Watchman Trail in Zion National Park is a moderate hike with lovely views! Here's a look at some of its best features.
If you're visiting Utah's Zion National Park, Watchman Trail is a great place to get your bearings before trying to reach the more challenging spots (some of which require permits) in the park.
Located conveniently near the south entrance, this is a classic hike that offers some beautiful views within just a couple of miles.
Here's an overview of what to expect from this out-and-back trail near the Springdale side of the park.
How Difficult Is This Hike?
The trail is a little over three miles (round trip), with a 368-foot elevation climb. It's considered moderately difficult and usually takes a couple of hours to complete.
There's nothing technically difficult on this hike — just lots of stairs.
Bring a trekking pole to make the stairs easier, and take lots of water (especially if it’s hot).
Also, the trailhead starts at just under 4,000 feet, which is moderately high elevation, especially if you’re coming from sea level. If you’re just arriving from a much lower elevation, take your time and bring extra water.
Unlike some areas of the park, this trail may remain accessible even during the winter season. Check the park's official webpage for trail conditions.
Hiking Watchman Trail
The south entrance to Zion, near the town of Springdale, brings you almost immediately to the visitor center and the Watchman Campground.
The trailhead is well sign-posted and easy to access from the visitor center parking lot. It's also just a short walk from the campground. Check a Zion trail map for details.
We woke up early to hike this trail, and had the whole trail and overlook areas to ourselves until we were headed down. It was lovely! For more tips on how to avoid crowds in Zion, see this post.
From the visitor center lot, you’ll start on a well-marked, flat, sandy path.
The trail quickly begins to rise with lots of stairs.
And then, you guessed it, more stairs!
The stairs are worth it, though, because they're taking you up to an amazing overlook.
On our way uphill, we saw lots and lots of flowers, including the apricot mallow and licorice plants.
As we hiked up, it started to rain slightly, and we were thrilled to see a rainbow!
It was a good start to the day.
Once you reach the “loop trail” sign, the trail begins a small loop. Follow the loop to reach the Watchman overlook area.
Once we reached the overlook, we relaxed, made a cup of espresso with our hand-pump espresso machine, and enjoyed a chocolate croissant we'd packed in from a local coffee shop.
It was delightful!
Take some time at the overlook and enjoy the 360-degree views.
This was one of my favorite spots in the park, and (amazingly) we had it all to ourselves.
Once you’re ready to head down, continue following the loop trail until you reach the main trail, and then head back the way you came.
Want to check out the local food and drink scene in between hiking days? Don't miss the nearby Zion Canyon Brew Pub or Zion Vineyards! Water Canyon Winery is another good choice about an hour south of the park.