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The Watchman Trail Zion National Park

The Watchman Trail Zion National Park

Cacti against the desert mountains are shown

The Watchman Trail at Zion National Park is a great short hike to experience life inside the canyon. The trail starts on the canyon floor and climbs into the foothills of the Bridge Mountain and The Watchman, which provide amazing views into the narrow Zion Canyon.

A little more than 3 miles round trip, this lollipop loop trail showcases the beautiful desert terrain as well as the abundant life along the Virgin River.

Finding the Watchman Trailhead at Zion National Park

The trail begins at the Visitor Center and Shuttle Stop #1. The Watchman Trail begins directly across the road from the shuttle stop. The parking lot for the Visitor Center is quite large and you’ll want to walk toward the building and then past it to the road. The trailhead begins on the southeast side of the bridge over the Virgin River on the road that goes to the Visitor Center and the Watchman Campground.

Trailhead to the switchbacks

From the trailhead, the Watchman Trail at Zion National Park follows the Virginia River for a short while. I really enjoyed taking in the sites of the river and seeing how it brings life to the desert. The contrast of large green trees and thick sagebrush really shows how water is life in this part of the world.

The Watchman Trail at Zion National Park, a great short day hike
Bridge Mountain is shown in the distance as the Watchman Trail follows the Virgin River

Along this part, the trail is flat, wide and sandy. But the sand is not too deep, which makes it easier to walk on.

It soon turns toward the mountains and crosses another road at mile 0.25. Some wooden steps lead away from the road, and you begin the climb. Here you get your first glimpse of Zion Canyon.

Cactus and desert vegetation is shown

The trail zigzags a little bit and then it turns and begins to head into a draw as it continues its climb up to the base of Bridge Mountain. The lush green fades into sparse bushes. As the trail heads into the valley, you temporarily lose the sight of the vistas of Zion Canyon.

At mile 0.70 the trail begins a series of tight switchbacks.

The Watchman Trail at Zion National Park is shown
The draw the Watchman Trail climbs up

Switchbacks to the lollipop

As the Watchman Trail climbs the switchbacks take note of the rugged terrain of Zion Canyon. The switchbacks cut into the rock and provide a brief respite from the desert sun and heat. The trail soon straightens out and heads toward the crook of the valley.

Here you can see evidence of water and a spring as the vegetation changes and becomes lusher in just this one spot.

At the crook, or mile 1.2, the trail turns and begins to head southwest. As you continue to climb look back down into the valley for an overview of the trail.

The Watchman stands tall above the Watchman Trail at Zion National Park
The Watchman stands tall above the trail

You also get wonderful views of The Watchman, which stands 3,000 feet from the valley floor.

The lollipop of the Watchman Trail at Zion

At mile 1.43 the trail splits into the lollipop section of the lollipop loop. Here you can either go right or left. I chose to go to the right or toward the valley because I wanted to get to the views quicker. But this part is a loop, so either way you go, you get to the same place.

The view begins to come to life

Pay attention to the wooden signs here. They direct you where to go. There were a few social trails, and I noticed other hikers follow them and then become confused about how to find the trail.

An wonderful view of Zion Canyon
Looking into Zion Canyon from the trail

At mile 1.57, you get amazing views of Zion Canyon to the northeast and the town of Springdale, Utah, to the southwest.

As you finish the lollipop loop, take in the views to the southwest and The Watchman, which stands tall above you.

The Watchman Trail at Zion National Park, a great short day hike to get views of the valley
Looking across the valley

At mile 1.84 the lollipop joins back up with the stick and from here you simply retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

The Watchman Trail at Zion

The Watchman Trail at Zion is a great way to get gorgeous views of Zion Canyon. Zion National Park ranks the hike as “moderate” and it’s a great short alternative if you don’t feel up to taking on the climb to other vistas, like Angels Landing.

I used this trail as a warmup for my backpacking trip on the West Rim Trail.

Evening light filters throught the trees along the Watchman Trail at Zion Nationa Park
Evening light filters through the trees

I hiked it in the evening hours in August, and the light toward the canyon was beautiful, although it was hot. The town of Springdale was a little more backlit, and I felt I chose the right time of day because the canyon was just so beautiful. However, if you hike it in August, you’ll want to take plenty of water and rests in the shade.

Trail facts:

  • 3.3 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain 582
  • Be sure to bring lots of water!
  • Dogs not allowed
  • Backcountry camping is not allowed
The Watchman Trail at Zion National Park is a great short day hike for wonderful views of the valley and to see the diversity of the park.

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The Watchman Trail at Zion National Park is a great short day hike for wonderful views of the valley and to see the diversity of the park.
The Watchman Trail at Zion National Park is a great short day hike for wonderful views of the valley and to see the diversity of the park.

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