Backpacking Zion's West Rim Trail
Utah › Grotto Trailhead
Added by Rebecca Wood
- Trail distance: 6 miles to the campground
- Great views of the valley from Angel's Landing
- Remember everything is pack-in, pack-out
- Duration: Day hike or overnight; Average hiking time is about 10 hours
We backpacked the West Rim trail from the start of the Grotto trail through Refrigerator Canyon, up Walter’s Wiggles, past Angels Landing and then up to Cabin Springs. When we reached Angels Landing, we stashed our heavy packs and trekked across the half-mile, narrow sandstone ridge. Anchored support chains are attached along some sections sheer cliffs at high elevations – definitely not suggested for young kids or people with a fear of heights. There have been fatalities, so don’t stand near the edge! Avoid hiking this trail when it is wet, storming or there are high winds.
After Angels Landing, we backpacked the remaining 5 miles till we reached our campsite right before dusk. Pitched the tent, whipped up dinner and ate while looking up at the stars. Because you’re higher up and far away from any city, the Milky Way and constellations are beautiful!
Once you reach the top, the trail forks. The left will continue on the West Rim trail, the right will head through Telephone Canyon and eventually reconnect with the West Rim trail.
In the morning, we left our campsite and headed out on a trail run taking the Scenic West Rim Route and then looping back around through Telephone Canyon. Once at the top of the trail, you’ll see amazing views of the canyon including the Cathedral Mountain, Behunin Canyon and Angels Landing.
The first part of the trail is packed with hikers heading to Angels Landing. However, very few keep hiking past it. Because you need to reserve the campgrounds, there are very few people around, and there is plenty of space between each site. The views are definitely what makes it worth it – between Refrigerator Canyon, Walter’s Wiggles, Angels Landing, Cathedral Mountain and the Scenic West Rim, the variety of scenery is beautiful. Don’t forget to look up! That’s where lots of the best views are.
If you plan on backpacking and camping on the trail, you’ll need a permit (small fee). You’ll also be required to pack in and out your trash, including any toiletries you use. If you’re only going to hike for the day, no permit is required.
The 2 mile mark is at Angel’s Landing and Scout Lookout. From there, the West Rim trail continues straight, while Angels Landing is to your right and Scout Lookout to your left. There are campgrounds and visitors centers where you’re able to leave your car for the day, or pitch a tent and stay a few days. Watchman Campground by the Zion Canyon Visitor Center is by appointment only, while South Campground is first-come, first-served. Both Watchman and South Campgrounds are $16 per night.
If you’re only going to do a day hike, park in Springdale and catch the shuttle into the park. Though parking is available at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, it’s usually full by mid-morning.
Between April 1 and October 30, Zion Canyon is only accessible through their shuttle system. Shuttles are free and make a lot of stops on their way in and out of the canyon. Shuttles can be accessed at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and in the town of Springdale (just outside of the park) – hop on here and get off at the Grotto exit. From the Grotto picnic area, cross the road and walk over the footbridge to the West Rim-Angels Landing trailhead.
Though many people make the hike up to Angels Landing, I would consider it to be a strenuous hike. The trail is maintained and easy to follow, but with full sun majority of the time and continuously climbing switchbacks (elevation gain of 2,500ft), it’s either a long day hike or a nice backpack trip.
After Zion, My friends and I always hit up Oscar’s Café after a trip to Zion. Great burgers, salads and sweet potato fries! They’ve got a great outdoor porch with heat lamps. Fun atmosphere, great food and close to the canyon.
- Remember: whatever you pack IN you also have to pack OUT. So only take the essentials that you need!
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Change of clothes (socks, shirt, shorts/pants, undies, etc.)
- Lightweight jacket – gets pretty windy up on top
- Food (fresh, dried, dehydrated, whatever you want)
- Water or water filter
- Sunglasses and/or hat
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Backpacking, Camping, Hiking
Spring, Summer, Autumn
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West Meets East
The West Rim Trail is entirely unforgettable! Having trekked the entire Trans-Zion Trek, the West Rim offers some of the most drastic changes in scenery and terrain along the way. Sweeping vistas and razor-edge trails all leading up to the terminus at Angel's Landing. Unbelievable! Fall is also the best time to do this to avoid the heat and catch the change in foliage.
Stunning Views, many switchbacks, water is scarce in March.
The West Rim was my first backpacking adventure, and we did an in and out to backcountry site #8. The West Rim from the Grotto trailhead has a lot of switchbacks especially to get to Angel's Landing. Another large switchback portion to reach Cabin Springs. The hard work is worth the views once you are on the sparsely forested plateaus of the West Rim! Heads up there was still some snow in Potato Hollow in March. Also, Cabin Springs was the only place for water so be sure to fill up whenever you can!
Best Almost-Secret Trail in Zion NP
This is such a great trail and the views at the top of rim are stunning. Once you get past Angel's Landing, the crowds all but disappear (even on the super crowded Labor Day weekend), so you and your adventure buds will feel alone in the wilderness, save for the occasional group of deer. The switchbacks up to Cabin Springs are not for the faint of heart, but it's so worth it. We spent two nights at camp site 4 (reservable online), which gave us a chance to day hike and relax at the top. The sunsets over the canyon were mesmerizing and watching lightning storms on the other side of the park was an unexpected highlight.
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