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Next up in my posts from our January Zion trip is the Watchman Trail. I had been to or through Zion no less than a dozen times before this trip and I had never heard of the Watchman Trail.
I don’t know how, but I hadn’t. I am so glad I did find out about it though because I loved it! Before doing the hike I read somewhere else that it was the least exciting and least scenic trail in Zion and I almost didn’t want to do it after but I had to know for myself.
Since it was January, there were plenty of parking options near the Watchman Trailhead and visitor center. There was also a wonderful dusting of snow on the mountains making this even better than normal, I think.
I would imagine this trail is fairly busy in the summer since its so easy to get to but I also had never heard of it so who knows. I don’t think it’s near as busy as Angels Landing or the Narrows though.
We did this pretty much in the middle of the day (we’re not early starters) and got lucky with perfect clouds and lighting. We also had some spare time left after this since it’s not too long of a hike.
The trail starts off along the Virgin River before branching off to the right. It passes behind the park housing before heading up the side of the mountain. Also, I’m calling them mountains but they could also be cliffs, neither feels right.
The trail wasn’t super busy but it was busy enough. We had a few parts without running into other people but for the most part we were near people or could at least see people ahead. It was nothing like the crowds on Angels Landing though.
The trail itself is pronounced and easy to follow but parts of it were very muddy because of the recent snow. There wasn’t much on the ground right here but the east side of the park probably had 6+ inches, enough to make hiking over there a lot harder in regular hiking boots without microspikes.
At first you’re just climbing up then you do a little switchbacking. The views aren’t anything special on the way up since you’re looking at the side of the mountain.
If you look to the right though, you have a nice view out toward Springdale. But it really starts to get good when the trail makes its turn to the right, which is also when it starts to flatten out a bit.
But even just as it turns to the right, it’s still not as good as it gets. At the very top there is a short loop before it connects back to the main trail and that is where the view is the best.
Up here, to the right at the loop, you have incredible sprawling views of the canyon below and mountains across from you. If you look to the right you also get a view up the main canyon a bit with mountains on both sides.
It’s amazing. And the clouds and snow were just perfection! It was a bit chilly but it was January so it was expected. We spent quite a bit of time up at the top, enjoying the view. It was just so good!
We eventually finished up the loop and made the trek back down which was much better since it’s easier going down and you get to enjoy the views the whole way. Big fan.
Overall, I loved this trail and am so glad we decided to do it to really see if it was worth it and I would 100% say it is! The Watchman Trail in Zion is amazing and shouldn’t be skipped. It’s a great way to avoid the crowds on more popular trails, too.
After we finished this, we decided to do the Archaeology Trail which also leaves from the same area so we didn’t have to drive anywhere else. That trail is super short, just 0.2 miles round-trip, and if there is a trail in Zion that isn’t worth it, it’s the Archaeology Trail.
It’s super short but it’s not interesting at all. The only thing you really get is a view of the shuttle parking area. If you have nothing else to do in Zion, or a spare 30 minutes, sure, give it a shot, but it’s not that good. There are barely even ruins at the top.
Lesson learned here: Watchman Trail – yes, Archaeology Trail – no. If you want to do more hiking from right here, the Pa’rus Trail is super easy (it’s the paved bike trail leaving from the visitor center) and beautiful. I would definitely recommend that one.
National Park Pass + Other National Park Deals
- If you’re planning on visiting multiple parks (3 or more) on this trip or within the year, I would highly recommend getting a national park pass. It’s $80 but will pay for itself in about three trips to parks. It’s so worth it and I buy one every year! They’re also great for gifts for the park lovers in your life.
- To help plan the best national park trip ever, this Ultimate National Park Planning Bundle is perfect! You get two ebooks and a planner, saving 50% by getting them as a bundle! If you want all the details, this is the bundle for you. Buy the Ultimate bundle here.
- This National Park Planner (one of the ebooks from the bundle above) is perfect if you just want some guidance in your planning. Buy the planner here.
- Get yourself a little National Park notebook to write all about your adventures while you’re on the road. These from Field Notes are all very cute! If you want one for all of the NPS sites (400+!) then this one is for you!
- Before your trip, get some national park apparel for your trip! Homage is donating 5% of sales from the national park collection to the National Parks Conservation Association this year. Buy national park shirts here.
- Consider reading some of these books set in national parks before your big trip, on your adventure, or once you get home to take you back to the parks until next time.
- Planning a big national park trip? Check out these other posts: National Park bucket list, Make the most of a National Park trip, National Park camping packing list, My favorite National Park hikes, More National Park hikes I love, Underrated National Parks.
Archaeology Trail photos (the only ones I took)
Where is the Watchman Trailhead?
The Watchman Trailhead leaves from the Zion visitor center. We parked in the lot to the left after you turn off the main park road but anywhere you can get in that area is fine. Since it was winter, we had plenty of space to choose from.
How long is the Watchman Trail in Zion?
The Watchman Trail is just 3.3 miles round trip so it’s not too long but not too short, either. You could combine it with the Pa’rus trail if you want something longer but still easy.
Is the Watchman Trail in Zion hard?
Technically no but like everything here, I complained the whole way up haha. It has 636 feet of elevation gain so it’s not hard but it’s not a walk in the park (ha) either.
If you’re super fit, this shouldn’t be a problem. I would say the hardest part, when we were there, was that the trail along the edge of the mountain was super muddy because it was snowy recently.
Is the Watchman Trail in Zion worth it?
Absolutely! I loved this hike a lot and thought the views were incredible. We were lucky enough to see the mountains across from us dusted with snow and the clouds were perfect.
It only takes a couple of hours and if you want to do something that isn’t one of the main hikes in Zion (The Narrows or Angels Landing) this is a good choice. It’s in my top choices for things to do with one day in Zion.
Watchman Trail Zion photo gallery
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Have you hiked the Watchman Trail in Zion? What did you think of it? Do you want to do it?