Hiking the West Rim Trail - Zion National Park
Updated: Mar 2, 2021
Hiking the West rim of Zion National park provides majestic views into the seldom seen back country of Zion. You begin your adventure at Lava point, one of the highest points in Zion and slowly descend your way on the rim until entering the main canyon of Zion National Park, passing Scout Lookout and the iconic Angels Landing as you descend to the canyon floor.
You'll hike your way through ponderosa pines, beautiful aspen groves, along steep sandstone, getting great views of the mysterious side canyons that most visitors to Zion never see. This is a shuttle hike that can be done in a day or by camping overnight with a back country permit.
Getting to the Trailhead
To get to the West Rim trail head, you need to turn onto Kolob Terrace road off of highway 9 in the small town of Virgin, Utah, about 10 miles away from the main entrance to the park. Drive along this road for about 20 miles or so and you'll see a sign that says right for Lava point. You can park at Lava point and take a small trail down to the West Rim Trail, or you can drive a little ways down a dirt road right to the West Rim trailhead. The dirt road is passable for most cars when it is dry, if it has been rainy, its best to park at Lava Point. The drive from Virgin to the trailhead takes about 45 minutes one way, keep this in mind if you are setting up a shuttle, as to go up and back will take about an hour and 30 minutes.
The trail starts out as a single track trail among large Ponderosa Pines. From the trailhead to the main Zion Canyon floor and the end of the hike is 16 miles.
The trail is easy to follow and has some small ups and downs as you make your way across the west rim. This part of the hike provides some great views of some of Zion's rarely seen side canyons. You'll get great views in almost every direction as the West Rim is one of the highest points in Zion National Park. After taking in some great views you will slowly begin to descend and make your way toward the main canyon of Zion.
While you lose quite a bit of elevation overall on this hike, going from about 7,400 feet to 4,100 feet, there are some steeper sections as you ascend ridges after descending quickly into a valley. With these ups and downs you will ascend about 1,600 feet on the trail. While much of this is achieved in small increments along the 16 miles of the hike, there are a few sections that are steep and physically demanding to ascend. You will come across a couple of junctions in the trail, all are well marked and provide some lovely side trips if you would like to extend your hike.
Once you start your descent into the main canyon, most of the uphill is behind you and you will get some spectacular views of the canyon. You will most likely run into more hikers at this point as many continue on up for a little ways after hiking Scout Lookout and Angels Landing. The hike to Scout Lookout takes you along the cliff edge of the main Zion canyon providing a great view of the Temple of Sinawava area, the east cliffs and Observation Point and Angels Landing.
Once you reach Scout Lookout the trail becomes very busy with the large number of people that hike up to Angels Landing. Follow the trail down from Angels Landing and you will cross the river and can catch a shuttle back to the visitor center, or further up canyon if you still have some hiking left in you.
The West Rim Hike is a great hike for the experienced hiker looking for an all day adventure. Keep in mind the length of the hike and be sure to pack plenty of food and water, especially if you will be doing the hike in summer. If you have any questions or comments about the hike, feel free to leave them below in the comments section. If you found this article helpful and are planning other adventures in Utah consider signing up for our e-mail list (simply go to the top of page and click subscribe - it's free!) to get the latest adventure posts. You can also sign up to be a member here to share comments at the bottom of our posts and in our forums. Most importantly don't forget to get outside and find your adventure!