Wildcat Canyon Trail – Zion NP

Hurricane, UT

After a day of rest provided by the nimble hiker, we headed east of Hurricane along Rte. 9 toward Zion NP.  In the little village of Virgin we turned north on Kolob Terrace Road.  We did a couple of hikes up this way during our stay in March of 2013, but Pam read a blog about hiking down into some slickrock (Life’s Little Adventures) that sounded adventurous, so off we went.

Kolob Terrace Road just outside Virgin

From the Wildcat Trailhead the hike begins benignly over a flat trail through the trees.  The trail seemed familiar at this point and we realized that we had hiked this part during our previous visit while hiking to the Northpeaks.

After just short of a mile the trail divides into two options.  The main trail heads into Wildcat Canyon.  We turned right at this point and headed toward the Northgate Peaks.  After a short distance, we had another choice.  Instead of continuing on to the Northpeaks, we turn left and followed the cairns across the vast expanse of white slickrock that goes down into Russell’s Gulch.  This trail eventually leads into a slot canyon called “the Subway” and requires a hiking permit from the Parks Service, but we were not going that far.

Beginning the descent

Much of this part of the trail is over steep slickrock.  Of course, the term “slickrock” is a misnomer, as it is not “slick” at all.  In fact, it allows you to play spiderman and climb right up or down the rock (carefully).

At some points we hiked down the rock . . .

. . . then up . . .

. . . and up . . .

. . . to the top

After going down over two miles into the gulch, we decided it was time to turn around and head back up the trail.  But were was the trail?

Looking back up the trail . . .

. . . and down the other side . . .

. . . then up again

At one point we came across the little guy pictured below sunning himself (herself?) along the rocks.

We think it was a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, but any snake experts out there may want to help us on the ID.

The “rattle?”

Beautiful view back at the top of the gulch

Once back at the Jeep we continued to drive north up Kolob Terrace Road.  During our previous visit the upper elevations were still covered with deep snow, so we couldn’t get up the road above the trailhead.

We stopped at the Lava Point Overlook for a great view of Horse Pasture Plateau below us and the main peaks of Zion NP in the distance.

A few miles further up the road we came to the Kolob Reservior where the road turns to dirt.  It was getting late in the day so it was time to turn around.

Kolob Reservoir

Full color at 8,100 feet

Like so many places in Zion, this hike presented a good variety of terrain and scenic views.  It is also in an area of the park that is not highly visited.  In fact, we didn’t see any other people during our hike.

We have a couple of hikes left on our agenda here before moving south that we’ll share with you.  More on that later . . .


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15 Responses to Wildcat Canyon Trail – Zion NP

  1. Joan and Steve says:

    Not sure I’d be too relaxed after seeing the snake! That’s my biggest fear during the hot days.

  2. pmbweaver says:

    Don’t be on the “slickrock” when it rains…been there; done that. We learned how it got its name.

    Is that Rocky on that high peak?

    Egads…we been there; done that too with the rattle snake. Got to be careful where you put your hands this time of year. Be on your guard for the rest of your hikes.

    Gorgeous country that is for sure!

  3. cathy says:

    Love the slick rock! You are in a beautiful area…enjoy!

  4. Sherry says:

    Who wouldn’t want to take a hike called wildcat canyon. Your pictures are fantastic. Hope you were a pretty good distance away from the rattler. I always though slick rock was very slick when wet. It sure is gorgeous!

  5. Laurel says:

    Another beautiful hike — there’s nothing better than autumn hiking in the Southwest. And hiking on slickrock is FUN. I like playing “Spiderwoman.” 😉 Your ID of the rattler is close enough for me…

  6. Holly Ritger says:

    Beautiful photos in Zion NP… I didn’t remember that rock being called slickrock but I’m betting it would be pretty slippery after a rain shower. I hope you enjoyed your day of rest, John. : )

  7. That’s the oddest looking rattle I’ve ever seen. Mutant? Damaged while young? Neat that you saw it!

    Thanks for taking me to some slickrock and red rock!

  8. heyduke50 says:

    yep that is a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake with a button (rattle)… we did a fantastic hike yesterday (our last one here as we took today off 😉 ) near Karranaville – a beautiful slot canyon… this one looked to be a nice hike as well…

  9. Jodee Gravel says:

    Love the slickrock (when it’s dry), it looks like so much fun. The trees are beautiful – so bright! Not sure that’s a Western Diamondback as buttons are usually only on baby rattlers – and that one looked pretty big in the pic. No matter what it was, it’s a gorgeous creature – we would be so excited!!

  10. Rick Doyle says:

    Yikes…that looked like a pretty big rattlesnake. If my wife ever saw one of those she’d never go hiking again!

    Great photos!

  11. I stepped on a snake today on the street and was scared to death. Fortunately that thing did not bite me.
    Great shots of those glowing Aspens.
    Slickrock, and I would like to play spidewoman on it…and yes carefully John 🙂

  12. Too bad you didn’t find the balanced rocks. Bet we wouldn’t be able to find them again, either. I remember Mark got us lost a couple times along that “trail”, but it sure was a fun hike on the slickrock. Nice photos!

  13. LuAnn says:

    Zion beckons to the two of you! Love seeing the autumn colors, which are still beautiful. This is another hike to add to the list. 🙂

  14. Chasing Dirt says:

    Since we saw another snake today it reminded me that I keep meaning to come back to this post. I am pretty positive your snake here is a Great Basin Rattlesnake with a rattle that’s broken off. It is definitely *not* a Western Diamondback, which would have the very distinctive starkly black and white rings on the tail just before the rattle. Always heart-stopping and pretty cool to see any species of them!

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