Zion Traverse: April 26-28, 2013


rope mule
Jan 17, 2012
When the opportunity arose a few weeks back to join a small group taking on the Zion Traverse, I had to jump on it. Having become familiar with a few of Zions technical canyoneering routes, I felt like I knew the Park relatively well, but not nearly well enough. This would be an incredible chance to see a little more of other side of Zion--the side I've only heard friends talk about. While much of the Traverse keeps you on the beaten path (and in some cases, very beaten), I discovered that there's still plenty of Wild left there.

View larger map.
We chose to go about the Traverse from East to West, mainly due to the fact that you get the biggest (by far) climb out of the way on day one. If we could just make it up to the West Rim in one piece after the 3,000 ft climb from the Virgin River up to our camp on the West Rim during the hottest part of the afternoon, it'd be smooth sailing for the last two days. Our route takes us from right to left on this elevation profile:


After some car issues and setting up the shuttle, we rolled in to Toquerville at the balmy hour of midnight to crash at a friend's place. With a fairly burly 18 mile day and "crux" 3000 foot climb ahead of us, we departed the arms of generosity and headed out early. A serious shortage of sleep couldn't oppress those smiles once we were geared up at the East Rim trailhead:


The first 6 miles involved a somewhat sandy but very mellow ascent up through Clear Creek and around the head of Jolley Gulch. Views were bountiful:


After quickly dispatching the first stage, we began our descent off of the East Rim and down into Echo Canyon. The route takes you past the junction for Observation Point and down into Tourist Land. That small, darkish orange shape in the middle of the image is Angels Landing. Our ultimate goal for the day was still well past that towering landmark:


Jeremy admiring the view:



We encountered the best light of the entire trip in the heart of Echo Canyon. Unfortunately, this is also where we encountered the most people:


Down the paved switchbacks towards The Grotto we go:



Instead of hopping the shuttle between Weeping Rock and The Grotto we opted to stay true to the route and huff the one mile of asphalt:


Lunch in the grotto, with 10.5 miles under our belts. The only thing between us and our first camp on the West Rim was 7.5 miles, 3000' of elevation gain, and a litany of tourists staring oddly at our backpacks. Or was it our smell?


Towards the West Rim we go. Taking a break to enjoy the view down Zion Canyon:


Once above Scout Lookout, things quieted down a bit:


Now we're making some progress. Rick pausing for a moment to enjoy the view from the divide between Telephone and Behunin Canyons. I believe that's Cedar Breaks in the distance?


drclef hustling towards the West Rim spring. Water was getting low! Fatigue was running high! Where's the whiskey?

We'd get to that in a bit.


The spring here provided some deliciously cold and clean water. We had to load up all of our water vessels here as our camp for the night would be a dry one:


West Rim achieved! A look back to the east as we scurry towards camp:


From near our campsite, looking south towards the daunting (yet alluring) Heaps Canyon:


Every great camp has a great climbing tree. This one was no exception:


First light hitting Inclined Temple on day 2:


It's Day 2, and we're off. We've got a lot of miles to cover to get to the northern end of Hop Valley by sundown. 22 to be exact. But I honestly don't think you could draw up a more lenient 22 mile hike in the entire region. In the entire Wild West? This baby was, for the most part, a walk in the park.



Gazing down into the Right Fork environs, from the head of the technical Hammerhead entrance:


The next leg would see us through the sylvan solitude of Horse Pasture Plateau. Most certainly not the Zion your mother told you about:


The boneyard of Potato Hollow:



Towering Ponderosas dotted the plateau:


Refilling at Sawmill Springs. This would begin the longest stretch on the entire route lacking water sources, a distance of 12 miles. The next available water wasn't until Hop Valley:


An old plow sits quietly before Lava Point:


Making our way past Pine Valley Mountain:



With tired legs and minds, the day yawned with us as we entered the Gates of Hop Valley:


Down Hop Valley we went. Our camp lied at the end of this canyon, about a mile south of the La Verkin drainage (visible as the perpendicular canyon in the distance):


An overgrazed affair, Hop Valley still held onto some nice aesthetic qualities:


Phew. That was a grunt of a day. The following morning, we awake to renewed spirit and enthusiasm. The lush confines of La Verkin Creek (or was it the cold beer in the Jeep?) were calling. 8 miles to go!


Fascinatingly (and luckily), when we arrived at camp the night before, our sleep spot marked the tip of Hop Valley Creek's diminutive flow. Overnight, it moved another 200 yards or so down canyon. Amazing!


Evidently, there is a trail that circumvents Hop Valley's last boulder-strewn mile, but we missed it. Down the boulder field we go!



Filling up in La Verkin for the home stretch:


La Verkin was a delightful romp through perfect cascades and red wall majesty. The perfect way to finish our journey:




One last cool-down before we begin the final stage: a 1,000 foot climb up Timber Creek and to our Jeep at Lee Pass:


No better way (or place) to end a trip!




Featured image for home page:


I lava it!!!
Jan 19, 2012
perfect timing!! I am planning my traverse for mid June :)
How does it come that you started on the East Rim? Somehow everyone starts at Lee Pass. Any advantages/disadvantages for this route?
And 22 miles, that's quite a bit to go...

But absolutely awesome report and pictures. I'm getting really stoked about my trip. :frantic:


Aug 9, 2007
Your alternate route through Hop Valley looks fun! Would you recommend that speedier than average 3-day plan or would 4-days be preferable if time wasn't much of an issue?


rope mule
Jan 17, 2012
perfect timing!! I am planning my traverse for mid June :)
How does it come that you started on the East Rim? Somehow everyone starts at Lee Pass. Any advantages/disadvantages for this route?
And 22 miles, that's quite a bit to go...

But absolutely awesome report and pictures. I'm getting really stoked about my trip. :frantic:

Thanks, Yvonne. You do indeed gain a few hundred more miles traveling from east to west, but IMO there are a couple of advantages. One, you get the *big* climb over with on day 1, when you're still feeling fresh. From the West Rim, it's a very casual waltz all the way to Lee Pass. The only other climb you have to contend with is the final 1,000 ft climb up to the car, which really isn't all that bad. Secondly, I feel like the scenery on the west end is a bit nicer than what you find on the East Rim above Echo Canyon, thus a more picturesque finale.


rope mule
Jan 17, 2012
Your alternate route through Hop Valley looks fun! Would you recommend that speedier than average 3-day plan or would 4-days be preferable if time wasn't much of an issue?

If time was no issue, I'd recommend 4 days. Although some of the other camps that we strolled by didn't look all that inviting. I think the only camp that could break up that long second day would be the Sawmill Springs camp (#9), or maybe a little detour up to Lava Point.
Jan 19, 2012
First time I hiked into hop valley I also missed the correct trail and followed the same wash as you! I knew eventually i would get to La Verkin Creek! If I remember there were some decent drops off the large boulders.


I walk
Jun 25, 2012
Nice TR pal! You guys did some rather large mileage. Didn't get a chance to bag any peaks or explore much that way, eh? Pretty cool to end in Kolob instead of start.:twothumbs:


Dec 11, 2013
We'll be recreating this trip this weekend. Thanks for the great TR to get us excited for this adventure.
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
G Zion (half) traverse in April '21? Trip Planning 31
markj Zion Traverse- April 23-26. Backpacking 8
J Zion Traverse in early December Trip Planning 19
Stickerbumper Zion Traverse Memorial Day Weekend - Shuttle Meet Up (Members Only) 0
steve Backpacking the Zion Traverse Backpacking 12
L July Zion Traverse and Narrows Backpacking Itinerary Trip Planning 18
TrailScot Zion backpacking permit changes General Discussion 3
G Dispersed camping near Zion? Trip Planning 5
G Zion trail report please Trip Planning 6
zionsky November in Zion Hiking & Camping 8
chandlerwest Zion Nat'l Park - October Adventures 2020 Hiking & Camping 16
Yvonne Zion Wilderness Permits and Canyoneering permits opened up again General Discussion 11
zionsky Vandalism in Zion General Discussion 4
zionsky Zion to Resume Shuttles July 1 General Discussion 2
Yvonne Hiking Connector Trail to Northgate Peaks on Zion Opening Day, May 13 Hiking & Camping 8
wabenho Zion Front-country - Nov. 2019 Hiking & Camping 5
Yvonne A misty Thanksgiving Hike, Zion NP Hiking & Camping 11
fossana 24 Aug rockfall and E Rim trail closure in Zion (again) General Discussion 3
fossana Eastern Sun Canyon to the Narrows (Zion NP) Canyoneering 4
chandlerwest Zion - West Rim Loop...........in July???? Hiking & Camping 7
zionsky Fatality in Zion National Park General Discussion 1
zionsky Zion Scrambles March 2019 Day 4 Hiking & Camping 5
zionsky Zion Scrambles March 2019 Day 3 Hiking & Camping 4
zionsky Zion Scrambles March 2019 Day 2 Hiking & Camping 2
chandlerwest Continuing Adventures in Eastern Zion National Park Hiking & Camping 31
zionsky Zion Scrambles March 2019 Day 1 Hiking & Camping 2
M Zion West Rim Trail, Early April 2019 Trip Planning 40
I Zion-South Utah Spring Break - March 9th-March 14th Trip Planning 15
C Route 9 Through Zion closed indefinitely. General Discussion 25
zionsky Snowshoe Rental in Zion Gear 2
fossana Kolob Canyons (Zion NP) still closed for road construction Trip Planning 2
Yvonne Snowshoeing Northgate Peaks, Zion NP, December 2018 Winter Sports 10
D Zion NP in the winter Trip Planning 7
fossana PSA: Zion NP off-limit Research Natural Areas General Discussion 4
Jammer Zion to Arches Hike Backpacking 26
chandlerwest Just Some Drainage in the East side of Zion Nat'l Park Hiking & Camping 9
fossana Destination Peak plus (Zion NP) Hiking & Camping 2
fossana South Guardian Angel (Zion NP, UT) Hiking & Camping 3
J Zion National Park Trails and scrambles Nov 9-12, 2017 Hiking & Camping 6
Rockskipper Zion National Park visitors rescued after mocking rangers, hiking The Subway unprepared General Discussion 97
Nick Invite Zion Canyoneering 5/5 Meet Up (Members Only) 1
Mike Jones Big Sur or Zion Next Week? Trip Planning 20
LarryBoy A week in Zion... Advice needed! Trip Planning 7
C Invite Trans Zion Trek April 11-14 Meet Up (Members Only) 2
Outdoors24 Zion West Rim Trail in winter Trip Planning 6
J Camping outside East entrance of Zion NP General Discussion 2
OCArch Zion Blitz- A Quick 3 days Oct 11-14 Backpacking 6
chandlerwest Zion Nat'l Park - Rim of the East Canyons Hiking & Camping 5
cmgz Right Fork-Zion NP Canyoneering 5
K Zion in Mid Feb Suggestions? Trip Planning 6

Similar threads

Don't like ads? Become a BCP Supporting Member and kiss them all goodbye. Click here for more info.