Visiting Zion National Park
After our epic Lake Powell trip, Kyle and I were looking to escape into the backcountry. For two Wyomingites, that can be a little tricky. I start to get road rage in our small town’s Safeway parking lot any time after 4 p.m. So when we pulled up to Zion National Park’s West Entrance after an interesting detour delayed our trip, we were not expecting what we saw: hordes of people. There were so many people there on a Thursday morning in early April that the park was no longer accepting car traffic, and the only way to get in was on a shuttle. Needless to say, we were staving off panic attacks.
We decided rather than brave the crowds, we’d head north to the Kolob Canyons Entrance. After the overwhelming crowds heading to Angel’s Landing and Zion’s other iconic hikes, we were not prepared for how quiet Kolob Canyons was. We casually parked in a half-empty parking lot, checked in at the ranger station (with no line!) and started our Kolob Canyons scenic hike.
The Least Crowded Hike in Zion: Kolob Canyons
Starting at the Lee Pass Trailhead, we hiked along the La Verkin Trail with few other hikers along our path. It was a gorgeous spring day, and we were thrilled. The air was that perfect temperature when it’s a little chilly to stand still in, which motivated us to keep moving.
The La Verkin Trail runs parallel to stunning red cliff faces, and then heads into the trees for some gorgeous hiking in the shade. The trail traverses a small stream 21 times! When we hiked around the curve, we were greeted by one of those perfect Zion views: cliffs rising overhead and the moon visible in the daylight.
Enjoy the Least Crowded Hike in Zion
If you’re looking for a trail in a national park that’s a little undiscovered, Kolob Canyon might just be perfect for you. The La Verkin Trail is fairly long, clocking in at seven miles one-way to the Kolob Arch (the second largest free-standing arch in the world!), but you can make it as short as you like. It’s mostly flat, so it makes for a great Zion family hike—or in our case, a great post-climbing hike.
The half-empty parking lot should have clued us in, but we couldn’t get over how uncrowded the northern side of the park was. Compared with the better-known spots, it was almost like we weren’t in a national park at all. It had all the great amenities of a national park: well-maintained trails, campsites, and helpful signs—without any of the hectic crowding.
Witness the Kolob Arch
The Kolob Arch might be a pretty long trip, but man, is it worth it. Seeing arches like this makes me so appreciate the tenacity of nature, but also the randomness of it. The sheer improbability is enough to make you sit and ponder the universe. We were pretty struck by its immense presence—and used the opportunity to marvel at the wonders of nature and enjoy a pb&j. What goes better with existential bliss than peanut butter?
Camping in Kolob Canyons
If you’re looking to extend your time in Kolob Canyons past a day hike, there are plenty of primitive campsites. If you’re looking at hiking Zion National Park in June, be aware that, according to the National Parks Service, “Camping is in designated sites only and is available online for reservable sites and at Visitor Centers for first come, first serve sites.” This isn’t too much of an issue at the least crowded part of Zion, but if you’re there during peak season, it’s usually best to reserve a campsite.
The Uncrowded Entrance to Zion
If you’re not feeling up to a hike, the Kolob Canyons viewpoint is a great scenic drive. If you’re visiting with small kids, older family members, or hiking just isn’t your thing, this is a great way to enjoy the park. Please be sure to drive the speed limit and keep an eye out for tourists and other wildlife. Please pack out any and all trash you bring with you into the parks. Keeping our national parks clean is how we will preserve them for years to come!
Our hike through Kolob Canyons was a great way to unwind. With far fewer crowds and a leisurely trail, we had time (and breathing capacity) to just enjoy each other’s company. The views were gorgeous, the air was crisp, and the company wasn’t half bad.
For the most up to date information on trails and closures, visit the National Parks Service site on Kolob Canyons.
Have you ever been to Kolob Canyons? Tell us about your experience in the comments section!