It’s All Downhill From Here: A Backpack to the East Rim of Zion Canyon


Zion is a perfect little gem of a national park.   The ruby red rock, the sapphire skies,  the incredible soaring cliffs and towers surrounding a beautiful little winding river:  it’s hard to believe that so much beauty can be concentrated in what is really a pretty small space.

It’s a grand example of how to run a small national park, too.  Beginning in March only shuttle buses are allowed in Zion Canyon, which means you can look down from the top of Cable Mountain (as in the picture above) and not see a steady stream of cars.   And it’s not hard to lose the crowds, even if you arrive during the ridiculously busy weeks surrounding Easter.    As in most parks, once you hike a mile or two from a trailhead, you are pretty much guaranteed solitude.

The hike to Cable Mountain on the East Rim of the canyon is a perfect example of this.  There are three ways to reach the mountain: a really strenuous 11 mile hike from the bottom of the canyon, past the Weeping Rock, through Echo Canyon and then up and up,   an 8 mile hike from the East Rim trailhead on the east side of the park that is not as spectacular, but also not as hard, or a 4 mile hike from the Stave Spring trailhead that is really not difficult at all, but is at the end of a 4-wheel drive road that can be not too passable if the weather is wet.

We’ve taken the first two options on previous trips and have ended up camping below Cable Mountain.   This time we wanted to camp right on the rim, and I didn’t want to kill myself getting there, so we chose the Stave Spring Trailhead.

When you get to camp at a spot like this, you know you’ve made a good choice:


The trail starts high, and I think it only climbs about 500 feet over 4 miles to get to the top.  (You do go up, then down, then up again, so if you do this hike be prepared for that!)   Water can be an issue, since Stave Spring is not always flowing, but on our trip water was trickling from the spring’s pipe, and there were plenty of snow patches around for melting.

The trail crosses the mesa top, and then begins a gradual climb to Deertrap and Cable Mountains.


After a bit of a climb, the view starts to open up.


But it’s the views from the rim of the canyon that are the real reward.




We found a campsite away from the trail, but on the edge of the canyon, and spent the afternoon watching vultures and ravens soar below us.   We were visited by western bluebirds and a fearless chipmunk, and I could even watch people hiking the switchbacks across the canyon on the trail to Observation Peak.







All in all, not a bad way to start the backpacking season!


About westerner54

Hello. I'm Cindy, and I love to hike, bike and explore the outdoors - particularly the western U.S.
This entry was posted in Backpacking, Hiking, Nature, Outdoors, Southwest hikes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to It’s All Downhill From Here: A Backpack to the East Rim of Zion Canyon

  1. lylekrahn says:

    Sounds wonderful. I like the idea of birds soaring below you.

  2. Wonderful timing on your post. I’m headed to Zion and Bryce Canyon in a week and I’m SO excited! Zion is one of my favorite parks. Gorgeous photos!

  3. znara says:

    What a wonderful campsite! I am looking forward to starting off the backpacking season here too, although it is cold as well in Connecticut.

  4. This sounds like an amazing campsite, high enough that you’re looking down on the soaring birds. The world is full of such amazing places…

  5. montucky says:

    Beautiful scenes! What an excellent place to put a tent!

  6. Kyle Kuns says:

    That one to two mile barrier seams to apply most everywhere. I guess I should be happy about that …

    • westerner54 says:

      On this visit to Zion the crowds at the bottom weren’t even bugging me – I guess because they were all so happy. But I definitely have to be prepared for crowds if they aren’t going to drive me nuts!

  7. Linda R says:

    Gorgeous. Never wise to pick a favorite National Park, but for me, Zion is right up there.

  8. Spectacular shots in a spectacular landscape.

  9. Janet says:

    Beautiful area, and mazing photos!

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