Zion National Park
Trailhead Elevation: 3,923 ft.
Distance: 3.88 mi. (my Forerunner 230)
Elevation Gain: 635 ft. (my GPS)
Start Time: 7:05am
End Time: 8:38am
My friend Matt and I set out from our camp site in Watchman campground and walked the camp road out until we got to the bridge over the Virgin River. Just before the bridge was the trailhead for the Watchman Trail. We began there. We each only carried a nalgene in hand and had basic clothes on. It was probably in the 50s when we got started and the skies were mostly clear. The initial trail is mostly flat and follows the river a bit until curving away from the river and then crosses a side road that heads out of the campground.
After the crossing of the road the trail gains some elevation while continuing eastward. The trail was all dirt, no pavement, with varying amounts of rock along the way. We continued a brisk walking pace as the trail took us deeper into the side canyon. As it climbed we followed deeper into the canyon and then encountered a series of switchbacks that gained elevation up the side quickly. At the top of the switchbacks the trail continues into an ascending traverse that leads out to the top of a plateau.
On the plateau the trail makes a loop around the crest offering different views into the valley. At the western end of the plateau is a small side trail to a overlook where we headed and stopped for a few minutes. The views of the valley, particularly with the morning light and clouds were spectacular and we grabbed a number of pictures. On our hike up we only encountered two people on their way down. We spent about 5 minutes up there and then made our way back. On the descent we probably encountered 10 people coming up including a trail runner. We jogged parts of the descent and made pretty quick time. We saw a buck mule deer with 8-point antlers during our descent.
This is the view you earn when you make it to the top:
Here are some of the rest of my better photos:
Track;This is an overview from Google Earth of the trail. The parking lot in view is the big visitor center lot at the south end of Zion Canyon. You can see how the trail just works its way up to the tip of a plateau offering great views.
I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk).