Northgate Peaks Trail, Zion National Park


  • This fairly flat hike casually saunters through cool alpine desert communities en route to a front-row encounter with the majestic Northgate Peaks and the canyon panorama beyond. To the south lie the North and South Guardian Angels; to the west, Greatheart Mesa towers over all. The southwestern view is especially striking, as the West Temple peak out above an incredible array of pinnacles and ridgelines.

    This hike is very moderate, and reasonable for most groups. Take a picnic lunch to the lookout and dine amongst the quiet stone giants and stately Ponderosa pines.

  • Trailhead: From Springdale, drive west on State Route 9 through Rockville and into Virgin (15 minutes). 1/4 mile after the Zion River Resort (on left), turn right on the Kolob Terrace road. Drive north for 16 miles, past exquisite scenery, until you reach the posted Wildcat Canyon trailhead (on your right).

    Mileage: 4.2 miles (6.8 km), round-trip

    Elevation Gain: 100 feet (30 meters)

    Approximate Hike Time: 2 - 3 hours, round-trip

    Difficulty: Casual

    Crowds: You might see a few hikers who have sought out a less-beaten path... but you probably won’t see many.
  • Best Times of Day:
    The high elevation and exposed lookout at Northgate Peaks often create cool breezes. Summertime hikes are great all day; warm, noontime hikes are best in spring or fall.

    Best Times of Year:
    April through October, the Peaks provide a cool respite from Zion Canyon, with stunning scenery to boot.
    November through March, the trail is often covered in snow, making it the best trail in Zion for XC skiing. Park at the base of Maloney Hill and ski (or walk) up to the Wildcat Canyon trailhead. The trail isn't marked, but you can follow the tracks of others OR ski off-trail, sticking to the expansive flat areas.  
    Check conditions before going in winter or early spring, as the trail can be icy, muddy, or otherwise unwelcoming.
  • Hugging a very large Ponderosa pine tree and deciding whether the bark smells like butterscotch or vanilla

    Enjoying the cool wind blowing across the plateau on an otherwise hot summer day

    Just after the Wildcat Canyon trails forks off to the left, follow a thin trail left to a slickrock bowl with an expansive view to the southeast. This is the beginning of Zion's famous Subway route, a spectacular beginner-level canyoneering adventure. To descent this route safely, you need specialized equipment and training; don't go if you aren't thoroughly prepared for rappelling, steep downclimbing, and long, cold swims!

  • Water Sources: There are no water sources along this trail.

    Camping: After the Northgate Peaks trail splits off from the Wildcat Canyon and Subway trails, it follows a shrinking “peninsula” out to the lookout. This peninsula and the valley beyond it have an “open camping” designation; backpackers may camp anywhere at least 200 yards away from all trails and water sources. A permit is required to camp in this area.