Next week, thousands of visitors will head to Zion National Park to celebrate the 4th of July with hiking, picnics, and plenty of quality family time. Unfortunately, another thing many of those visitors have in common is the trails that they plan to hike.
If Memorial Day was any indication, Angels Landing and other popular trails will see heavy crowds and even lines at the trailheads this upcoming holiday weekend. But if you don’t already have your heart set on one of the park’s most popular trails, you still have time to choose a different option.
Zion is packed with tons of other, equally stunning trails that are overlooked by most visitors. From hanging slot canyons to scenic overlooks, you have several options to choose from. Any of these will help you beat the crowds and still enjoy a beautiful, relaxing hike. Here are just a few of the park’s lesser-known trails.
A short but steep climb, Watchman Trail rarely sees crowds. In fact, hike it early or late in the day, and you may not pass another hiker on your walk–or climb, that is.
While the trail is only 3-miles round trip, you’ll be climbing more than 300 feet in those 3-miles. At the very top, you’ll be able to see the Visitors Center far below, as well as a panoramic view of Watchman Mountain. The landmark might be well-known, but its namesake trail certainly isn’t.
If you’re looking for a challenging hike without Angels Landing’s crowds, Cable Mountain is a great alternative. At 7.6-miles round trip and with a steep climb from the canyon floor to the rim, this trail isn’t for beginners. Even experienced hikers will want to make sure to pack plenty of water, start early in the day, and watch their steps.
But if you’re willing to take on the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views, as well as a dose of history. The trail’s name comes from the remnants of an old cable system that’s been there for nearly 120 years. The cables were once used to transport lumber from the bottom of the canyon to the top. The system was built in the year 1901, and ceased operations in 1930.
Kolob Canyon itself is one of the least-visited sections of Zion National Park. Located to the west of the main canyon, many new visitors to the park don’t even know that these deep red canyons even exist. But Kolob is home to some of the park’s best trails. No matter when you visit, you can rest assured you won’t see the traffic or lines that the main canyon has.
Taylor Creek is one of the best hikes in Kolob Canyon. At 4.5-miles round trip, it isn’t too difficult or lengthy. But you’ll get to see the Double Arch Alcove, one of the most stunning landmarks in this section of the park.
This trail isn’t quite as hidden as it once was. But while it has been growing in popularity recently, it still offers some relief from the crowds on busy weekends. And it is likely to be near-empty on the less busy days.
Hidden Canyon is a 2.2-mile round trip hike that starts at the Weeping Rock trailhead. If you thought that Watchman Trail was steep, this might not be the trail for you; you’ll climb 2,000 feet in elevation during this hike.
During this hike, you’ll pass canyon pools, arches, towering boulders, and more. Reach the top and you’ll see views of Angels Landing, Cable Mountain, and The Great White Throne.
Pine Creek Waterfall
If you’re looking for a truly scenic adventure, head to Pine Creek Waterfall trail. You’ll have to scale boulders and zig zag down a rough trail to get to the cool, clear waters that cascade down this falls. This oasis is the perfect spot to cool down on a hot day and leave the holiday crowds far behind you. At just 1.5-miles round trip, this trail is great for beginners or those with young children along.
Even the trailhead itself is hidden. To find it, you’ll need to drive about a mile and a half into the park from the South Entrance, then turn towards the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway. When you reach the u-curve located part way up the mountain, look out for the small dirt pull out. Here you’ll find a barely-marked trailhead that marks the beginning of this hidden gem.
Choosing the Perfect Trails for Your Busy-Season Visit
Trying to visit Zion’s most popular trails during the busiest time of year can mean crowds, lines, and stress. But with Zion National Park covering more than 200 square miles, there’s plenty of room for everyone. All you have to do is choose one of the park’s lesser-known trails and you’ll get to experience all of the beauty with none of the crowds. If you’ve got a visit to Zion planned for this 4th of July or any other weekend this summer, check out these other tips for avoiding the crowds next!