Added by Mike Quine
The eastern reaches of Zion National Park lies the perhaps unoriginally coined East Rim Trail. An 11-mile trail that either begins or ends the unofficial Trans-Zion Trek or a standalone journey in its own right. With multi-thousand foot adjustments in elevation, this trail is as much an endurance trek as it rewards in views.
The East Rim Trail is approximately 11-miles (one-way) and can either be started from the Eastern Entrance of Zion National Park, or more commonly from the Hidden Canyon or Observation Point Trailheads. Many people start from within Zion Canyon and do the arduous Observation Point Trail, forgoing the East Rim Trail. But not you! Whether you are just starting or finishing the Trans-Zion Trek, or hiking the trail on its own, the East Rim trail is not without its own remarkable views. Keep in mind, this trail is 11 miles in one direction. Either plan to hike out and back (22 miles) or schedule to have a shuttle pick you up (either at the East Entrance or at the central Visitor Center to shepherd you back to your vehicle.
Starting at the East Entrance Trailhead, the East Rim begins as a well-manicured path that dips and climbs through a brush lined canon. Without a doubt, this area of the park is considerably more quiet than the main Zion canyon that you will reach within 11 miles. White cliffs and deep cut canyons will usher you along this path before climbing up onto the eastern plateaus. You will KNOW when you reach this plateau because you will begin trekking through an unmistakable pine forest with sweeping vistas.
Given the likelihood of the forest recovering so quickly, you will likely also see the remnants of a massive wildfire that scorched this section of earth not so long ago. While it was a tragic fire that left much of the forests burnt, it created an otherworldly interpretation of beauty behind. Once you get a fair view of the Zion Canyon in the distance, you will be nearing the portion of the trail that will drastically sink in elevation. A dramatic descent into the Echo Canyon….Echo Canyon…Echo Canyon…
Once nearing the bottom, it can become somewhat confusing as to which direction to take as the canyon floor is plastered with slickrock. Fortunately, your friendly neighborhood Park Service has marked (without degrading the wild aesthetics) the proper path to take using your standard rock cairns. This is the big decision point in the trail. Do you continue along the East Rim Trail (which you will have to do anyway) or do you break away and test your strength on the Observation Point Trail. Well at this point (especially if you are backpacking) you are likely tiring out. It is worth mentioning, the Observation Point has one of, if not the, best views of the full Zion Canyon. Don’t kill yourself along the potentially treacherous trail (or by exhaustion) but seriously consider giving it a try. That being said…back to the East Rim Trail.
Its all down hill from here…literally. You will make your way through the final stretches of Echo Canyon, through some rather dramatic splits in the rock faces, and down what seems like a endless stream of fabricated switchbacks. Also, at this point…mind the crowds. This is not the same quiet patch of earth you started this trek. Now that you are back on the main Zion Road, you can hop on one of the frequently running buses back to the visitor center. You can either camp, find lodging, or have a pre-arranged shuttle to bring you back to the East Entrance and your vehicle.
- SUNSCREEN (Spring and Summer are HOT)
- Water (Sources are scarce)
- Sturdy hiking boots
- Backpacking Kit (Season Appropriate and Optional)
- Bandana (to look cool)
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Backpacking, Fitness, Hiking, Photography, Rock Climbing
Spring, Summer, Autumn
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