Winter in Utah's Southwest desert leaves many popular hikes inaccessible due to snow, ice and other obstacles and dangers. But in turn, it opens up a diverse array of routes and trails that are ideal for cold weather adventure. The high desert routes, avoided when temperatures soar in the summer, make top notch winter treks. The low desert Chinle Trail, located outside the highly touristed section of Zion, still offers lofty mountain vistas throughout much of the hike including views of the West Temple, Mount Kinesava, Towers of the Virgin, Sundial and the eerie spires of Eagle Crags. At the end of the route, hikers are graced with views of remote Cougar Mountain and Smith Mesa. Treasures, such as petrified-wood, can be found in select areas of this hike, but remember you are in a National Park and collecting anything like this is forbidden by the NPS.
At a Glance Photo Album: Chinle
Trail Pictures Topo Map: Chinle Topo Map Trail Map: South
Zion Trail Map Day Hike: Yes, this route can be accomplished as a long winter day hike, but due to the short winter days make sure you have enough time to return. Distance: 15.4 miles round trip Average Hiking Time: 8 hours is average, but make sure you have enough time to return before the short winter days come to an end. Difficulty: This is a long, but moderate route lacking major elevation changes. Permits: Required only for camping
. Trail conditions: The path is sandy and easy to walk on if it's dry and there is little reprieve from the hot sun. Due to the full sun on the path and the low elevation of this trail, it is not recommended in the summer. The clay content in the soil makes the footpath difficult after a rain or snow storm. Hiking when the path is wet also leaves deep footprints which are uncomfortable for others to hike on once the trail dries. Trailhead: The trailhead is located outside the south entrance of Zion National Park, about a block south of the "Springdale Fruit Company" in Springdale. Enter the commercialized area, at the Anasazi Plateau housing development, and take the immediate right located at the top of the hill. The hill is steep making the turn-off difficult to see, but be sure you do not go into the housing section.
Trailend: Same as starting point Trail Access: Year-round access. The trailhead is just off Highway 9. Elevation Gain: 650' Starting Elevation: 3800' Highest Elevation: 4450'
Off the Beaten Path: Yes Classic Zion Hike: No Best Season:
This is a good trail for winter hiking but due to the length it is not possible for all hikers to complete it during the short winter days. This is a good route for trail runners when the weather is cool. Water availability:
Coalpits Wash generally has flowing water. Coalpits Spring is located .2 miles downstream (in Coalpits Wash) from the junction of Chinle Trail and Coalpits Wash. Both sources should be filtered or purified.
Directions to Zion National Park
From the North: Travel I-15 south, past Beaver. exit on Hwy 20. Follow US-89 to Mount Carmel Junction. Take SR-9 to Zion's east entrance.
From Arizona: Travel US-89A through Fredonia, Arizona and Kanab Utah. Follow US-89 to Mount Carmel Junction. Take SR-9 to the east park entrance.
From the South: Travel I-15 north. Take exit 16 and travel through Hurricane to LaVerkin. Continue on SR-9 to the south entrance of the park. SR-9 through Zion National Park is always open and is also called the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway. See restrictions for RV's
The Chinle Trail is located in the far Southwest section of Zion and this part of the park is too hot for summer hiking, but it is nice in the winter.
Lodging and services are available on the gorgeous east side of Zion National Park, where guests are close to Zion National Park (12 miles), Bryce Canyon National Park (60 miles), Cedar Breaks National Monument (45 miles), Coral Pink Sand Dunes (12 miles), and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (85 miles). It's where city traffic is absent and the skies are bright and clean.
Drive 3.5 miles from Zion's south entrance booth and look for the turn-off on the north side of Highway 9, just past the fruit stand. There are homes built (Anasazi Plateau Subdivision) on the north hill above the trailhead parking lot. Turn onto the steep Anasazi Road, drive uphill for a short distance and look for an immediate right hand turn-off. The turn-off to the Chinle Trailhead is unmarked at this point. Park in the large flat, dirt area. There is a trail information kiosk at the parking area. To begin the trail, follow the switchbacks uphill, cross the paved road and continue up the wash, following the beaten path under the bridge. Continue to the hikers gate and kiosk, passing through and closing the gate behind you. Once inside the gate you are within Zion National Park boundaries. Please remember to remain on the obvious trail so fragile cryptobiotic soil is not destroyed. Follow the narrow sandy path as it crosses the northern edge of the Rockville Bench and passes through the high desert juniper forest. After 3 miles the trail crosses Huber Wash, which flows south and eventually drains into the Virgin River. As the trail slowly gains elevation, pinion trees increasingly cover the land and the views to the north, west and south unfold.
While crossing the Rockville Bench and before arriving at Scoggins Wash, notice how t he Petrified Forest is sprinkled with all sorts of wood and crystal treasures. This section of the trail, along the Chinle formation, is where the hike gets its name. Chinle is a Triassic shale that has shards of petrified wood.
Scoggins Wash Confluence
The next wash,located 5 miles into the hike, is Scoggins Wash, another drainage of the Virgin River. The trail bears southwest between the Scoggins and Coal Pits Washes and soon meets the junction of the Old Scoggins Stock Trail.
Old Scoggins Stock Trail Intersection
Almost a mile and a half ( 1.35 miles) after rounding the head of Scoggins Wash is the intersection of the Old Scoggins Stock Trail, which descends steeply into the bottom of Scoggins Wash. At this intersection, follow the right hand trail that leads to Coalpits Wash. It is only 1.3 miles to Coalpits from this intersection.
The Chinle Trail ends at Coalpits Wash, yet another drainage of the Virgin River. To locate the campsites, cross the stream and walk downstream 50 yards (where there is a trail that turns right and away from the wash). There are some level campsites in this area and the spring is nearby making it the ideal area to spend the night. This is the end of the Chinle Trail but if time allows, hikers can explore Coalpits Wash. Coalpits Wash is probably the most enjoyable of the southern Zion hikes due to water running in the wash.
From the junction of Coalpits and Chinle walk downstream in Coalpits Wash for a short distance (.2 miles) and look on the right bank for flowing water. Make sure to filter or purify any water found in Coalpits Wash or the spring.
Option A car shuttle could be placed at Coalpits Wash and Highway 9. Hike the Chinle Trail from the trailhead and once arriving at Coalpits Wash, walk in the wash to the south for 3.6 miles to arrive at Highway 9. There is usually running water in Coalpits Wash, so have appropriate footwear and clothing for the season.
Chinle Trail - Coalpits
Wash confluence 37°12.948 N
Coalpits Spring 37°12.911 N
Coalpits Campsites 37°12.952 N
GPS coordinates are only references and may or may not be accurate. Do not rely on GPS coordinates as the sole method of navigation. Always have an accurate, detailed map at hand and have the proper map reading and navigation skills before setting out on any hike. Many of the hikes listed in this guide travel into canyons where a GPS has limited capabilities. Always check your position with a detailed map before dropping into a canyon.
Beta: Coordinates and other trail and canyoneering information
by Zion Park search and rescue veteran team member Bo
Beck and www.zionnational-park.com author Tanya Milligan.