Kolob Canyons is a quieter section of Zion National Park, about an hour drive northwest from the main entrance. The red canyons are carved from a massive plateau resulting in very unique rock formations and peaks. The main trail is La Verkin Creek, which parallels its namesake after a few miles in, providing a number of waterfront campsites. The trail continues on to the ultimate side hike: the Kolob Arch, one of the largest freestanding arches in the world!
The hike is full of enticing side valleys, cascades, and peaks that I would love to explore in another trip.
The page below contains information for planning this hike, itinerary and photos from our trip, and a map of the trails.
We woke up at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, the first stop on our week long road trip from California through Nevada and Utah. We had a nice relaxing day and a quick drive. We arrived at the Kolob Canyon Visitors Center to pick up the last minute backcountry permit I managed to snag the week before. Although I visited Zion once before I had never heard of the Kolob Canyons but with our last minute planning it was one of the only areas with campsites remaining. From the permit office the Lee Pass trailhead was only a few minutes away and the drive through the red canyons was scenic and worth the trip in itself.
It was hot and very dry on the trail, as we expected for the beginning of July! We were prepared and it was manageable but I got a little worried seeing so many dry creek beds during the first section of La Verkin Creek Trail. Campsites 1, 2, and 3 along the southbound stretch looked completely dry. We passed some very spectacular mesas, mountains, and canyons along the way though. The scenery was fantastic and I was in shock that there were so few hikers on a holiday weekend.
We rounded a corner at camp 3 and the trail veered east up Kolob Canyon. After what seemed like way too long we finally heard running water and came upon La Verkin Creek flowing nicely down a sandy creek bed. We quickly reached Camp 4 (Juniper Camp) which looked really nice with a creek view although not very secluded. And then our destination, Camp 5 (Neagle Camp)! It was off the trail over a tiny hill away from the creek, a nice private space. I was worried because the park website described it as being prone to ants in the summer but we didn’t have a big problem with them luckily.
We arrived around 4PM and ate a quick meal before setting up camp. Then around 5PM we headed up the trail for the Kolob Arch!
Along the way we passed Camp 6 which had a fantastic site and swimming hole. Camps 7, 8, and 9 looked great too. After camp 9 we turned up the Kolob Arch trail for a quick ½ mile hike. The trail followed along a creek that looked like a mini version of the Zion Subway. I really liked hiking that section. We arrived at a sign saying not to continue further and looked up to find the backlit Kolob Arch staring down at us. It was massive and full of concerning cracks! We waited for the sun to set behind it to get a less blinding view. It was definitely worth the extra hike!
On our way back to camp we saw a wild turkey enjoying the creek as well as a bee hive which perfectly match the Utah highway sign logo! We decided to stop by Camp 6 to use the swimming hole – I would try to book that campground next time.
This backpacking trip is pretty straightforward to plan once you have a permit – and possibly available as a walk-up. The trailhead is a short drive from the ranger station and the hike is out and back, so no need to worry about trailhead logistics. Just remember that the hike out is nearly entirely uphill!
Campsite reservations can be made up to 3 months in advance, starting on the 5th day of each month at 10AM MT. About one third of permits are saved for walk-up hikers, one day in advance. The permit cost depends on the group size (around $15-$25) but a $5 non-refundable fee is required to reserve online.
I found the Zion online reservation system to be pretty easy compared to other National Park permitting systems (although this is really not saying much!). For a last minute trip like this it was very straightforward to see our options.
From Los Angeles our total driving time was only 6.5 hours, including a relaxing pit stop for the night in Las Vegas. From Vegas the drive was very easy, just over 2 hours along I-15 to reach Kolob Canyon Visitors Center via Exit 40 (Kolob Canyon Rd). After picking up our permit we continued east on Kolob Canyon Rd for 10 minutes to reach the Lee Pass Trailhead where parking spaces were available on the side of the road.
National Geographic Trail Map
Always carry a map! This folded map covers the main areas of Zion National Park as well as Kolob Canyon.>> Click here for my gear recommendations
The most popular time to visit Zion is April through October. Summer months can be extremely hot, exceeding 100F. It is very important to check the weather report and avoid entering slot canyons if rain is expected. This can cause very dangerous flash flooding.