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Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the country. And for good reason! It’s an incredible place and one of my all-time favorite national parks. This post focuses on the least-visited section of the park – Kolob Canyon. But as you’re about to see, this section of the park is epic and definitely worth the visit!
Because of its beauty and epic hiking opportunities, Zion gets a lot of visitors in the Summer. But out of all the visitors, Zion National Park gets in a year, very few of them visit the Upper West part of the park called Kolob Canyons.
Kolob Canyons has a separate entrance and is about 45 minutes from the main entrance in Springdale, Utah.
It doesn’t look like much from the road, but once you pass the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center and head up and around a corner, you get an EPIC view of red rock canyons. The first time I went, it really blew me away.
Since then, I’ve visited this small part of Zion 3 times and done all the hikes. Most recently, I went on a backpacking trip into the canyon. It was incredible.
Kolob Canyon Hiking Information
Note: For any current park alerts and closures, check here.
The Kolob Canyons area of Zion National Park is located off Exit 40 on I-15.
It’s about 40 miles North of Zion Canyon (the main park area) in Springdale, Utah and about 270 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah.
If you’re driving from Salt Lake City, stopping at Kolob Canyons would add almost no time to your road trip, and it’s definitely worth the stop.
The Kolob Canyons Visitors Center is located right off Exit 40.
Once you pass the visitors center, you can drive the 5-mile scenic drive on Kolob Canyon Road where there are plenty of view areas to pull off and look at the canyon.
All the trailhead parking lots are also along this road.
In order to enter Zion National Park, all visitors must purchase a recreational use pass.
These passes can be purchased upon arrival at the visitors center or at the park entrance gate.
There are a few different pass options depending on how long you plan on visiting the park.
Every year, I get an annual Interagency pass. If you plan on visiting a few different national parks within a year, this pass might make the most financial sense.
If you want to go backpacking in Kolob Canyon, you’ll need to get a permit in addition to the entrance pass, not in place of it.
More on backpacking permits below.
About half of Zion’s backpacking permits are reservable in advance.
The remainder are available at the visitors center on a first-come, first-served basis, and they can be obtained the day of, or the day before you want to begin your trip, but no earlier.
You must be there in person to obtain a walk-in permit.
If you have a location and/or time you want to go backpacking, it’s best to make a reservation.
Wilderness permits are required for all overnight backpacking trips.
NOTE >> With COVID-19, the rules and permitting process for Zion National Park is continually changing. For the most accurate up-to-date permitting information, check out the official Zion Wilderness Reservations page.
To make an online reservation for backpacking in Zion National Park, click here.
Even if you make a reservation online, you still need to pick up your permit at the visitors center the day before, or the day of your trip.
Make sure you check the visitors center hours before you arrive.
See below for Kolob Canyon hiking options.
Kolob Canyon Hiking and Backpacking Trails
There are 3 hiking trails in the Kolob Canyons part of the park.
Timber Creek Overlook Trail (If you only have 1-2 hours.)
Roundtrip Distance: 1.0 miles
The trailhead for the Timber Creek Overlook Trail is at the top of Kolob Canyons Road.
This is a short hike along a ridge with some incredible views.
At the end of the hike, look to the south horizon, and on a clear day, you can see Mt. Trumbull at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon!
If you only have an hour or two to spend in Kolob Canyon, this hike it a great option.
I would rate this trail as easy.
Taylor Creek Trail (If you have 4-5 hours.)
Roundtrip Distance: 5.0 miles
On this beautiful hike, you’ll hike along huge red rock walls that are 1,700ft above the trail, two historic cabins that were built in the 1930’s, and end at Double Arch Alcove.
This trail is a great day hike option if you have a few hours to spend.
I would rate this trail as easy-moderate.
La Verkin Creek Trail (If you want to backpack or go on a long day hike.)
Roundtrip Distance to Kolob Arch: 14 miles
For a map of this area, see the Zion Wilderness Map.
The La Verkin Creek Trail is full of backpacking trip options.
This is one of the most primitive areas of Zion National Park. If you want more solitude, this is a great place to go backpacking.
The La Verkin Creek Trail starts at Lee Pass Trailhead in Kolob Canyon. This confused me at first because the trail name is different from the trailhead name.
Along the La Verkin Creek Trail, there are 13 backpacking campsites. When I went, I stayed at campsite 8 and loved it! It was a spacious campsite with some great red rock views and easy water access.
I didn’t hike up towards campsites 11-13, but based on the campsites I did pass, 4-10 all looked like great options.
I wouldn’t recommend campsites 1 -3, because it looked like the water supply was very limited compared to the campsites along the La Verkin Creek.
La Verkin Creek has water year-round, but it’s always a good idea to check with the visitors center about water sources before your backpacking trip.
There’s also a natural spring that usually flows year round located between campsites 10 and 11. Again, you want to check with the visitors center prior to your trip for an update, and it’s recommended that you still filter spring water.
For photos of each campsite along the La Verkin Creek Trail, click here.
Kolob Arch is the typical endpoint for day hikers on the La Verkin Creek Trail. After about 6.4 miles on the La Verkin Creek Trail, you’ll reach the junction for Kolob Arch which is marked with a sign.
Kolob Arch is one of the world’s largest natural arches with a span of 287 ft and a thickness of 75 ft. As part of a backpacking trip, it’s definitely worth the visit.
We hiked to our campsite, set up camp, and then did the hike up to the arch without our heavy packs.
While it was beautiful, unfortunately, you don’t get very close to the arch, so it’s hard to get a sense of how big it actually is. Honestly, I think the hike IN, was more spectacular.
This trail is mostly downhill on the way in, so just be prepared for the hike to be a little more challenging on the way out!
I totally didn’t notice the gradual downhill on the way in because I was too busy looking around. haha
I did this backpacking trip as a 1 night/2 day trip. It was great, but there’s a lot to explore, so I think a longer trip would be awesome too!
The La Verkin Creek Trail meets up with the Hop Valley Trail at about 0.3 miles East of the Kolob Arch trail junction.
It’s possible to hike out on the Hop Valley Trail and then take a shuttle back to the Lee Pass Trailhead if you don’t want to do an out-and-back hike. This is something you have to decide on when you’re making your permit reservation.
I didn’t do this because shuttle services tend to be expensive, and I didn’t want to deal with that after a long hike.
Best Time to Visit Kolob Canyon
Zion National Park is open all year and has a wide range of temperatures throughout the year.
Even from day to night, the temperature can vary a lot.
Monsoon season is July, August, and September. During this time, powerful thunderstorms can come through and dump several inches of rain in just a few hours.
The rocky landscape doesn’t absorb the water very well. All that water runs off into narrow side canyons forming flash floods.
Flash floods are one of the biggest dangers in Zion National Park.
It’s important that you check the weather and the visitors center for flash flood warnings or area closures before your trip.
I think Spring is one of the best times to visit Zion National Park!
Early Spring can still be chilly, and potentially snowy depending on the year, but I think May and June are great months for backpacking. Temperatures are higher, and it’s before monsoon season.
The Fall is another great time to visit Zion. The temperature is starting to cool off and the fall foliage is beautiful! After Labor Day, the crowds decrease too.
In the Winter, Zion National Park does see snow! The Kolob Canyons trails typically have snow in the Winter that can last through early Spring.
If you choose to backpack in the winter, make sure you’re prepared for winter conditions.
There you have it – your complete guide to Kolob Canyon hiking! I hope you have everything you need to plan an incredible trip to Zion National Park.
It’s one of the most special and beautiful places I’ve been to.
If you want to escape the crowds, immerse yourself in nature, and marvel at towering red rock walls, Kolob Canyons is the place for you!