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post #1 of (permalink) Old 11-26-2021, 02:28 AM Thread Starter
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Default Return to Zion: Great West Rim Loop

Strong Candidate for Hike of the Year '21!

I've been to Zion several times before, but it always revolved around famous Angels Landing or the Narrows. On Angels Landing trail splits upon reaching Scout's Lookout - I was always wondering where does the other branch go. I was set to find out. It turns out it is one simply fantastic trail, true classic. It is called "West Rim Trail" and full length is from Grotto Trailhead (Shuttle Junction #6 ) to Lava Point - highest point in Zion, about 15 miles total. Entire thing is doable as day-hike, but logistics are non-trivial (transportation, shuttle, etc). Doing my research and consulting Park Rangers at Visitor Center I learned of much more feasible scenario: Bottom -up loop that curls around Horse Pasture Plateau and returns the same way. I was advised not to try it as day-hike, but it's "only" ~25km with ~1400m total vertical (up/down) - stats I am reasonably comfortable with. Only problem is Zion Shuttle that stops running just after sundown, but if worse comes to worse I could always walk back 6km of road in the dark. This was not necessary and after it became obvious I'd have time to spare I slowed down in Horse Pasture Plateau and simply gawked at unreal scenery.

First part is Angels Landing trail to Scout's Lookout; I won't talk about it as it is well-known. It is also busy silly and I've probably set some sort of record zooming past endless hordes of social-media generation hiking with open bags of potato chips and taking selfies. But after turning left past Scout's I was on my own and in still early morning allowed myself coffee break already high above Zion marveling at stupendous scenery. Things just kept getting better after that - meandering trail on granite slabs, across canyons and then real jaw dropping moment -- slicing into several 100's meter high vertical cliff I'd never guess it would be possible. Here are some pics from that part:

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[Plateau above Scout's Landing; little did I know in couple of hours I'd be standing on top of that mesa distant upper right]

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[Zion style cairns! Follow the boots. I actually went wrong here believe or not but quickly retraced and found the "next boot". They are all visible one to the other]

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[Descending on other side of Scout's Plateau - marvelously engineered trail, this took real effort]

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[Now what! I expected trail to continue in lower canyon to the left, but it turned corner and straight up the cliff!]

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[Couple of hikers starting up the "Ledge Trail" slicing diagonally up the cliff]

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[Closer look at "Ledge Trail" - it is always wide enough; narrowest part was maybe 1 meter wide. I'd not want to go here when icy though, even with spikes]

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[And this is why - several 100's meter near vertical drop that would surely kill. This pic doesn't really paint the picture]

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[This is view from below I took on return that maybe illustrated better. Yes, "Lege Trail" is up there roughly 2/3rd of the way up the rock face]

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[After all that drama coming to Cabin Spring Junction (Ranger recommended day-hikers turnaround point) in lower Horse Pasture Plateau. It will take 2.5 - 3 hrs up to here from Grotto Shuttle stop with decent pace]

Word about the loop. Some info floating around advises skipping right branch (Telephone Canyon) entirely and hiking both up and down on the left side. I don't agree with that - Telephone branch is not very scenic but still interesting enough So my advice is - do the loop CCW. It will take ~45min only on Telephone Canyon to top of Plateau and Potato Hollow Junction where the loop closes. And then on return you get to enjoy, hands in your pockets, some of most spectacular views this part of the world has to offer

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[Upper part of Telephone Canyon - no distant vistas, but still pleasant hiking]

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[Pano from top of Plateau just off signed Potato Hollow Junction, looking north towards Bryce Canyon area. This was when I realized I'd have plenty of time to catch the shuttle back and afforded 30min lunch break in total solitude]

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[There are six camping areas on Horse Pasture Plateau. This is #5 and the nicest one. There are NO facilities whatsoever - no water, no food cache, no privy. Signs advise to "pack up your waste" (meaning human waste!). Spots can be reserved 3 months in advance, and I met couple carrying heavy overnight stuff. You must carry all the water and that makes it quite problematic; I guess I am spoiled Rockies hiker where drinking water (best in the world) can be found everywhere]

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[View west from Horse Pasture Plateau]

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[View south to core Zion area from Horse Pasture Plateau]

And finally one more view of that cliff on return that simply sticks in my mind as most memorable part of the day:
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GPS based map (from Scout's Landing only):
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I will eventually compose more concise "guide" from this awesome trip on personal site & then link up here. In the meantime here's the link of pretty good report (and great pics!) I used for my planning. Highly recommended if you are in Zion area!
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Last edited by zeljkok; 11-26-2021 at 02:33 AM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 11-26-2021, 03:47 PM
Headed for the Mountains
Join Date: Dec 2019
Location: Chicago
Interest: Hiking, backpacking, kayaking
Posts: 116

That looks spectacular!

If you find yourself in the vicinity of Cedar Mesa, there are fine hikes there, environs Bears Ears, and Mule Canyon, with many granaries and pictographs of the Ancient Ones. No direct route from Zion, I think, but if you have free time and are on an extended journey, could be worth it.
David Roberts's The Lost World of the Old Ones describes some of his climbs in the canyons on Cedar Mesa to unvisited dwellings, pots still lying on the floor. It's a historical and cultural book rather than a climbing reference.
The Kane Gulch Ranger Station would be a reference point.

Have a wonderful time exploring new trails!
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 12-01-2021, 10:30 PM
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Zion is awesome indeed. I have a friend living in Kanab who has travelled north from there for several days. He says it is spectacular forever
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 12-02-2021, 12:45 AM Thread Starter
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Zion main issue are insane crowds; but once you learn how to play the game, it is indeed special. Just like anywhere else.

btw Observation Point trail via East Rim is closed indefinitely. Park Ranger told me they are not likely to clear the rockslide that closed the trail back in August '19, over 2 years ago now

I strongly recommend West Rim presented in this report. It will blow you away once you leave the crowds past Angel's Landing trail
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