While the crowds are fighting each other with selfie sticks on Angels Landing in Zion Canyon, head over to the Kolob Canyons for a much more tranquil experience. Located in the less crowded and more serene northwest section of Zion National Park, the La Verkin Creek Trail is one of my favorite hikes. The out-and-back trail passes by majestic towering slickrock walls before making its way into Kolob Canyon where it travels alongside a creek and takes you by some of the best designated backcountry campsites the park has to offer.
The Kolob Canyons are located 40 miles north of Zion Canyon off of I-15 at exit 40. Stop by the visitor center to pick up your permit (if staying overnight) and then continue 3.8 miles to the Lee Pass Trailhead. The trailhead is 100 yards away from a parking lot with multiple spaces.
The trail first descends 450 feet to meet up with the usually dry bed of Timber Creek. Take a mental note of the extent of this descent because you will be going back up it on your return to the trailhead. For the next 2.5 miles, the trail closely mimics the wash of Timber Creek while passing by several beautiful finger canyons with slickrock walls including the soaring Shuntavi Butte.
Once you get past campsite 3, the trail turns east and the scenery gets kicked up a notch as you gradually descend to the floor of the canyon. Once there, La Verkin Creek will be on your right. In my opinion, walking alongside this beautiful flowing stream is the highlight of the trip.
Continue up the canyon where you will pass by premium campsites 4 - 9 and notice the canyon walls narrowing in on you. Unfortunately, this stretch is quite sandy and progress is slow going. After campsite 9, the trail presents several side trip options:
After you are done exploring the area, retrace your steps back to the Lee Pass Trailhead.
The Kolob Canyons offer a much welcomed respite from the crowds in Zion Canyon which is part of the reason I love this hike so much. The soaring walls, beautiful creek, and top-notch campsites along the way are just icing on the cake. Although the West Rim Trail might offer more spectacular views, this trip arguably offers the best combination of solitude, views, and camping that Zion has to offer.
If staying overnight, Zion requires a permit to a designated campsite. The La Verkin Creek Trail features 12 different campsites:
Sites 1 - 3: Located within the first 3.5 miles of the trail, these sites might be good for someone wanting a quick place to stay or to those who cannot get a permit for any other campsite. In terms of scenery and solitude, most people will probably want to shoot for campsites 4 - 13.
Sites 4 - 10: These are definitely the primo campsites as they are all either adjacent or close to the creek. It's really hard to go wrong with any one of these, but I think the sites (6, 9, 10) on the south side of the creek offer the best combination of solitude and scenery. Also, in general, the further you travel up the creek, the more seclusion the campsite will offer. I have personally stayed at campsite 8 and campsite 10, and highly recommend campsite 10.
Sites 11 - 13: I have not stayed at any of these sites, but if seclusion is at the top of your priorities, these sites will probably not let you down.
Be sure to check out Zion's written descriptions and photos of each campsite.
You can reserve campsites 2, 4, 5, 8, and 11 online. The remaining campsites must be reserved in person at the visitor center on the day before or the day of your trip. Don't depend on the walk-in permits. In general, these permits are competitive and difficult to obtain.
Be sure to bring:
According to the historical averages, this trip will be most comfortable from May - October. Trying this hike before May may result in hiking in significant levels of snow.
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