Some of Zion's greatest landmarks remain in constant view on the downhill trek: Angels Landing, the Organ, Great White Throne and in the distance, Cathedral Mountain. To the left is the huge Cable Mountain and the alcove of Weeping Rock. From the parking lot look up to the top of Cable Mountain for a perspective of the mesa the East Rim Trail descends from.
At a Glance
East Rim Trail - This 6 hour, 10-mile trail is spectacular. It is said to be "one of the most scenic in all of Zion National Park," and is on many lists as "one of the best hikes in Utah." With all the classic trail competition in Utah, like the Zion Narrows and Angels Landing, that is saying a great deal. This hike begins with a backdoor view of Checkerboard Mesa as it runs along intermittent Clear Creek and steadily, yet gently climbs through a juniper and pine forest. On top of the mesa the scenery gets interesting as a spectacular view of Echo Canyon takes center stage. Echo Canyon is one of Zion's well known slot canyons even though technical skills and canyoneering gear are usually required to explore most of it. On the East Rim Trail, however, you can get a peek of it. Throughout much of the rest of the hike, the trail drops into Zion Canyon, where Zion's landmarks steal the show.
Jolly Gulch - Jolly Gulch is the first signed area the trail passes and is located 2.8-miles into the hike. It's a nice view down into a canyon, but when the water is flowing in Jolly Gulch the waterfall is magnificent. Layered rock is evident along much of this section of the trail.Stave Spring - Continue the uphill climb to Stave Spring. The spring is not much more than a pipe in the ground during years of drought, but during wet years there are streams flowing about Stave Spring. Look for the remnants (old posts) left over from the logging. This is the 5.7-mile mark . Another half mile and there is a sign directing the way to finish the East Rim Trail and giving the mileage for other options at the top of the mesa. The turnoff to Deertrap and Cable Mountain is just past Stave Spring (5.8 miles from the trailhead) and it is signed.
Echo Canyon - With 4.3-miles left in the hike, the East Rim Trail begins to flatten. At the top of the mesa the scenery gets impressive as the trail edges the incredible Echo Canyon slot canyon. To the west the immense Cathedral Mountain looms. The view down into Echo Canyon is incredible, with the massive West Temple straight ahead. The slickrock of East Zion is abundant here, where patterns of ancient twisted and uplifted sand dunes steal the show.
A gradual descent will now begin into what must be the most sensational section of Zion National Park. The trail is now a charming, rock lined, narrow path that winds around natures towering obstacles. The East Rim Trail shows off the incomparable magnificence of Zion National Park's geology. Crossbedded sandstone cliffs reveal themselves. Little stacks of rock (cairns) are now all that mark the trail as it meanders over wind swept slickrock slabs. Fossilized sand dunes glitter in the sun. Giant monoliths are in every direction. Scenery does not get much better than this.
East Rim and Observation Point now combine as the East Rim Trail joins with the lower portion of the Observation Point Trail. (elevation 5584 feet) Less than a half-mile is the entrance to Echo Canyon and the charming Echo Canyon Walkway.
(The hike to Observation Point from the spur, is a 2-mile, steep (strenuous) climb up and downhill hike back down the same way)
Echo Canyon Walkway and Entrance - The walkway allows for a nice close up view of Echo Canyon and leads to the entrance to Middle Echo Canyon. When conditions are dry this is a fun and easy slot canyon to explore. From the walkway, the trail descends steeply for 1.5-miles into Zion Canyon. To the right of the trail is another section of Echo Canyon where a visible water carved slot canyon winds below and during the winter and wet years there is water flowing.
East Rim, Cable Mountain, Deertrap Mountain Backpack
Backpacking option - Camp at Stave Spring. Day hike to Cable Mountain then back to the Cable Mountain/ Deertrap Mountain junction (not Stave Springs) then to Deertrap Mountain, back to Stave Springs and end at the Weeping Rock parking lot. Total mileage: 20-miles
Trail History - The East Rim Trail follows a Paiute route, the John Winder Trail, to the top of a high mesa. Winder was a Mormon rancher with a goal to link Zion Canyon to the east. in 1923, Winder led surveyors to where the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel was built.
Big Bend - Farther down the trail, the panorama of Zion Canyon and Big Bend takes center stage. This panorama is one of the best views in the entire park. The Virgin River is forced around the Organ and the outline of the Angels Landing Trail is seen from its broad side. The Great White Throne and Cathedral Mountain loom in the background. The extremely steep path continues to switchback, while descending down past the spur to Hidden Canyon and finally to the Weeping Rock parking lot.
East Mesa - Drive instead of hike to Observation Point. This East Zion Trail is a shortcut to this popular Zion View Point.
Optional side hikes - A half mile past Stave Springs there is a sign directing the way to finish the East Rim Trail and giving the mileage for two options at the top of the mesa:
Cable Mountain - 6-mile round trip, with incredible views of the Great White Throne, Angels Landing, Observation Point, and the West Rim of Zion.
Deertrap Mountain - 8-mile round trip, with nice views of Mountain of the Sun, the Twin Brothers and the Court of the Patriarchs.
Hidden Canyon - This trail is located toward the end of the East Rim/Observation Point trail. From the canyon entrance its .5-miles to the 20 foot freestanding arch and then it is possible to continue about .6 more miles through the canyon.
Observation Point - This trail is about 4-miles round trip from the Observation Point//East Rim junction. Marvelous views of Zion Canyon can be seen along much of this this hike as well as at the view point at the end of the trail.
Echo Canyon - Going through the slot canyon usually involves getting wet and always requires climbing past obstacles.
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