Added by Spencer Williams
The East Temple Saddle Loop is an unorthodox and challenging backcountry adventure requiring seasoned route-finding and strenuous rock scrambling along many exposed areas.
This adventure is a strenuous 4-mile (3-5 hour) loop into the backcountry of ZNP and is not recommended for families or those with a fear of heights. It begins at the Canyon Overlook Trailhead located on the east side of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. Parking in the area is very competitive and I recommend trying to park closer to your exit point of Upper Pine Creek, located 0.7 miles northeast along route 9.
Overlook Canyon Trail
The first section of the loop covers the crowded and popular Overlook Canyon Trail. Follow the trail for 0.5 miles to the overlook, here you can see the Zion Canyon floor below, the Mount Carmel Tunnel you previously drove through to your left and the East Temple above to your right. While looking at the East Temple take note of the surrounding white hoodoos and slick rock leading to the temple, this is the next section of your adventure.
East Temple Saddle
From the canyon overlook head north towards the slick rock in front of you, stay to the east/right using the white hoodoo next to the temple as a landmark to hike towards. Avoid hiking along the sections of rock directly underneath the temple for they are the steepest and most dangerous. The elevation gain from the overlook to the saddle is 1,100ft so be sure to take your time and zigzag to the top rather then marching straight up. The saddle is a great place to take a break and eat some lunch, you also now have unmatched views and uninterrupted photo opportunities of the West Temple, Bridge Mountain, Deertrap Mountain, and Zion Canyon.
While resting on the saddle you will also get a first glimpse at the next part of your adventure, a tree-covered bowl that will bring you down roughly 500 feet. Again like the front side there is no clear path down and you will need to zigzag along the path of least resistance. (Note: Please use caution when in this area, the bowl tends to get lots of snow and rain and can be dangerous to descend). At the bottom of the bowl you will find a small wash (depending on the season the wash can range from dry to frozen over, as it was for me). Hike east along the wash until you come to a large deep slot canyon known locally as “Shelf Canyon”. Do not attempt to climb down into the canyon but rather walk north 100 yards along the edge until you have found the canyons head. Safely scramble around the head of “Shelf Canyon” and get onto the far ridge separating “Shelf Canyon” and Upper Pine Creek.
Upper Pine Creek
You can now see your exit route and final stage of this adventure, Upper Pine Creek. Walk south along the ridge till you can find a safe descent into the dry river bed below, from here it is a short quarter mile hike to the road and your car.
- 3 liters of water
- Sun hat
- Hiking shoes or boots
- GPS or Compass
- Map of Zion National Park (I recommend a Nat Geo Topo map)
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
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