Hiking the Watchman Trail at Zion National Park

Zion National Park is, without a doubt, one of the most gorgeous places in the country. A visit to Zion is a fantastic bucket list addition for any fitness and outdoor enthusiasts.

There are so many beautiful trails to explore featuring diverse & amazing scenery including gorgeous red rock formations and beautiful waterfalls. Additionally, many trails will take you on a quaint stroll along the Virgin River. Once you get out there on the trails, you will see why the park was named Zion, a term that means “peace” in Hebrew.

Peaceful river views along the Watchman Trail at Zion National park

The Watchman – a fantastic introductory trail

At Zion, you will find a variety of hiking options ranging from super easy introductory trails for newbies to intense all day adventures. A few trails conveniently start right from the visitor’s center. One of these, the Watchman Trail, is a nice easy-mod choice for anyone in pretty good shape. It’s not too difficult, yet intense enough to make you feel like you got in a quality workout for the day. Regular hikes, gym goers, and fitness buffs should be impressed with the big views accessible via moderate effort.

Sign for the Watchman Trail at Zion at Zion National Park.

This trail also happens to be completely gorgeous and not at all overcrowded. As it is much less popular than some of the more intense trails, crowds are pretty much non existent for the majority of the year. This is especially true during the off-season (December-February), where you may very likely be the only person on the trail (as was our case during a February visit).

A view of the stunning scenery along Zion's Watchman Trail
A morning hike along the Watchman Trail at Zion National Park

The 1.3 mile out-and-back hike slowly climbs to an overlook, where you will be treated to magnificent views of the unique Watchman Tower rock formation, as well as panoramic views of the entire area. An extra scenic loop at the top offers more great views and adds another 0.4 miles or so into your total mileage. The climb is a nice little workout, without being too strenuous. The way back down, on the other hand, is very easy.

Beautiful views from the summit of the Watchman Trail at Zion National Park
Gorgeous morning views along the Watchman Trail at Zion National Park
Stunning views of Watchman Tower at Zion National Park
The gorgeous Watchman Tower as seen along the Watchman Trail at Zion National Park

The last portion of the trail takes you on a stroll past the river. As you listen to nothing but the soothing sounds of the water flowing, you really get that feeling of being lost in nature.

Quiet river and red rocks views on the Watchman Trail at Zion National Park

The Watchman Trail is a great place to observe area wildlife, especially in the early morning hours. We saw plenty of deer out-and-about during our visit. Other mammals occasionally seen in the park include bobcats, mountain lions, and bighorn sheep.

Deer at Zion National Park in the early morning hours

I recommend adding the Watchman Trail to your hiking itinerary while visiting Zion. While not the most popular or challenging trail within the park, the scenery is amazing and the trek through uninterrupted nature is truly relaxing.

Gorgeous rock formations along the Watchman Trail at Zion

Tips for a wonderful hike

*Be careful as there are some steep drops along the course, so stay far away from the edge. Those who are squeamish about heights may want to skip this trail.

*Bring plenty of water and hydrate yourself frequently, especially on hot days.

*If coming from a low elevation area, your body may be a bit shocked at the 4000 foot elevation. Take it a bit easier, and get used to the change in altitude around town for a day or so before attempting a hike. Also drink extra water and eat more salty snacks – it helps a bit.

*Bring with a hiking stick and wear hiking shoes for extra traction for going up and down the sandy path.

*Wear a GPS watch to track your distance and time. It always helps you stay more motivated when you know how far you have gone.

*Dress in layers if you set out early in the morning during the winter months. The start of the hike will likely be very cold (you might even need gloves), however, you will quickly warm up once beginning the uphill climb. Then, once you begin the trek downhill, you’ll likely be cold again as your body isn’t working as hard.

*Pack a camera in your backpack. I highly recommend a camera backpack as it includes extra space for lens and essentials.

*Arrive early to ensure a parking spot at the visitor’s center or take the free town shuttle (not available during the winter season).

A beautiful prickly pear lining the Watchman Trail at Zion National Park


After passing the entrance gate, proceed to follow the signs to the Visitor’s Center. You will see a sign pointing the direction you need to go to access the Watchman Trail – it’s just a short walk. Entrance to Zion is $35 per car, good for 7 days. Bike/pedestrian entrance is $20 per person. Take advantage of the unlimited use of free shuttle buses, included with your entrance fee.