Coalpits Wash, Zion National Park

Date: January 23, 2011

The Coalpits Wash is in the Southwest Desert section of Zion National Park.  This area is among the lowest elevations in the park and is usually snow free year round.  There is no officially maintained trail through Coalpits Wash, rather the trail simply follows the the wash.

Coalpits Wash and Crater Hill from above the fork

A trailhead along state route 9 west of Springdale is at the bottom of the wash.  Elevation gain for much of the trail is fairly gentle while it gets steeper the further up the wash you go.

The trail travels about 1.75 miles through badland-like areas before reach a fork where Coalpits Wash goes up the canyon to the west while Scoggins Wash is in the canyon to the east.  Both directions eventually lead to intersections with the Chinle tail, which can be combined to form a loop.

The lower section of Coalpits Wash

At the fork I decided to hike up Coalpits Wash, but after a short distance the trail had become difficult to follow and was covered with large boulders.  The canyon walls surrounding me were steep, but not vertical for most of their height with a vertical caprock section at the top.  I thought that it would be easier and have better views if I walked along the canyon rim, so after spotting a couple of cracks in the upper rock layer I began making my way straight up the side of the canyon.

The view from the canyon rim

The ground for much of the ascent had few rocks but was very loose soil and other brittle material.  This canyon was not very deep, and I quickly reach the bottom of the vertical rock layer.  I found a gap in the rock that had a gentler slope in it and made my way up through it, wedging myself between the rocks.  Just below the top I reached a point where I had to take off my backpack and crawl through a small gap before emerging on the canyon rim.

Lower Coalpits Wash

The views and traveling were easier on the top as there were no boulders and I could see back to the trailhead and up each canyon.  There were many pieces of petrified wood in this area, which were the result of an eruption of Crater Hill, a cinder cone volcano just to the northwest of here.

Petrified wood

Instead of following Coalpits Wash, I turned east and made my way back to above the fork in the canyon and up along Scoggins Wash to eventually descend into Scoggins Wash at the stock trail.  However along this section of the canyon I began to notice many places where rocks overhang sheltered areas along the rim. I found a ton of mountain lion scat under these overhangs all along the rim.  This made me a little nervous, but  it appeared quite old, and I eventually reached the stock trail and hiked down Scoggins Wash, which had a much better trail than Coalpits.

Scoggins Wash




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