The Watchman Trail is a relatively easy hike that offers nice views over Springdale and the southern end of Zion National Park. Since this trail starts at the visitor center, no shuttle is necessary, making this a great option if you want to go hiking in Zion without waiting in line for the shuttle. Here’s how to do it.
Distance: 3.3 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Elevation Gain: 370 feet
Length of Time: 2 hours
Elevation profile of the hike. This does not include the extra distance if you walk the loop at the end of the 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.
Hiking the Watchman Trail
Getting to the Trailhead
The trail starts near the visitor center. Park in the visitor center parking lot and walk towards the visitor center. There is a trail that heads between the visitor center and the Zion shuttle waiting area, crosses the street, and takes you to the trailhead.
If there is no parking at the visitor center, you can take the Springdale shuttle to Zion National Park. The Springdale shuttle stop is labeled on the map above. From here, you will walk the paved path into the park, stopping to pay your park entrance fee on the way. Continue along this paved trail until you reach the Watchman trailhead.
On the Watchman Trail
The first part of the Watchman Trail is flat and easy. It is a leisurely walk along the Virgin River. To your right you will have views of the Watchman peak.
Once the trail makes the turn into the mountains, you leave the Virgin River behind and the hike gets more interesting. For the next mile, you steadily hike up into the hills. The higher you go, the better the view.
The trail ends at a cliff on the base of Watchman mountain. There is a small loop trail that offers several different views out over Zion and Springdale.
To get back to the visitor center, retrace your steps.
About this Hike
This is one of the least exciting and least scenic trails in Zion National Park. In my opinion, it’s only worth hiking if you are looking for a short, easy trail, like the convenience of starting right from the visitor center, or are having a hard time getting a shuttle reservation.
If you don’t mind a longer hike, you can combine this with the Pa’rus Trail, a 3.4-mile trail (out-and-back) that meanders along the Virgin River. This hike starts just across the Virgin River from the Watchman trailhead and ends at Canyon Junction Bridge, where you can get a classic view of Zion National Park.
With high crowd levels, trail closures, and high levels of cyanobacteria in the Virgin River, Zion can be a challenging park to visit right now. If you are planning a visit to Zion, make sure you read our post 5 Things to Know Before Visiting Zion to avoid any unfortunate surprises.
If you have any questions about the Watchman Trail or the hiking trails in Zion National Park, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information about Zion
- GUIDE TO ZION: The Complete Guide to Zion National Park
- ZION SHUTTLE: 11 Things to Do in Zion if You Don’t Want to Wait in Line for the Shuttle
- BEST HIKES: 10 Great Hikes in Zion. Which Ones Will Be Your Favorite?
- ITINERARY: Zion Itinerary: How to Spend 1 to 6 Days in Zion National Park
- ANGELS LANDING: Angels Landing: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go
- THE NARROWS: The Complete Guide to the Zion Narrows
- THE NARROWS: Zion Narrows: Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up, Which One Should You Choose?
- HIDDEN CANYON: Hidden Canyon: An Unexpected Surprise in Zion NP
- CANYON OVERLOOK: The Canyon Overlook Trail, One of Zion’s Essential Hikes
- OBSERVATION POINT: How to Hike to Observation Point
If this is part of a bigger road trip through the USA, visit our United States Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.
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