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East Rim Trail


A major landslide has occurred in the lower part of Echo Canyon. This landslide has blocked both the East Rim Trail and the Observation Point Trail. Temporarily, as of 2021, both trails are closed. If you plan on coming to Zion, call Park Headquaters for up to date information.
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The East Rim, like all of Zion National Park, is spectacular. Most backpackers and the Park Service spotlight the West Rim Trail more, but we think the East Rim trail has a lot to offer.

But it does require that you think through how you want to do it.

There are two ways to access the East Rim Trail. The most obvious way is to take the shuttle to Weeping Rock, the trailhead for Observation Point. As you climb the switchbacks toward the Point, the East Rim Trail curves off to the right.

Or, you could take the Zion Adventures shuttle to the east entrance. They'll drop you off just before the security station and you'll hike up the gravel turnoff to the left. The east trailhead for the East Rim Trail is about a quarter mile up that gravel road.

We highly recommend using the Zion Adventures shuttle and doing it from the eastern trailhead. You will start high on the East Plateau, and after a slight elevation gain at the beginning, you'll be hiking either level or downhill the rest of the way. The climb up through Echo Canyon, especially carrying a backpack in hot weather, is pretty grim.

This works best as a leisurely three day trip. You cross a broad, mostly level plateau with two major attractions : Deertrap and Cable Mountain. The view from either of those is one of the most spectacular in North America. Many people camp at each spot for one night so they can get photos in the afternoon, evening, sunset, sunrise and morning. The vistas you're seeing change color as the sun moves across rhe sky.

This is primarily a photographer's route. You will see scenes here most people miss. But you have to slow down and give yourself time, especially at the two mountain overlooks.

East Rim West Rim Chinle

Since few people hike this trail, your odds of seeing wildlife are greater than on the other, busier trails. Bighorn Sheep are on this plateau, although usually south of the trail. Mountain Lion, Ringtail Cats, Mule Deer, Kangaroo Rats, Rock Squirrels, Fox, Bobcat, Porcupine and Skunk are all here.

So you should take the usual precautions with food. You should also keep your hiking shoes in the tent with you. Your evaporated sweat has deposited salt on your shoes, and Porcupines will chew on them to get it.

You can camp anywhere on the plateau as long as you're well off the trail and well back from the rims.

But don't expect to find water. There are a few springs here but they dry up in Late Spring and Summer.

The Plateau has an interesting history. David Flanagan built a winch and other machinery so his men could cut the trees up here and lower the logs to the valley floor to build Zion Lodge, the cabins, ranger station, ranger housing, visitor center, etc. The remains of this machinery is what you see at the rim of Cable Mountain. But the work those men did in cutting the timber on the plateau is why today there is no true forest here, just a scrub woodland of Pinion Pine, Juniper, Ponderosa Pine and Sage. Lightning strikes are common up here on the high plateau, so you'll see signs of frequent burns. These keep the underbrush fairly well cleared out.

The trail begins as an easy sandy stroll on level ground along Clear Creek. Then you begin to climb and see great views of the White Cliffs. The Cave Canyon section is quite charming, but as the trail turns to face southwest you get some dramatic views of Checkerboard Mesa.


You pass Jolley Gulch (photo, above), a frightening 200 feet dropoff. Finally you top out on the plateau and the trail levels out for the long northwesterly hike across it.

Depending on season, you may see an array of wildflowers in bloom. You'll come to Stave Spring, which is merely a pipe sticking out of the ground, but oddly enough even in July the water is ice cold. You do have to purify it to drink it.

Stave Spring is roughly in the middle of the plateau. Here, you turn left to head toward the Y.

Most people turn left at the Y and go to Deertrap Mountain first. You can spend the night there, camping safely back from the rim as park regulations require.

The photo above shows why we recommend going to Deertrap Mountain. The overlook there is high above the main canyon and is spectacular. The Lodge and Emerald Pools are far below. And temperatures here average 15 degrees lower than down on the valley floor.

Next morning, after taking some great photos and fixing breakfast, you can strike camp and hike over to Cable Mountain (photo, right). You'll find the remains of David Flanagan's winch. Again, you'll find dizzying views to the north, west and south. You're looking down on Angel's Landing and directly across from Observation Point. It's a great place to camp for the night, although regulations do insist you camp well away from the historical remains so other hikers can enjoy them.

The next day, you'll hike back to Stave Spring, turn left and make your way down to Weeping Rock. It will be another day of magnificent scenery, as seen in the top three photos. But progress will be slow, partly because you'll be stopping to take photos, and partly because the trail is narrow and uneven and the dropoffs are deadly, so you'll be picking your way very cautiously.

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