Trip Report & Photos: Backpacking the West Rim Trail in Zion

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The West Rim Trail in Zion in Photos

Most people who visit Zion National Park never leave the main canyon, and it’s easy to see why. With spots like the Narrows and Observation Point, there is plenty to keep you busy in that section of the Park. Up until now, I had ventured outside the main canyon to hike the Subway, but I had never done any kind of overnight trip anywhere else in Zion.

In May, I joined eight of my friends on a two day backpacking trip on the West Rim in Zion National Park. The West Rim is located up Kolob Terrace Road west of the main canyon. It starts at Lava Point which is the highest point within the Park and drops 2,500 feet over 14.5 miles, ending in the main canyon at the trailhead that leads up to Angel’s Landing.The West Rim Trail is a beginner-friendly backpacking trip and is packed with awesome views of Zion and the surrounding area. Hiking the West Rim Trail makes you realize how vast the Park really is. It is so much bigger than what you see in the main canyon. In this post I round up my favorite West Rim Trail photos from the trip, and

The West Rim Trail is a beginner-friendly backpacking trip and is packed with awesome views of Zion and the surrounding area. Hiking the West Rim Trail makes you realize how vast the Park really is. It is so much bigger than what you see in the main canyon. In this post I round up my favorite West Rim Trail photos from the trip, and this follow up post, I share all the details about permits, car shuttles, and more, in order to help you plan your own West Rim Trail backpacking trip.

We arrived at the Lava Point trailhead in the mid-morning. The wind was blowing and the weather was not looking good. We even encountered some wet snow flurries, with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees when we set off. But we were in high spirits and excited to experience a new side of Zion at 7,800 feet above sea level. The high alpine vegetation and the cool mountain air felt nothing like the Zion that I knew.
Leaving Lava Point on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

The weather was a bit intimidating, but I felt prepared for the worst. As part of the Mountain Hardwear Ambassador Program, I was sent a few pieces of bombproof gear that I was confident would protect me from the elements. This included the waterproof Ozonic 50 OutDry Backpack and the ultra lightweight Stretch Ozonic Rain Shell. (*On a side note – this was the first time I’d ever been able to cram all of my gear into a 50-liter pack, and I will likely be writing a detailed post on how I downsized.)The West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

Around lunch time, the sun broke through the clouds, and it looked like the rain was on its way out. We stopped at Potato Hollow in hopes of finding water but had no luck. Water availability is limited on the trail, and you should plan on bringing enough to get you to Cabin Spring which is located near campsite 2 and typically flows year round. More info on water sources will be included in my follow up post.Potato Hollow - one of the potential water sources on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

The West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

After Potato Hollow, the views started to open up, and it only got better as we continued.The West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

The view of Imlay Canyon:Views of Imlay Canyon on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

The Right Fork of North Creek:
The West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

Around 4:30 we reached our designated campsite. Campsite 4 is a group site, and permits are available either by advanced reservation or by walk-up.Campsite 4 on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

Our campsite was one of those affected by the 2007 fire, but it was still completely awesome. Despite being exposed, we were shielded from the strong winds that were whipping along the rim just a couple hundred feet away. For a group of 8, the site was huge and we had plenty of room to stretch out. On this trip, I brought along my Mountain Hardwear SuperMega UL 2 tent, which weighs just over 2 pounds and packs down incredibly small. 
Mountain Hardwear Ozonic Pack and SuperMega UL 2 tent

Campsite 4 on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

We hung out at camp for a while, mixed some camp cocktails, and then made the 5 minute walk out to the rim of the plateau to watch the sunset. 
Campsite 4 on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

Campsite 4 on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

Campsite 4 on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park
Campsite 4 on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

If the sunset wasn’t good enough, when we returned to camp, we were greeted by a cute family of deer that decided to stroll through camp and check us out.Campsite 4 on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

Campsite 4 on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

If you are interested in night photography, the West Rim Trail in Zion offers unobstructed views of the night sky. I took the opportunity to practice this new hobby of mine with a Sony A7S mirrorless camera.Campsite 4 on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

Mountain Hardwear SuperMega UL 2 tent

Campsite 4 on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

Campsite 4 on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

On Day 2 I woke up to this sunrise view from my tent. It was so cool being able to see both the sunset and the sunrise from camp. Mountain Hardwear SuperMega UL 2 tent

We had a lazy morning, hitting the trail around 10:45. That’s the beauty of taking two full days to hike the West Rim Trail. There’s no need to rush, and you can take your time to soak in the experience. 
Mountain Hardwear Outdry Ozonic 50 backpack

The West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

About an hour after leaving camp, we stopped to fill up our water at Cabin Spring, which is located just a few feet from this  vertigo-inducing cliff.Cabin Spring on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

After leaving Cabin Spring, the vegetation thins out and the slick-rock trail, which was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Core, hugs the side of the cliff. Here you get the most dramatic views of the entire hike.Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 50 OutDry Waterproof Backpack

The West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 50 OutDry Backpack

The West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

The West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

As you reach the end of the trail, it spits you out right at Scout’s Lookout and the junction to Angel’s Landing. If you have time and energy, a side hike up Angel’s Landing is possible.Angel's Landing from the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

As you make your way down into the main canyon, you’ll encounter a lot of people on the trail who are making their way up. Enjoy the last bit of views and make sure to take a dip (or at least cool off those feet) in the Virgin River on your way to the shuttle bus.Trail to Angel's Landing in Zion National Park

Virgin River in Zion National Park

For a beginner-friendly backpacking trip, the West Rim Trail in Zion was so much bang for the buck. Non-stop views, relatively few people, and awesome camping made this trip so much fun. If you are interested in doing this trip yourself, check out my West Rim Backpacking Guide with all of the logistic info about this trail. 
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There are 8 comments on this post.

About the author

Hi! I'm Kristen....blogger, hiker, sunset-watcher, and dance floor shredder. I feel most alive in the outdoors and created this website to help you enjoy the best that the West has to offer.

8 Comments on “Trip Report & Photos: Backpacking the West Rim Trail in Zion

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  1. That view overlooking Imlay is outstanding. Snackies break! I’m back in Bangkok at this moment and your post is seriously inspire thoughts on how to get to that area!

      Thanks Yok! Have fun in Bangkok and let me know if you make it out this way. Zion is amazing! -Kristen

    The photos of the night sky are amazing. I have never been hiking in the US, but your posts are very inspiring. Must go one day soon.

      Thanks so much Tammy! I really appreciate the compliment. I’m new to night photography myself, but it’s been fun learning and practicing the skill. Hope you make it to the US soon! -Kristen

    WOW! Epic photos! I love the night ones. I need to figure out how to take better night ones. What camera do you use again? Great! THANKS SO MUCH!

      Hey Bobbi! Thanks so much. I really appreciate the compliment. I recently upgraded to a Sony A7S which is what I used on this trip. It was a pricey investment that’s probably not practical for most people. However, any starter DSLR or even the Sony A6000 paired with a wide open aperture lens should get you started. Once you figure out the right settings it becomes easier (f 2.8 & 15-30 seconds depending on your ISO is a good place to start). And definitely get a tripod, otherwise your shots will look blurry. Got any other questions, just let me know. Thanks! Kristen

    Hi there! I’m headed to Zion early May and your blog has been so helpful in planning it! Thank you! What did you guys do with your food on the overnight hike? Were critters a problem? Also what were your nighttime temperatures when you went in May?

      We didn’t have any problems with critters. And since it’s not bear country, you just need to be sure not to leave your food on the ground or sitting out in the open. I usually put my food in a stuff sack and hang it from a branch. Nighttime temps will still be cold in May since the elevation on the room is pretty high. Make sure to bring lots of layers and a warm jacket and sleeping bag.

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