Zion – West Rim Trail

Virgin, UT

Today we headed back into Zion’s Main Canyon to hike one of the more popular trails in the park. The West Rim Trail begins benignly along the banks of the Virgin River on a nicely paved trail.  Last week the schools in this area of Utah were on Spring Break and the canyon was very crowded.  We thought that this week, with schools back in session, the park might be a little less crowded.  But as we began this hike there were a couple of large groups ahead of us.

But hiking with a large group is a slow process, as the groups moved like a herd of cats, so we quickly passed them and found the trail more open ahead of us.

After a short hike along the river, we began what we knew would be a long climb up the side of the canyon.  As we looked up (as shown below) we couldn’t see where the trail would go.  As we found out, it goes into a canyon barely seen as the dark area on the upper right of the picture below.  But we had a long climb ahead before we would reach that point.

While the ascent was steep and relentless, the footing was great as the trail was paved.

Looking back as we climbed, we had a great view of Zion Canyon and the trail we just conquered.

Then we turned and just kept climbing.

Finally, we entered Refrigerator Canyon, a wonderful deep hanging side canyon where temperatures always remain cool.  After a short hike on flat terrain, the trail begins to rise sharply again through a series of switchbacks.

The steep incline let up for a little bit until we got to an amazing bit of 1930’s CCC engineering: Walter’s Wiggles — a set of twenty-one compact switchbacks that takes the trail all the way up to the top of the ridge above Refrigerator Canyon.

At the top of Walter’s Wiggles is a flat area known as Scout Lookout, about a thousand feet above the canyon below.  At this point you have three choices: return back down the canyon, continue up the West Rim Trail, or go up one of the most dangerous climbs in the park to Angel’s Landing.

The sign pictured above warns hikers of the danger of this five hundred foot climb.  In researching this hike we read about the six people who have fallen to their death here since 2004.  Since four of them were women in their fifties, we decided that we would not tempt fate with the nimble hiker (still in her fifties for the next few months) or her trusted sidekick.  The picture below shows the beginning of the climb.  As you can see, the trail up the rocks is very crowded.  

We passed on the crowded death trail and continued up West Rim Trail to find an overlook where we could eat lunch while watching the hikers on Angel’s Landing Trail.

After a short hike we found a rocky outcropping that gave us a great view of Angel’s Landing, the lower peak in the picture below.

So we sat down to enjoy lunch and the beautiful view.

While eating, we took some zoomed pictures of the trail up to Angel’s Landing.

Start of the trail

Middle Section

Final Ascent

The Summit

Below is an “un-zoomed” picture of the trail up to Angel’s Landing.  Think anyone could survive a fall from this trail?  We think that anyone intending to hike this trail should go up to where we took this picture and check out the trail before climbing it.  We suspect that, after this view, the trail would be much less crowded!

After lunch we continued hiking up the trail.  At the highest point we were fifteen hundred feet above our starting point and were at an altitude of 5,700 feet.

After another mile or so we came to a great view of a stony vista to the north.  At that point we had hiked almost five miles, almost all up hill, so we decided it was time to begin the return trip.

The return trip on a hike always provides views that are completely different from those you see hiking in the other direction.  As we made our way back, we looked down the canyon and found we had a great view of Walter’s Wiggles in the distance.

Going down a trail is sure easier than going up a trail.  We’ll do the return trip much more quickly than we did the trip up.

After descending Walter’s Wiggles and Refrigerator Canyon, we had a great view of the remainder of our hike down the side of Zion Canyon.

After returning to flat ground, we hiked a bit before crossing the Virgin River.

Because of the number of cars in the park, we had to leave the Jeep in a lot about a half mile from the trailhead, so we still had a bit of hiking to do once we crossed the river.  But after the hike we just completed, this final leg over flat terrain was pretty easy.

If you ever visit Zion National Park you have to put this on your “must do” list.  It’s one of the best we have experienced during our visit.  But we still have two weeks left in the area, so who knows what we’ll find in the future.

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14 Responses to Zion – West Rim Trail

  1. Joan Ritten says:

    Wow that is some hike! Thanks for the great pictures!

  2. Janna says:

    We didn’t do the West Rim Trail while there last April, looking at your photos I’m wishing we had. There were three of us in the group, two very competitive type people then there was me. Two of us had said “no way” to the “death trail” and one of us was still waffling–I think the two of us were afraid if we hiked the West Rim, our competitive friend would think we had to go all the way and do Angel’s Landing. 🙂

  3. Breathtaking! There is no doubt we will attempt this one. Simply beautiful, thanks again for taking us to this awesome hike,

  4. Lisa says:

    Now you can see why we only did the very first section of Angel’s Landing and then decided it was too stressful!!! The hike you did looks wonderful!

    • placestheygo says:

      I am so glad Hans didn’t did do it. It really helped with our decision. Then, after our view yesterday…never! The West Rim Trail is great. Most of it paved as well just as the approach. You can actually hike it to Lava Point which is 16 miles.

  5. LuAnn says:

    This trail looks like a definite must do. When we make plans for Zion I know just the blog I will be heading to! Great detail of hikes to be done in this park.

  6. Jean Reeder says:

    I am new to your website. I have loved all of your hikes and wonderful pictures in Zion. It is going to have to go on my bucket list. I will be using Joe’s website for sure. Thanks for taking us along with you.

  7. Marsha says:

    I am so sorry to tell you that Bella is very upset with you two. I was reading your blog out loud and when I came to the part that reads…slow process, as the groups moved like a herd of cats…she gave me a very dirty look!
    The trail looks super but 21 switchbacks…wow!!! I love the photo looking at it when you were descending.
    Oh you two are so smart not doing that dangerous climb. I hate seeing children on steep climbs like that!
    AWESOME photo of you, Pam. You look great with all the red rock surrounding you.
    I love the way those trees grow right out of the rock. I can see their roots on top of the rock.
    You are going to have a tuff time choosing your most favorite place to have lunch.
    This hike is at the top of our Utah hiking list! Thanks for a fabulous job!

  8. Leigh says:

    We’ve been to Zion, but not that hike. It’s on my list next time. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Allison says:

    We, too, bailed on Angel’s Landing. After looking at your photos, I’m happy about that. Its just too exposed. I answered your upholstery question in my blog comments. Your photos are, as always, just wonderful.

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