- Shuttle Stop 1, [Zion Canyon Visitor Center]
- Estimated Roundtrip Time: 2 hours
- Distance: 3.3 miles/4.3 kilometers
- Elevation Change: 368 feet/112 meters
About the Watchman Trail
Right at the entrance of the national park is the trailhead for Watchman trail. Park at the main entrance and if you park at the first few rows, you’ll literally walk just behind the park entrance collection booth to get on the Watchman Trail. Deeper in the parking lot, take a walk past the Zion National Park Forever Project store and pick up the trail at the very beginning, or if you find yourself in the RV parking lot, you’ll get a bit of a head start as the trail parallels the Virgin River.
Once the trail veers south east and leaves the Virgin River you’ll cross the main park road leaving the busy parking areas behind. This is where the trail feels like it truly begins. Scrub brush of prickly pear cactus,. Small junipers, and sparse pinion pines dot the landscape. There is not much shade along the route so be sure to prepare for the heat and direct sun. Not a terribly difficult trek, the Watchman Trail is a great first taste of Zion right at the beginning of the park. A total elevation differential of about 450’ will give you a good hike without wearing you out.
Depending on where you picked up the trail, about a mile in you’ll come to the split that loops back around itself. The loop is less than 1/3 of a mile around and from the southwest trail you’ll get a terrific vantage point of the park entrance, the campground, and off in the distance you’ll see Springdale in the west. To the south you’ll view the distant 2200’ spire of the Watchman and to the north the 2036’ peak of Bridge Mountain.
Because the trailhead is located right at the park entrance, this trail’s popularity flip flops between overlooked and busy. Sometimes it’s nearly empty because everyone is in a rush to get to the rest of the park, other times it’s jam packed with visitors taking in the views. This trail is a great way to begin your hiking adventure walking into the foothills between these two notable peaks.