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Hiking West in the Kolob Canyons ~ Day 3

Having enjoyed the hikes from Day 1 ~ Hiking the Zion Canyon Scenic Interior and Day 2 ~ Hiking East of Zion’s 1920’s Tunnel, you really can’t miss what Kolob Canyon from the west adds to the picturesque depth of Zion National Park.

Finger canyons, mountaintops and buttes

A hidden gem left unexplored by many is the Kolob Canyon area west of the main canyon at Springdale - accessed from a western vantage along Highway 15. This is a great afternoon-into-sunset adventure as the western finger canyons blossom in color as the sun moves to the past-midday height west. We hiked the Middle Fork mid-afternoon and stayed for sunset at the Timber Creek Overlook. Let me say that the sunset on the mountains, butte and finger canyons were a flamboyant display of reds, pinks and oranges.

hike one of Kolob Canyons many finger canyons (click any photo to enlarge) For the 50-minute, 40 mile (65 km) drive from Springdale, the drive along Kolob Canyon Scenic Drive alone is worth the effort. Your Zion Park pass allows you access to this west Zion area and adding a day to explore this area will help round out your view of Zion National Park.

As an added motivation to explore the Kolob Canyons, for perspective … where The Patriarchs peaks top out at 6500 ft (2000 m) elevation and others in the main Canyon area slightly higher, the Kolob Canyons peaks top out at 8000ft (2450 m). And, the Kolob Finger Canyons along Kolob Canyon Scenic Drive offer 8 parallel 'finger' canyons that are cut into the western edge of the Colorado Plateau. Do we have you hooked on exploring now?

Middle Fork Taylor Creek Trail

5 mi (8.0 km) there and back trail with a 620 ft (190 m) elevation gain – Moderate, 2 hr 15 min

The double arch ending the Middle Fork TrailBegin with an 80-stair descent (where you realize you must ascend these again at the end of the hike) and a meandering forest walk into the middle fork of the finger canyons ahead. We counted over 50 water crossings of this small meandering creek. Very easy, lots of stepping stones strategically placed so there was really no concern – and this was spring when the waters were highest of the year. Two separate 1950’s ranger cabins side the trail and I can only imagine the quiet natural life gifted these rangers flanked by the finger mountains. Where the canyon finger approaches the trail at the first cabin, a separate North Fork Trail veers off to the north, but it is very unused and hard to follow (we did try for ¾ of a mile or so). Stay to the right and a well walked Middle Fork Trail continues between the two mountains. Another 1½ mi (2.5 km) the trail ends in a box canyon, but the reward is a large double arch in the cliff face. The lower arch is accessible and incredibly powerful to enter such a massive feature – the upper a sight to see.

Timber Creek Overlook Trail

1.1 mi (1.8 km) there and back with a 260 ft (80 m) elevation change – Moderate, 40 min

epic views of finger canyons and buttesAfter the incredible drive along Kolob Canyon Scenic Drive and stopping at the breath-taking viewpoints along the climb, the road ends at a car park viewpoint (washrooms are available). The Timber Creek Overlook Trail takes you another 130 ft (40 m) to a higher vantage. A stony, scrabbly ½ mi hike allows you unprecedented views of the imposing Timber Top Mountain and Shuntavi Butte across the valley. Stay for sunset (or at least at the car park) for truly impressive color show as the color-changing reds of the setting sun play on the pink-to-red hues of the towering cliff faces. We were impressed!

Honorable Mention to other Kolob Canyon hiking contenders:

South Fork Taylor Creek Trail – a mile or so shorter, but similar to the Middle Fork Trail which seemed to offer a better hike experience.

Kolob Arch Trail (or as far as you wish to explore) – this is a 14 mi (22.4 km) there and back trail down the valley to the Kolob Arch. The walk through the valley as the finger canyons open up beside you would be a great additional hike option.

Kolob Canyon WOW's at every turnFrom the hikes of the main Zion Canyon Scenic Interior, east through the century old tunnel along Highway #9 and west into the Kolob Canyon area, Zion National Park is rich in the WOW perspectives.

Remember also to review the 9 tips for exploring Zion National Park that will set you up for success in achieving the best experience while enjoying this century-old, picturesque national treasure.

Here’s some additional resources to add a few extra hikes, or choose others of interest to you:

Have you hiked Zion National Park and witnessed the colorful, sandstone displays cliffside? What were your favorite hikes and lookouts?

Drop a comment below and connect with us on on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for more of our travel adventures.

 

 

 

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