Cable Mountain and Deertrap Mountain Trails
From the Ponderosa Hunting Club Trail Head, you'll head west into an open ponderosa pine forest, which soon gives way to a meadow of sagebrush, where you join the East Rim Trail (described below). A trail to Echo Canyon heads off to the right; take the left fork for Cable and Deertrap mountains. At the next fork, your route bears right and the East Rim Trail veers left. The trail climbs through juniper, piñon, Gambel oak, and a few ponderosa pines, then tops out in open sagebrush. Here the trail separates: The right branch heads for Cable Mountain, the left for Deertrap Mountain.
The Cable Mountain Trail climbs gently to a knoll, from which you can see the more than 10,000-foot-high pink cliffs of the Virgin Rim in the distance, before descending into a manzanita and juniper forest. The trail gradually makes its way northwest along a plateau to the point where pioneers built a cable tramway to carry logs down to the Virgin River. The remains of the tram structure are fragile and very hazardous -- please stay back. Looking out over the Big Bend of the Virgin River, you have a grand view of the Organ and Angels Landing, with the cliffs of Cathedral Mountain serving as a backdrop. This trail has an elevation gain of 530 feet and a loss of 460 feet.
The Deertrap Mountain Trail slopes downward from the junction with Cable Mountain Trail toward the head of Hidden Canyon. As you cross an open area dotted with manzanita, several paths lead to the bottom of a draw (a shallow gully), where there's a small seep (a source of intermittent water that creates the gully). Follow the trail out onto Deertrap Mountain and to the rim of Zion Canyon, for a breathtaking view of the Mountain of the Sun and the Twin Brothers, which are practically in your lap, and the Court of the Patriarchs, which is directly across the canyon. From here, you can walk north and south along the edge of the canyon. The better-defined path runs north (.4 mile) to an overlook, from which you can see the Great White Throne, Angels Landing, and, in the distance, the red tips of the Temple of Sinawava. The southern path (.6 mile) is rough, and leads to a view of the East Temple and Twin Brothers. This trail has an elevation gain of 760 feet and a loss of 470 feet.
These hikes can be combined for an overnight trip from the Ponderosa Hunting Club Trail Head; or for the really zealous, there's the option of combining these hikes with the more strenuous East Rim Trail hike (described below), which adds 11.2 miles to the jaunt.
6.2 miles RT to Cable Mountain, 7.8 miles RT to Deertrap Mountain, or 11 miles combination RT. Moderate. Access: Ponderosa Hunting Club. From Zion National Park's east entrance drive 2 1/2 miles east on Utah 9, turn north onto the road to the North Fork and Navajo Lake -- impassable when wet or snowy -- and drive for 5 1/3 miles to the Ponderosa Hunting Club. Visitors should register at the small mailbox at the Ponderosa Gate -- sign both in and out. Drive through the main entrance and head left [west] on Twin Knolls Rd. for about 3/4 mile; turn left south onto Buck Rd. Bear right at the first Y, then left at the next Y, following signs for the Gooder-Reagan cabin. The last few hundred feet descends a rocky grade and crosses a wash, requiring a high-clearance vehicle, before entering the national park at the trail head. Close the gate behind you to keep livestock out.
Wonderful distant views, a small petrified forest, a waterfall, and, if your timing is right, an abundance of wildflowers help make this quiet desert trail well worth the 16-mile-plus hike. The first few miles are fairly easy walking along a wide sandy path. Ahead you have views of Mount Kinesava and the Three Marys, and behind are the Eagle Crags. A gradual 150-foot incline brings you to the Petrified Forest. (Please remember, it is illegal to remove anything from the national park; leave the lovely pieces of petrified wood as you find them.) After crossing Huber Wash, the trail heads for Scoggins Wash through more desertlike terrain, with the addition of juniper, piñon, and sagebrush. Once on the mesa beyond Scoggins Wash, the trail moves towards three knolls, passing through several small saddles, traversing a meadow, and crossing the Old Scoggins Stock Trail, built by the area's early pioneers. Continuing west, the trail passes between two knolls and bends around to the north. The final descent into Coalpits Wash brings Cougar Mountain, Smith Mesa, and Lambs Knoll into view; at the bottom you'll find the lovely sight of a pretty waterfall, a bit upstream from Coalpits Spring -- the end of the trail. This trail can be uncomfortably hot in summer, but it's an absolute delight November through May, with blankets of wildflowers to dazzle the eye in spring. The elevation gain of this hike is a gradual 550 feet over the first 5 miles. You drop about 250 feet over the last 3 miles. You should plan on a long day for this hike.
16.2 miles RT. Easy to moderate. Access: From the south entrance to the park, drive west on Utah 9 for 3 1/2 miles to a parking area on the right (north) side of the road. From here, follow a marked trail 1.4 miles through a recent real estate development.
East Mesa Trail
This is an easier and shorter route to Observation Point than the Observation Point Trail (later in this section), and it is open to equestrians. The trail moves westward over a fairly open plateau through ponderosa pines and manzanita, turning a little to the south as it passes Mystery Canyon; it then winds around a steep unnamed canyon, opening to the south into Echo Canyon, and then passes another canyon to the north that empties into the Virgin River, below the Narrows. Finally the trail connects to Observation Point Trail, just .2 mile from its end; turn right for Observation Point.
6 miles RT. Easy. Access: East Mesa Trail Head. From Zion National Park's east entrance, drive 2 1/2 miles east on Utah 9, turn north onto the road to the North Fork and Navajo Lake -- impassable when wet or snowy -- and go 5 1/3 miles to the Ponderosa Hunting Club. Visitors should register at the small mailbox at the Ponderosa Gate -- sign both in and out. Drive through the main entrance and head left (west) on Twin Knolls Rd. for about 1 1/4 miles to a T intersection; turn right (north) onto Beaver Rd., which deteriorates into little more than a dirt track and eventually reenters the park at the trail head.
East Rim Trail
This challenging trail connects with the trails to Cable and Deertrap mountains, Observation Point, and Hidden Canyon, before descending into Zion Canyon at the Weeping Rock Trail Head. Trail intersections are fairly well marked all along the East Rim.
The trail follows an old dirt road up the dry wash of Clear Creek and then begins a climb of about 800 feet up the narrow canyon of Cave Creek. Once on top, you'll follow the rim high above Clear Creek, which affords terrific views of Checkerboard Mesa. At the head of Jolley Gulch, you'll find yourself at a high pour-off, looking down at water-smoothed canyon walls. Leaving the rim, the trail winds along the East Rim Plateau, through scattered piñon and Utah juniper, manzanita, and an occasional Gambel oak in wetter areas. This plateau was heavily logged in the early part of the 20th century. About 5.3 miles along the trail, you come to a short spur trail over to Stave Spring, an undependable water source (treat before drinking). Soon the trail to Cable and Deertrap mountains branches off to the left, and after another .5 mile the turnoff to the Ponderosa Hunting Club heads right. The East Rim Trail keeps descending toward Echo Canyon, following the top of canyon walls for about .5 mile before following switchbacks down the almost sheer cliffs into Echo Canyon, offering views of Cathedral Mountain and Angels Landing. The trail becomes a mite dicey along here, with twists and turns complicated by slickrock, and rock cairns as the only trail pointers. But finally, you reach the junction with steep Observation Point Trail, which takes off to the right and connects to the East Mesa Trail farther up. Don't turn onto Observation Point Trail. Instead, continue down Echo Canyon to the end of the trail at Weeping Rock Trail Head, in Zion Canyon along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
10.6 miles one-way to Weeping Rock Trail Head. Difficult. Access: Trail head is at the end of a short paved road past a ranger's residence, 450 ft. west of the east entrance to the park.
Observation Point Trail
This hike climbs over 2,000 feet to Observation Point, but the incredible views make all the exertion worthwhile. As you climb the switchbacks that zigzag up the canyon wall, a variety of formations become visible. First there's Angels Landing across the Virgin River, and the Organ a little closer, then the alcove containing Weeping Rock appears to the north. Cathedral Mountain is visible beyond Angels Landing, and the sheer north face of Cable Mountain looms directly overhead. The trail levels out as it enters Echo Canyon. When the East Rim Trail branches off to the right, you head left up the north wall of Echo Canyon, climbing along steep switchbacks, until the trail moves across a steep slope of white cliffs dropping 1,000 feet below the path. When you finally reach the top of the Navajo sandstone formation, the East Mesa Trail heads off to the right, and you bend around to the left through deep sand to Observation Point, right at the tip of the plateau, at an altitude of 6,507 feet. From here you can see far down Zion Canyon; the Great White Throne looms in the foreground with Red Arch Mountain just beyond. For an easier hike to Observation Point, take the East Mesa Trail.
8 miles RT. Moderate to difficult. Access: Weeping Rock parking lot along Zion Canyon Scenic Dr.
Wildcat Canyon and Wildcat Canyon Connecting Trails
A high-country trail linking the Hop Valley and West Rim trails, this connector also provides access to several primitive canyon trails. The Wildcat Trail cuts east (right) just a short distance from the Hop Valley Trail Head, passing between Spendlove Knoll to the south and Firepit Knoll to the north, both extinct cinder cones, or simple volcanoes. Crossing the upper end of the Lee Valley takes you through open grassy meadows sprinkled with sagebrush and Gambel oak. Vistas to the east and south include Northgate Peaks, the tops of North and South Guardian Angels above a reddish ridge, the Altar of Sacrifice, the West Temple, and Mount Kinesava. Cedar posts mark the trail, as it becomes obscure in places through the valley. After crossing the Pine Springs Wash, rock cairns point the way along an incline of slickrock.
As you reach the top of the incline, you have a grand unobstructed view of North Guardian Angel. Once past the junctions, with spurs to Wildcat Canyon Trail Head and Northgate Peaks Trail (the first heads left, the second right -- continue straight ahead at both), you begin a gentle incline through a ponderosa pine forest, continuing upward along Russell Gulch. As you enter the headwaters of Wildcat Canyon, you'll see Gambel oak, bigtooth maple, and quaking aspen. The trail descends into the canyon, passing a dependable spring (treat the water before using), and then climbs the far wall, eventually reaching the top of the Horse Pasture Plateau. Just before the junction with the West Rim Trail, you'll have fine views of the Lava Point lookout. At the West Rim Trail, turn left to reach Lava Point Trail Head, the end of the trail. This trail has a total elevation gain of about 1,500 feet, with numerous ups and downs along the way. You should plan on a long day for this hike.
8.7 miles one-way, Hop Valley Trail Head to Lava Point Trail Head. Moderate. Access: From Virgin, head north on Kolob Terrace Rd. about 13 miles to the parking area for Hop Valley Trail Head.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.