Zion’s Hidden Gem
Zion National Park’s Kolob Canyons is located on the far northwest tip of the park next to Interstate-15. This section of Zion is not widely known by visitors coming to visit the park, including many locals who have never visited this slice of the park. Motorists drive by completely unaware of this magnificent section of Utah’s most popular park. The entrance is located on Interstate-15 at exit 40, 20 miles south of Cedar City and 33 miles north of St. George. The only road in this section is a five mile scenic drive that works its way up the hills that hide the canyons from view of I-15, which ends at a lookout offering a panoramic view of the canyons and surrounding area. Pull-outs for scenic views and trailhead parking areas are located along the route.
Taylor Creek Middle Fork Trail
This five mile out and back trail has become a popular day hike for families, birders, nature walkers and winter snowshoeing.
Taylor Creek is a great family hike that I consider kid friendly. I’m seeing more and more families on the trail from young families with infants in carriers to grandparents with grandkids in tow. When hiking with my grandkids I always pack a lunch or take plenty of snacks, water and pace ourselves with plenty of stops along the way. The several shallow creek crossings make it more of an adventure for them. Out and back should take roughly 3 to 5 hours.
The trail is approximately 2.5 miles one-way with just under 500 feet in elevation gain. From the parking lot the trail begins with steep steps down a slope to the creek below where it levels out to a single track that leads upstream. The trail is well marked and easy to follow with more than a dozen shallow water crossings you’ll encounter on the way. Other than during high runoff, most can be crossed without getting your feet wet. As you progress you’ll notice the canyon begin to close in as you enter the finger canyon between Tucupit Point to the north and Paria Point to the south that tower 1,700 ft above. Vegetation also begins to change at this point similar to what is seen along the Riverside Walk at the Narrows.
While the hike is generally quite easy the trail follows a path up and down the banks of the creek and with some easy scrambling over or around large boulders. Along the way you will encounter the historical Larson and Fife Cabins that were built in 1930.
The main section of the trail ends at Double Arch, that’s not actually an arch but a large colorful alcove. (banner photo above) The alcove is a very deep like what you might see at Mesa Verde National Park where the Ancestral Puebloans might built their cliff dwellings, although the slope below is much steeper.
You can keep hiking deeper in the canyon from here but this is where most hikers end before turning back. The trail continues upstream where it will lead you to a waterfall then a very steep slope with difficult footing. This steep slope from a landslide will be difficult for small children and older adults. If hiking with either I recommend turning back at Double Arch. If you do continue the overgrown vegetation will make hiking difficult, which will require bushwhacking to get to where the canyon really gets narrow.
Getting to Kolob from St. George to the south (33 miles) and Cedar City to the north (20 miles) is a snap. Take Interstate-15 to exit 40 (Kolob Canyons) and voila! From the visitor center it’s two miles to the trailhead parking lot. For more information visit www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/kolob-canyons.htm
Difficulty: Easy family friendly hike with minimal elevation gain
Distance & elevation gain: 5 miles out and back to Double Arch alcove, 500 feet elevation gain.
Trail type: Singletrack dirt trail
Multi-use: Hiking and trail running (winter snowshoeing/Nordic skiing)
Dogs: Not allowed
Fees: Zion National Park entrance fee
Seasonality: Year-round, winter snow could block sections of trail. Bring water; none available on the trail.
Bathroom: Vault toilets at the trailhead