A Fun Little Hike!
The Watchman's Trail's prime location poises it for busy traffic, but it always seems much quieter here than on other trails in Zion Canyon. This fun, short hike offers some great elevated views of Springdale, both Watchman and South Campgrounds, and the Visitors Center. The giant Watchman, the trail's namesake, looms above to the southeast, while distant views of Eagle Crags and Lower Mountain frame the southwest skyline. To the north, west, and east, Zion Canyon's major peaks and imposing walls dominate, framing the lush valley and the Virgin River below.
The Watchman Trail is a favorite sunset hike, as the alpenglow on the Watchman, Bridge Mountain, and Johnson Mountain can be quite striking. The show is best on days with light cloud cover, when a low sun bounces light off overhead clouds onto the tall canyon walls, creating a soft, orange-red "glow" you are sure to see in the local photo galleries.
Trail runners often favor the Watchman Trail as well, as it is the most convenient trail for both campers and Springdale-dwellers to access for a quick morning or evening run. Leave your friends dozing at camp while you take a quick 45-minute jaunt up Watchman and return in time for breakfast!
A moderately strenuous hike
About 2 hours round-trip
3.5 miles (5.3 km) round-trip
370 feet (112 m)
Starts and finishes at Watchman Trailhead, across from the Main Visitor Center. Park at the VC and walk to the trailhead.
Sun during the day, some shade during early morning and around sunset.
Sturdy hiking shoes, ample water, and food for a full day of hiking.
Water is available to purify, but it is usually easier to pack sufficient water in the first place.
FLASH FLOOD RISK
Low - There are no sections of sustained narrows. Crossing North Creek to get back to the car could be impossible in flood conditions.
Spring - Nice time to hike. If early spring or after a rain, expect MUD.
Summer - HOT! Leave early to avoid the heat and be aware the hike out is in full sun. Makes a nice, cooler sunset hike.
Fall - Generally a great time to hike this trail. Great fall photography along the creaked.
Winter - Possible snowpack and ice along the waterfalls, thought this area is relatively low and gets a lot of sun.
I guess it's no wonder this trail is often quiet, as it's a little out of the way! From the large shuttle stop at the Visitor Center, follow the black path near the Virgin River as it crosses under the access road from Hwy 9. You'll find yourself across the river from the Pa'rus Trail and the South Campground. Head north, along the river, where you'll see a small sign leading away from the Visitor Center.
The trail begins winding along the Virgin River and through the grassy, flat floodplain. After you cross a Park access road, the trail will start to switchback up the side of the canyon. Please follow Leave No Trace ethics and stay on the trail, rather than cutting the switchbacks and heading straight up.
The switchbacks lead up through fun formations and a small spring before leveling out on a plateau below the face of the Watchman. The top is a great place for lunch, a sunset viewing, or landscape photography. Enjoy views to the south of Mount Kinesava, Oak Creek Canyon, and the West Temple. There is a small loop trail that goes out to the point, if you care to explore a bit further.
Return the way you came.