Backpacking Zion’s East Rim

Tara and I went to Kolob Canyons, a lesser known piece of Zion National Park, shortly after we moved to Utah, but we did not make it to Zion proper until this past weekend.  After an excessive amount of rigmarole, we were granted backcountry permits to the East Rim.  It was a quick one-nighter, but it was nice to get out.




We hiked in 6 miles on an old wagon trail which begins by following a stream through the desert flanked on either side by massive sandstone cliffs, and then transitions to pine trees as you gain altitude.  2.5 miles in is an incredible waterfall that careens a solid 1000 ft. into the canyon far below.  Legend has it that a pioneer family settled there in May when it was all lush and green.  When things dried up later in the summer, the man went crazy and shoved his wife and children off the falls before throwing himself off.  If you stand at the top and look down the canyon, if the wind blows at your face, it is said to be the wife pushing you back, but if it blows at your back, it is the man trying to push you off.




6 miles in is a small spring.  We hiked just beyond this and found another waterfall, much smaller than the first.  We sat on the lush green grass by the stream and made dinner.  Later on, we set up camp and refilled water at the spring.



18mm  F/3.8  1/80 sec.  ISO-100



26mm  f/11  1/25 sec  ISO-100



28mm  f/6.3  6 sec.  ISO-100


There are no fires allowed on the East Rim, so we went to bed early and then got up at 5:30 the next morning in order to make the canyon rim by dawn.  It was an easy 3 miles, and with only the breakfast supplies and my camera gear in our packs, we were standing at the edge of a 2000 ft. cliff, looking down into Zion Canyon in under an hour, the sun just starting to peak out.  Far below, we could see the shuttles starting their daily schedules of transporting thousands of visitors from around the world throughout the park, but up here, not another soul.



18mm  f/6.3  1/50 sec.  ISO-100



18mm f/6.3 1/8 sec. ISO-100


After our traditional backpacker breakfast: Instant Breakfast made with powdered milk, organic oatmeal (not because it’s organic, but because it’s far more hearty than the regular stuff), and coffee made with our Aeropress (thanks Robert!), we packed up and returned to camp where we further laden our packs with sleeping bags and tent, and started the return trek back to the car.  We made impeccable time, even managing a 3 mile stretch with no breaks.  With a 50+ lb. pack (thanks to all my photography stuff), that marked a personal best for me.

We got back in time for a quick ride on the shuttle ourselves to see the main part of Zion, but it was nothing compared to looking down from the rim.


I’m thinking I may not drag all the camera gear next time.  It’s pretty hard to justify when you’re not paid for it…

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