until you reach the town of LaVerkin. At the Chevron/Farmer’s Market intersection, turn right. Drive through Toquerville, eventually reaching Interstate 15. Drive north on I-15 to exit 40 and the entrance to the Kolob Canyons, ZNP. Follow the Kolob Canyons road 3 or 4 miles to the well-marked trailhead at Lee Pass.

    Mileage: 47.3 miles (76.1 km), one-way

    Elevation Gain: The net elevation change is only 325 feet (99 meters)! Don’t let that number fool you, though... Over the length of this trail, you gain and lose over 6,000 feet of elevation.

    Approximate Hike Time: The Park Service restricts camping along many of the trails, so you must plan each day carefully, according to campsite availability. Use the following itinerary as a rough suggestion, then tailor your final plan according to permit availability and the fitness of your party.

    Day 1: Lee Pass to Kolob Arch, 6.9 miles, mostly flat
    Day 2: Kolob Arch to Lava Point OR Sawmill Spring, about 16 miles (gradual incline)
    Day 3: Lava Point/Sawmill Spring to West Rim, about 8 miles (gradual decline)
    Day 4: West Rim to Grotto to Echo Canyon, about 10 miles (sustained steep decline, followed by shorter steep incline)
    Day 5: Echo Canyon to East Entrance, about 6.5 miles (steep climbing, followed by gradual decline)

    Difficulty: Strenuous, with long sections of steep, sustained hiking. Recommended for experienced backpackers. Not recommended for those with knee problems.

    Crowds: On this trek, you see everything Zion has to offer; this includes peaceful solitude and busy, crowded trails. For the most part, however, you'll have the trail to yourself.

  • Best Times of Day:
    • Early morning/late afternoon hiking is essential during summer months. Consider the “siesta” lifestyle: rise early to hike, eat and nap in the midday shade, then finish your hike late in the afternoon/evening.
    • Fall hours are shorter, but temperatures typically allow hiking at any time of day. Plan for a wide range of temperatures.

    Best Times of Year:

    • Early summer and autumn are easiest and perhaps mostly enjoyable, avoiding the trevails of other times of year (see below).
    • Summer heat can be absolutely withering. Plan for a siesta approach (above) to a summer attempt and be sure to carry ample water (at least 4 liters/person/day).
    • Winter snowpack can make this trip very challenging and dangerous, December through March, April, or even May. Winter attempts should only be made by prepared and knowledgable adventurers experienced with winter travel techniques in steep and icy conditions.

  • Since you can only choose one, take the West Rim route when you get to the fork for West Rim/Telephone Canyon. While both trails are worth a look, the West Rim is far more impressive.