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.
Watchman Trail Hiking Stats
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
Step-By-Step Trail Guide
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
ZION NATIONAL PARK: Check out our Zion National Park Travel Guide for important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.
ZION SHUTTLE: If you are in Zion for a quick visit, or you don’t want to be bothered with the shuttle, here are 11 things to do without riding the Zion shuttle.
UTAH ITINERARY: If you need ideas on how to plan your road trip through Utah, check out our 7 to 10 day Mighty 5 Itinerary, our Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef Road Trip, and our 14-day American Southwest Itinerary.
USA TRAVEL INSPIRATION: For more great ideas on where to go in the United States, check out our article Best USA Road Trips, which has 18 sample itineraries for your next big adventure. You can also see more travel itineraries on our Travel Itineraries page and our National Park Itineraries.
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