Julie United States 21 Comments

The West Rim Trail is a long distance hike through Zion National Park. Starting at Lava Point, the trail slowly descends into the heart of Zion, the views getting better the farther you go.

This is a beautiful hike, but it is long and requires some advance planning. With amazing views, very few hikers on the trail, and a chance to walk the length of Zion National Park, this hike rewards your efforts.

The West Rim Trail can be hiked as a long day hike or as a two day backpacking trip. We elected to do the day hike in the top-down direction, starting at Lava Point.

West Rim Trail Hiking Stats

Distance: 16.2 miles point-to-point (from Lava Point to The Grotto)
Starting elevation: 7900 feet at Lava Point Campground
Ending elevation: 4474 feet at The Grotto bus stop
Overall descent: 3,156 feet
It is an overall 3,156 foot descent, with 1486 feet of climbing (mostly in the mid-portion of the hike)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 9 – 12 hours is average, although it can take up to 16 hours, depending on your pace
When to go: May through November. Snow can block the trail during the winter and spring months.

West Rim Trail Elevation Profile

West Rim Trail Elevation Profile


Please note: If you read other blogs and information provided by the National Park Service website, you will see the distance for this hike ranging from 14.2 to 18.5 miles. We hike with a Garmin GPS and use the stats it outputs for these hiking posts. Reading other hiker’s reports, many people also report a length of 16.2 miles for this hike. 


How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and the hiking route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.

If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

How to Get to Lava Point

The trailhead is located near Lava Point Lookout, a 45-minute to one-hour drive from Springdale. The Zion Shuttle does not provide access to this point. Getting here requires a 34-mile drive from Springdale on Kolob Terrace Road, which travels along the western boundary of Zion National Park.

There are shuttle services that you can hire to drive you from Springdale to the trailhead. We used Zion Adventure Company. Yes, this sounds expensive, but it saves you the hassle of later trying to retrieve your car from Lava Point.

I strongly recommend booking your shuttle service at least several days in advance. There are a limited number of seats and they do sell out!

How to Hike the West Rim Trail

Step-By-Step Trail Guide

Tim and I did this hike at the very beginning of May. Temperatures were in the 90’s midday, but the morning started off cool, about 65 degrees. Almost the entire first half of this hike is at the higher elevations on Horse Pasture Plateau, which keeps temperatures pleasant, even on the hottest of days.

Getting to the Trailhead

Our day started early. At 6:30 am we were on our way to the trailhead in a van with seven more hikers. This is a much different experience than waiting in line with hundreds of other people for the Zion Shuttle!

At 7:30 am we arrived at the Lava Point Lookout.

Before starting the hike, it is worth taking in the view from Lava Point Lookout. This gives you an idea of how far you will be hiking. Just in front of you is the green plateau that makes up the first part of the hike. Beyond it is the canyon of Zion National Park, your final destination.

Lava Point Overlook


From the Lava Point Campground (and your last chance to use a bathroom for quite awhile), it is a one-mile hike on Barney’s Trail to get to the official West Rim Trail trailhead. Most of this section is on a wide, gravel road.

Barneys Trail

The West Rim trailhead is marked with small, black sign. Now the trail becomes a dirt, singletrack trail along the forested plateau. Almost immediately past the trailhead is the turnoff for Wildcat Canyon Trail. Make sure you stay to the left, staying on the West Rim Trail.

On the Plateau

This first, forested section lasts quite awhile (about six to seven miles). It’s a cool, somewhat shady trail with a slight overall decline. This part of the trail is easy to hike and scenic views are few and far between (those come later!!), so this is a good place to hike with a fast pace.

Plateau on the West Rim Trail


Occasionally, there is a teaser view out to the west, spaced at just the right intervals to keep this part of the hike interesting.

Hiking Utah

The nice, overall downhill ends at Potato Hollow. From here, it is two short climbs spaced out over the next two miles. After enjoying the downhill for so long, it seemed like a bit of a slog to get up these hills, even though they are not very difficult. But it’s worth it. From here, the views also begin to change. Now you can see more of the stunning canyons, but the best is still to come.

At the top of the second climb, the trail splits. Stay to the right to remain on the West Rim Trail, with the best views from Horse Pasture Plateau. If you go left, the Telephone Canyon Trail offers more forested trails with less spectacular views. Both of these trails meet up again.

Utah Hiking

Tim Hiking

Julies View

Best Part of the West Rim Trail

The trails meet up at Cabin Spring. And this is where the nonstop, spectacular views of the West Rim Trail start. This is why you are hiking this trail, to be able to see this.

Cabin Spring Viewpoint

Tim Rivenbark

The temperature also changes…it is much noticeably warmer and it will continue to get hotter as you descend down into the canyon.

And descend you do. From Cabin Spring, it’s a rapid descent down to almost the canyon floor.

Julie Hiking

Canyon in Zion


Now, the trail winds through the canyon, climbing and descending around these rocky formations. This is the most beautiful part of the hike and when we did this hike there were just a handful of people out here.

West Rim Trail Hike


Soon, Angels Landing will come into view. If you still have energy left in your legs, you have the option of adding a climb up Angels Landing to this hike. It’s icing on the cake after a spectacular hike through Zion.

Angels Landing

We did not add on Angels Landing to this hike, although we considered it. Tim and I hiked Angels Landing the day before, early in the morning with very few people on the trail. Even though Angels Landing is a blast and we’d love to do it again sometime, neither of us felt like joining the crowds on the trail, especially in the midday heat.

From Scout Lookout, it’s just 2.5 miles downhill to The Grotto. It’s one massive descent from here, on Walter’s Wiggles, through Refrigerator Canyon, and down to the valley floor.

Walters Wiggles

Hiking in Zion

Last part of the trail

About Our Experience

Tim and I hiked the West Rim Trail very fast, covering the 16 miles in just 6.5 hours, including time for stops. We enjoyed this hike and even though it was a great experience I did not like it as much as I thought I would.

It’s a long hike, but that’s why we wanted to do it. There is a certain feeling of accomplishment to doing a long day hike. But the first half of the hike, the monotonous trail on top of the plateau, was a bit on the boring side. It was worth it for the views we had later, but if we did this hike again, there are some things we may do differently.

An Alternative to the West Rim Trail

If you like the idea of hiking the West Rim Trail, but a 16 mile point-to-point hike from Lava Point doesn’t sound like something you would want to do, there is an alternative. You can hike just a portion of the West Rim Trail, incorporating Angels Landing into your plans.

Here’s how I would do it. First thing in the morning, I’d hike the West Rim Trail from The Grotto and then hike up Angels Landing. Morning is the best time to avoid the crowds on Angels Landing. Then, from Scout Lookout, I would continue on the West Rim Trail towards Cabin Spring. This section of Zion is spectacular and few people seem to walk back this way. You could go as far as you like or hike all of the way up to Cabin Spring for the best viewpoint.

This would still be a very long day hike, but what an awesome day it would be. The thrilling climb up Angels Landing followed by the spectacular but seldom visited canyons in Zion. Plus, you would not have to arrange and pay for the shuttle service to Lava Point and you could eliminate the monotonous hike on the plateau.

By doing it this way, what you are missing is the point-to-point hike through Zion and the feeling like you are out on your own, hiking through the wilderness of Zion National Park that few others get to see.

Why You Should Hike the West Rim Trail

If you like the idea of a long distance hike, this one is perfect. If you like to feel like you are out in the wilderness, away from the groups of tourists on the more popular trails, the West Rim Trail is a great pick. If you want the accomplishment of hiking down the west side of Zion National Park, there’s no hike better than the West Rim Trail.

Backpacking the West Rim Trail

If you are considering the two-day backpacking trip, you will need to obtain permits in advance. See the National Park website for details.

More Important Links

Zion National Park Service: for up-to-date information on trail closures and more information on the West Rim Trail.

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

More Information about Zion National Park

Zion Travel Guide


Where We Stayed

We have been to Zion National Park twice and both times we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Springdale, one of the best Holiday Inn properties we have seen. It is located along the Springdale Shuttle route, so you can get around town and into Zion National Park without a car. 

If you have any questions about hiking the West Rim Trail, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information About Utah & the National Parks

AMERICAN SOUTHWEST ITINERARY: On the ultimate road trip through the American Southwest, visit the Grand Canyon, Utah’s Mighty 5, and several awesome state parks. Get the full details in our American Southwest Itinerary.

BRYCE CANYON:Learn how to plan your visit in our Bryce Canyon Travel Guide. We also have information on how to spend One Day in Bryce Canyon and how to hike the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop Trails.

GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE: In Grand Staircase-Escalante, drive Cottonwood Canyon Road, hike Willis Creek, and hike through Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Gulches.

NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries.

MORE GREAT HIKES IN THE NATIONAL PARKS: From hikes to the tallest peaks to beautiful coast trails, read our Guide to the Best Day Hikes in the US National Parks. If you prefer to keep your hikes short and sweet, read our guide to the Best Short Hikes in the National Parks.


Read all of our articles about Utah in our Utah Travel Guide and the United States in our USA Travel Guide.


West Rim Trail Zion


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Comments 21

  1. Avatar for Sean
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      I don’t think so, but I don’t know for certain. We drove down this road on the shuttle and did not see any places for parking. You might be able to get a more definitive answer on the National Park Service website. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Kerri
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Yes, we took the Zion shuttle from the Grotto (which is a Zion shuttle stop) to the park entrance/visitor center and from here, drove to our hotel in Springdale. Before doing this hike, we dropped our car off at the visitor center parking lot very early in the morning, before riding the shuttle provided by Zion Adventure Company.

  3. Avatar for Grace

    Hi Julie! We were not up for the logistics of a shuttle ride to Lava Point so we hiked the “alternative” option you suggested and it was amazing. We started at the Grotto, up to Scout’s Landing (we elected to skip Angel’s Landing since we have done it previously and did not want to deal with the crowds) and onward to Cabin Spring. We continued on past Cabin Spring via West Rim for about 1 mile just because the views were so fantastic….and then made the trek back to the Grotto. Anyways, long time reader and first time commenter here. Just wanted to say thank you for this fabulous and informative post that inspired our adventure today!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  4. Avatar for Lianna Scholz
    Lianna Scholz

    We booked a campsite to do the West Rim Trail overnight. Unfortunately, we can’t find any shuttle to take us to Lava Point for less than $150/person. As we can’t afford the $300 total for a shuttle, it looks like we need to cancel. How were you able to get $40/person? I looked up the company you listed. I tried to call them, but they said due to high volumes, they only accept emails. I filled out the contact info on their website and got a phone call back saying $150/person. However, the phone call back had a different company name, so I’m pretty confused. I’m sure there’s not much else to be said, but if you have any advice, it is appreciated.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Zion is getting record setting traffic. And with the Zion shuttle ticketing system (which was actually just discontinued May 29), many people have been booking these private shuttles to take them into the park. That increase in demand has caused these companies to raise their prices. But it’s not normally this expensive. We did this hike in May a few years ago, when traffic volumes were lower and there was no shuttle reservation system. Hopefully private shuttle fees will go back to their cheaper prices soon. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Sarah

    Hello! We’re big hikers, and your blog is PERFECT! Thank you for detailing everything out; it makes planning so much easier! For cost reasons, we are wanting to do the West Rim Alternate route you highlighted, and we are wanting to include Angels Landing and then go all the way to Cabin Springs and back. Do you have a rough estimate of about how long/how many miles that would be? We’ll plan on starting first thing in the morning; it’d just be nice to have an idea of what mileage we’re looking at tackling. Thanks!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hi Sarah. As a very rough estimate, I think that the round-trip hike will come in somewhere around 13 miles round trip. It will be pretty much uphill until you get to Cabin Spring and then it will be a nice downhill walk back to Zion Valley. Hike up to Angels Landing first, before the trail gets very crowded. It will be a great day hike. And you will get to see how crowded Angels Landing gets midday when you hike past it…it’s crazy!! Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Sarah North
  6. Avatar for Bryant

    This is very helpful. Your blog is great and helped me do the rim to rim in the Grand Canyon. Are there any opportunities for water on this hike and are there any toilets once you leave the trailhead? And did you consider doing the rim to rim thing on this one where you go up the East side?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      If I remember correctly, there is a toilet at the trailhead but that is it for the rest of the trail. We did not consider adding on the East Rim Trail to this hike. The East Rim Trail is also quite long and putting the 2 of these together would make for an enormous day hike. However, you can do them together as a backpacking trip, or spend the night in Springdale and hike each rim trail on separate days. Cheers, Julie

  7. Avatar for Christina

    This is an awesome post! I’m training for the Appalacian Trail in 2022 and have been bookmarking really good long day hikes to prepare. This sounds like a great one mentally and physically (since hiking for 6 months straight doesn’t offer the best views 100% of the time anyway!) And I will be working in St. George for a few months very soon so I can definitely take a trip out to conquer it! Thanks for all the info!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      You’re welcome! The Zion Narrows is another epic long distance hike to put on your list. It’s one of our favorite hikes of all time and it would make another great training hike. Good luck in 2022! That’s very exciting! Cheers, Julie

  8. Avatar for Erin Burris
    Erin Burris

    I have a couple of questions about this portion of a hike….

    Here’s how I would do it. First thing in the morning, I’d hike the West Rim Trail from The Grotto and then hike up Angels Landing. Morning is the best time to avoid the crowds on Angels Landing. Then, from Scout Lookout, I would continue on the West Rim Trail towards Cabin Spring. This section of Zion is spectacular and few people seem to walk back this way. You could go as far as you like or hike all of the way up to Cabin Spring for the best viewpoint.

    1. If we start at The Grotto, and end towards Cabin Spring, how do we get back to our car?
    2. How many miles is this hike?
    3. It is strenuous?

    Thanks! I am learning so much from your articles about our upcoming trip in mid-April!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      This would be an out and back hike. You will start and end at the Grotto. To do Angels Landing round trip it is 5.4 miles. From Scout Lookout, if you continue along the West Rim Trail, you are adding more distance onto this 5.4 miles. So, if you hike 3 miles farther along the West Rim Trail towards Cabin Spring, then you are essentially adding a total of 6 miles (for a total of 11.4 miles) onto the Angels Landing hike (since you have to walk back the same way). And it is about 3 miles to Cabin Spring, and quite a hefty climb to get to it. However, you don’t have to go this far to leave the crowds behind and see some different views of Zion. Just a 1 to 1.5 miles is all you need. So, if you went one mile past Scout Lookout after climbing Angels Landing, your hike would be a total of 7.4 miles. It’s a gradual uphill climb along the West Rim Trail, but you got the worst part over with by the time you reach Scout Lookout. Cheers, Julie

  9. Avatar for Mike

    The west rim lava point to the grotto is 14.1 miles . I have done this trail several times day and overnight and the trail is 10x harder than you describe it. The climbs are nothing short of steep long and intense . At 7400 feet on top of the ridge going past campsite 5 will give you the best views of the park on the west rim.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  10. Avatar for Oliver Descoeudres
    Oliver Descoeudres

    Thanks – the link to shuttle was very helpful. Photos look spectacular (I did Angels Landing and Narrows a few years ago, and love this area!)

    Looking to do this as a long day-walk in June (I’m torn between Kings Peak which may still be snow-covered, and a day hiking in Bryce Canyon + a West Rim in Zion!)

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Kings Peak looks like a good hike. Have you been to Bryce Canyon yet? If not…go! It’s such a beautiful place, and so different from everything around it with the hoodoos and rock formations. The West Rim Trail is a great day – the second half of the hike is stunning, and you get the chance to climb Angels Landing again, if you want. Cheers, Julie

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