Lower Zion Canyon

Location: Zion National Park, Springdale, Utah
Date: January-April 2011

The Watchman at sunset from the Pa'rus trail in early January

The lower section of Zion Canyon from Court of the Patriarchs down to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center has three trails, fantastic scenery, and many other opportunities for off trail adventures.  Everything in this area can be easily visited at any time of year.  Due to the 2.7 million visitors that Zion National Park receives annually, a shuttle operates from April to November in Zion Canyon while cars must be parked at the Visitor Center or in Springdale.

Virgin River and Pa'rus trail in late February

Pa'rus Trail
The Pa'rus trail is a paved, handicap accessible trail in Zion Canyon that runs north from the Visitor Center for a mile and a half to a shuttle stop.  The trail follows the Virgin River for its length and skirts the border of South Campground for a short distance.  There is also an unpaved cutoff trail from the Pa'rus trial that goes to the Zion Human History Museum next to park headquarters, where there is a shuttle stop.  While in the lower to mid section of this trail, look up at Bridge Mountain and down to the left of the peak for the 100'+ long Crawford Arch (Bridge Mountain Arch).  Getting to this arch requires an extensive off trial hike requiring ropes (see here).

Bridge Mountain from the Pa'rus trail
Crawford Arch

Watchman Trail
The Watchman Trail is a trail that gains some elevation to a short distance up the side of Zion Canyon.  More  about this trail can be found in my post here.

Bridge Mountain from the Watchman Trail

Sand Bench Trail
The Sand Bench Trail is a trail that goes up to a bench on the side of Zion Canyon.  This trail is the route that the park's guided horseback rides follow during the peak season.  Thus, I would not recommend hiking this trail during that time of year.  Although, this trail does provide interesting views that are not often seen by most hikers in Zion National Park.  I hiked up to the location where I took the photo below (taken just off the Sand Bench Trail) off trail a short distance from the bridge where the park road crosses the Virgin River. If you do wish to hike the trial it can be accessed from the Court of the Patriarchs shuttle stop or further up the canyon from Emerald Pools trailhead by the lodge.

Zion Canyon and Bridge Mountain at center

Court of the Patriarchs Viewpoint
The trail to the Court of the Patriarchs viewpoint is a very short trail accessed from a shuttle stop.  The trail gains only a few feet in elevation but takes you to a viewpoint that provides a great view of the Court of the Patriarchs.

Court of the Patriarchs from the viewpoint

Pine Creek Canyon
Pine Creek is the stream that park road follows up to the east side of the park.  This road gains some elevation and is known for the 1.1 mile long tunnel through the side of the canyon that has windows looking out the side of the tunnel into Pine Creek Canyon.

Lowest waterfall on Pine Creek
The middle section of Pine Creek Canyon is a popular slot canyon that requires five rappels, the highest of which is 100 feet (more info).  The lower section of the canyon can be hiked from a parking area where the road crosses Pine Creek for a short distance until you reach a small waterfall.

Cactus in Zion Canyon
Other Areas
After spending over three months living in the lower part of Zion Canyon I hiked to most everywhere that you can easily and even not so easily hike to off trail.  There are many different alcoves, side canyons, and viewpoints in this area.

Towers of the Virgin from an off-trail alcove

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.


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