Taylor Creek Trail, Zion National Park
Zion Canyon can get extremely busy during the summer months and especially during the weekends. So much so that you can’t even walk the trails without bumping shoulders every few seconds. To escape this, go in the northwest side of the park to the Kolob Canyons and hike the Middle Fork of Taylor Creek, which ends in the impressive Double Arch Alcove.
- Trailhead: E Kolob Canyon Road, exit 40 I-15 – Open in Google Maps.
- Length: 5.0 miles round trip; 2-4 hours.
- Difficulty: Easy. Mostly flat with numerous stream crossings. 450 feet elevation gain.
- Usage: Hikers. Zion has a $30 per vehicle fee valid for 7 days, or $15 per person for walk-ins.
- Best Time for Photography: Late afternoon for west-facing Tucupit and Paria Points.
- Trail Info Current: May 16, 2016
- Further Reading: Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks
Middle Fork Taylor Creek Trail Narrative
As mentioned earlier, this is a great trail to see the beauty of Zion but without the crowds that usually congregate on the “Scenic Drive” through Zion Canyon.
The trailhead is easy to find. Take exit 40 off of Interstate 15 and head east into Zion National Park. Stop in the visitor center, pay for/show them your pass, and continue on East Kolob Canyon Road for approximately 2 miles. You’ll see parking for the trailhead on the left side of the road.
The trail starts with a short section of steep steps going down and then back up. It may scare some people not looking for a strenuous hike, but these steps are misleading. The rest of the trail, for the next two and a half miles, gains less than 500 feet of elevation in a very steady, gradual grade.
Be prepared to get a little wet – the trail quickly starts crossing streams and there are countless crossings for the rest of the way. I suppose you could count them, but it’s a lot. The depth really depends on the season and rains, but under normal conditions is barely enough to just get the soles of your feet wet. There are some strategically-placed rocks for hopping if you’re feeling agile.
The Middle Fork of Taylor Creek alternates between hot exposed areas and shaded cool foliage. Plenty of shaded rest stops present themselves along the creek at intervals that make this bearable on a really hot day.
The official trail ends at the enormous Double Arch Alcove, a cool (in both senses of the word) cave that is lined with flowers, multi-colored streaks, and porous openings for water to drip down year-round. Sit around the sides of the alcove in the shade, eat a snack, and listen to the water falling.
You can continue hiking up the riverbed and deeper into the canyon, but there really isn’t much in terms of significant scenery. I went up about another half-mile but turned around once I realized that I had already passed all of the worthwhile terrain.
The informational kiosk at the beginning will tell you to plan on spending four hours on this trail; I was going at a pretty good clip and made the round trip in less than 2.5 hours including a detour further up the canyon and plenty of photography stops. So, sure, a leisurely pace with children or elderly may take up to four hours.
Tips for the Taylor Creek Trail
- Watch for snakes! A warning sign tells you what to do if you see a mountain lion, but I think your chances of encountering a rattler are probably much higher. There was one on this trail this day.
- The east-west facing canyon will see some shadows in the very early morning and very late evening. The sun is pretty harsh during mid-day. I did this hike late morning but wished I had done it in the late afternoon, from a photography standpoint. But overall, the lighting is tricky and there aren’t many spectacular features to photograph. Some views of the points and the alcove; the rest isn’t very unique.