Hike East Rim Trail, Zion NP

East Rim Trailhead

The eastern reaches of Zion National Park lies the perhaps unoriginally coined East Rim Trail. An 11-mile trail that either begins or ends the unofficial Trans-Zion Trek or a standalone journey in its own right. With multi-thousand foot adjustments in elevation, this trail is as much an endurance trek as it rewards in views.

The East Rim Trail is approximately 11-miles (one-way) and can either be started from the Eastern Entrance of Zion National Park, or more commonly from the Hidden Canyon or Observation Point Trailheads. Many people start from within Zion Canyon and do the arduous Observation Point Trail, forgoing the East Rim Trail. But not you! Whether you are just starting or finishing the Trans-Zion Trek, or hiking the trail on its own, the East Rim trail is not without its own remarkable views. Keep in mind, this trail is 11 miles in one direction. Either plan to hike out and back (22 miles) or schedule to have a shuttle pick you up (either at the East Entrance or at the central Visitor Center to shepherd you back to your vehicle.

Starting at the East Entrance Trailhead, the East Rim begins as a well-manicured path that dips and climbs through a brush lined canon. Without a doubt, this area of the park is considerably more quiet than the main Zion canyon that you will reach within 11 miles. White cliffs and deep cut canyons will usher you along this path before climbing up onto the eastern plateaus. You will KNOW when you reach this plateau because you will begin trekking through an unmistakable pine forest with sweeping vistas.

Given the likelihood of the forest recovering so quickly, you will likely also see the remnants of a massive wildfire that scorched this section of earth not so long ago. While it was a tragic fire that left much of the forests burnt, it created an otherworldly interpretation of beauty behind. Once you get a fair view of the Zion Canyon in the distance, you will be nearing the portion of the trail that will drastically sink in elevation. A dramatic descent into the Echo Canyon….Echo Canyon…Echo Canyon…

Once nearing the bottom, it can become somewhat confusing as to which direction to take as the canyon floor is plastered with slickrock. Fortunately, your friendly neighborhood Park Service has marked (without degrading the wild aesthetics) the proper path to take using your standard rock cairns. This is the big decision point in the trail. Do you continue along the East Rim Trail (which you will have to do anyway) or do you break away and test your strength on the Observation Point Trail. Well at this point (especially if you are backpacking) you are likely tiring out. It is worth mentioning, the Observation Point has one of, if not the, best views of the full Zion Canyon. Don’t kill yourself along the potentially treacherous trail (or by exhaustion) but seriously consider giving it a try. That being said…back to the East Rim Trail.

Its all down hill from here…literally. You will make your way through the final stretches of Echo Canyon, through some rather dramatic splits in the rock faces, and down what seems like a endless stream of fabricated switchbacks. Also, at this point…mind the crowds. This is not the same quiet patch of earth you started this trek. Now that you are back on the main Zion Road, you can hop on one of the frequently running buses back to the visitor center. You can either camp, find lodging, or have a pre-arranged shuttle to bring you back to the East Entrance and your vehicle.

Pack List

  • SUNSCREEN (Spring and Summer are HOT)
  • Water (Sources are scarce)
  • Sturdy hiking boots
  • Backpacking Kit (Season Appropriate and Optional)
  • Camera
  • Bandana (to look cool)
  • Eagerness
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RT Distance 11 Miles
Elevation Gain 3000 Feet
Activities Photography, Backpacking, Hiking, Fitness, Rock Climbing
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Point-to-Point
Features
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

One of the most beautiful sections of the Trans-Zion trek

I'd read that this was the most epic section of the Zion Traverse, and I was not let down. Zion Canyon and Echo Canyon have such completely different temperatures, flora, wildlife, and views - it will truly feel like you've stepped into a different state. Enjoy the slabby sandstone crossings and keep an eye out for cairns to guide your way. I know people who have begun the Trans-Zion Trek at the Grotto trailhead and continued north, which I see as a huge mistake now... This section is not to be missed!


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