The Watchman Trail is a Zion classic. The dirt path is a moderate two-mile hike with a mild 456 foot ascent that travels along the foothills beneath massive Bridge Mountain and ends at a bench near the base of the Watchman spire. Most of this trail is in full sun and through a hot desert environment, dotted with prickly pear cactus and a few other less common cacti. Many Zion National Park landmarks are visible along this hike including: Beehives, Towers of the Virgin, West Temple and the Altar of Sacrifice. The end of the trail stops at a view point of the Watchman, a red spire rising to an elevation of 6545 feet.
At a Glance
Trail - Park at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center located at the far south side of Zion National Park. Note the small sign north of the Visitor Center, by the Virgin River, pointing out the path to the Watchman Trailhead. Follow the dirt path that runs along the river. Walk across the employee use road to the trailhead. This is a good early morning or late evening trail, but mid-day hikes are not recommended in the summer because the trail is in full sun and high temperatures are generally encountered that time of day. Allow two hours for this hike. Begin the hike by heading north up the trail. Follow the path as it switchbacks past layers of sandstone, junipers, pinion pines and prickly pear cactus. The path itself runs steadily uphill toward a drainage at the bend then winds around and connects with the start of the loop trail, finally revealing the Watchman spire. The hike is not to the Watchman itself, but a view point to see it.
Trail History - The Watchman Trail was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, or better known as the CCC. The finished 1934. At one time there was talk about extending the trail into Parunuweap Canyon but environmental conditions would not allow further construction. There was a trail built that went up the gully to the north of the actual Watchman. It was built with wooden ladders and was supposed to eventually lead to Parunuweap. The trail was never completed. In 1998 you could still hike up the gully to the shoulder using the ladders, but a year later a debris flow washed out a lot of the historical ladders.
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
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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