Upper East Canyon, Zion National Park

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

The upper east canyon of Zion National Park is my favorite part of the park.  It contains only two maintained trails, but the Zion-Mount Carmel road (state route 9) provides easy access to the canyons and mesas in the area, most of which can be easily hiked.  Most of the canyons are dry much of the year, and the sloping sides of the mesas can be hiked when not covered in ice or snow so long as you are able to keep you footing on the slickrock.  This part of the park is the best area to view bighorn sheep.  Most technical slot canyons require permits.

Pine Creek Canyon

Canyon Overlook Trail
This trail is a very popular and easy half mile hike from the parking area at the upper end of the tunnel to an overlook above Pine Creek Canyon.  From this overlook you can see to Zion Canyon and the Towers of the Virgin.

The view from Canyon Overlook

East Mesa Trail
This is the only other trail on this side of the park, and it begins at the park's east entrance station and traverses the highlands of the east mesa before descending to the Weeping Rock trailhead in Zion Canyon.

The upper east canyon in January

Middle Pine Creek Canyon
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).  To traverse the canyon you can start at the parking area at the upper end of the tunnel.

Middle Pine Creek Canyon and the East Temple

Upper Pine Creek Canyon
The upper section of Pine Creek Canyon begins near the tunnel parking area, heads north, and is a hike that is generally flat and easy.  This section of Pine Creek is not a slot canyon, but you can hike up to the west side of the canyon and get great views of the East Temple.

Upper Pine Creek Canyon

Shelf Canyon
There are many small and short side narrow side canyon in this section of the park, but most do not have names.  Shelf Canyon is just to the north of the tunnel parking area and is characteristic of the many other canyons in the area.  This hike is generally easy and only a half mile one way, but there are several boulders that you must scramble over and around.

Two Pines Arch

Two Pines Arch & Progeny Peak
Just to the east of upper Pine Creek Canyon is a peak that has been unofficially named Progeny Peak.  It received its name from the arch on the side of the peak, the appearance of which is similar to that of the much larger Crawford Arch on Bridge Mountain.  This arch was named Two Pines Arch because of two Ponderosa pine trees originally at the base of the arch, but one of the trees has since died.

Deertrap Mountain from the route to Progeny Peak

Begin your hike at a pullout along the road, and before you begin look up the peak to try and spot the arch so that you know which direction to head in.  As long as you head towards the peak you will eventually see the arch on its southwest slopes.  From the arch, reaching the peak can be a little trickier, but as long as you stop and have a look around you will make it to the top.  The views from the top are great, and seeing the park from this elevated point provides an entirely new perspective.

The view from Progeny Peak

Clear Creek
From its confluence with Pine Creek near the tunnel parking area, Clear Creek parallels the Zion-Mount Carmel road for much of its length.  I found the lower section of this creek the most interesting as there are a couple of small slot sections but no technical parts.

Shallow slot section of Tallstack Canyon

Tallstack Canyon
A canyon with incredibly steep and tall walls, Tallstack Canyon has a few small nontechnical slot sections that can be hiked for a short distance before can go no further.  When combined with the Many Pools hike (below) this canyon makes for a great half day hike.

Tallstack Canyon from above

Many Pools
Many pools is the unofficial name that has been given to a very interesting streambed characterized by several potholes filled with water.  The pools last for less than a mile from the road, but you can continue to explore the surrounding canyons and hoodoos.

Many Pools
Many Pools

Petroglyph Canyon
A short distance east of the second tunnel on the Zion-Mount Carmel Road is a small canyon that the park does not advertise.  This canyon contains several petroglyphs that are less than a quarter mile from the road.   Do not touch the petroglyphs.    

Petroglyphs in Petroglyph Canyon

Keyhole Canyon
Keyhole Canyon is the best introductory technical slot canyon in Zion.  The entire slot canyon is less than a half mile long and can be divided into two sections.  The bottom half is the deepest and requires up to three rappels while the upper half requires difficult canyoneering around boulders and logs.  There are deep, cold pools that you will have to swim through, and wetsuits are recommended.

The shallow upper end of Keyhole Canyon

Gifford Canyon East Ridge
The ridge to the east above Gifford Canyon isn't somewhere many people would go.  It requires a good bit of elevation gain on slickrock, with one very steep section.  But once on the ridge elevation gain is gentle and travel is easy.  The views from this ridge are among my favorite in the park.

The view from the ridge above Gifford Canyon

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.


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