The beauty of Zion National Park reaches beyond the park's boundary where eerie crags nest in the lofty tops of the Vermillion Cliffs. The Eagle Crags Trail begins at the end of a dirt road where the tiny town of Rockville gives way to BLM land and towers of misshapen rock. Ever present are the juniper forests that spread through the parched environment. Thirsty trees horde scarce moisture all the while soaking up the abundant sunshine along the 5-mile, round-trip route that runs along a wide sandy path winding through a labyrinth of desert vegetation. A gentle ascent dominates most of the way; however, a few sections near the end are steep. Sturdy hiking shoes or boots will help prevent slipping and injury along the more difficult portions of the trek.
At a Glance
Trail Conditions: A wide sandy path strewn with rocks.
The trail is in full sun on the arid, hot side of Zion National Park. This
is not an ideal hike in the heat of summer. The trail is often used by horseback
riders. This is a good path for trail runners. Equip your 4WD with a spare tire and jack.
The trailhead is in a remote area. Bring extra water.
A high clearance 4WD vehicle is recommended, but even with one the road may be impassible when wet. Make your way to Rockville, which is located on the south side of Zion, just past Springdale, where this route begins. Once in town, turn south on Bridge Road, set your trip-meter and drive south across the old bridge spanning the Virgin River. It's only a short distance before the paved road makes a hard right turn, but to reach your destination go straight on the dirt road rather than turning right. You will climb a steep grade before traversing up to the head of a large bowl. A mile from SR-9 there is a three-way intersection where you need to drive straight instead of turning. Drive past the dwellings on both the right and left as you begin the short, rocky uphill climb to yet another junction. Turn left at the intersection and pass over the wash climbing up the hillside and bearing northeast. At 1.9 miles there is a small pullout on the right and a narrow ATV path doubling back to it. This is where you will leave your vehicle. On the southeast edge of the parking area should be the BLM trailhead sign, however, it is often vandalized and missing, so don't count on it always being there.
Eagle Crags Trail
You will pass through a hikers gate as the trail follows a ridge to the south and a mile farther the path heads in an easterly direction. You will see wonderful views of the Parunuweap basin unfold to the northeast, and a large private reservoir can be seen below to the east in the South Creek drainage. Hiking becomes harder here as elevation increases and you switchback up and toward the eastern tip of the crags.
After some huffing and puffing, you will make it to the top of a ridge and the end of the 2.5 mile route. The views to the south show the slickrock cliffs that rim Lower Mountain. Beyond the ridge, the beaten path becomes faint and difficult to follow. This is where most people will stop and turn around. Past this point is the "Old Cattle Trail" which had been used by cowboys to move cattle to Lower Mountain, Canaan Mountain and the old Sawmill on top. For the backpacker this route is the end of one of the two authors favorite trails, which begins in Hildale, traveling through Water Canyon, up Canaan Mountain and exiting here.
The Eagle Crags themselves are a ridge of the Vermillion Cliffs extending north of Lower Mountain sitting on the plateau of Canaan Mountain. There is ample space and a level area at the end of this trail to settle back for a nice picnic so you can relax and prepare for the downhill hike back to your vehicle. If you are lucky you might even see a climber scaling the sheer stone making their way to the top of the crag along the climbing route known as Mrs. Butterworth.
While resting, see if you can spot the historic Shunesburg settlement in the distance and the slickrock plateau of Canaan Mountain. You will also be able to see various peaks extending to the skyline including: Shunesburg Mountain, Johnson Mountain, De Mille Peak and Zion's Watchman, Mount Kinesava and West Temple.
Backpacking Option - Past the end of this trail is the "Old Cattle Trail which was once used by cowboys to move cattle to and from Lower Mountain, Canaan Mountain and access the old sawmill on top. For the backpacker this route is the end of the authors favorite trails, which begins in Hildale, Arizona , travels through Water Canyon, up canaan Mountain and exits here.
GPS Coordinates WGS84 Datum
Eagle Crags Trailhead:
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.
To post trip reports, offer corrections, updates, or for more information please visit the Zion National Park Forum
Suggested Gear: A sturdy pair of shoes are recommend to hike the trails in Zion National Park. Many quality shoes will help grip the rocks and prevent injury.
Zion National Park, Utah
History of the Thunderbird
This is my new favorite quote:
"I don't know who Tanya Milligan is, but I mean www.zionnational-park.com
It's a better site than the NPS's anyway."
Written by the authors of the book: Favorite Hikes in and around Zion National Park