Clearly, a smart person would have categorized this entire trip as being to Zion with some side hikes. But, I’m being stubborn and calling it the Grand Canyon trip because that’s what we intended it to be.
We had read some of the information on Capitol Reef National Park and it sounded like there was some good hiking and exploring to do there and it was within reasonable driving distance, so that became the evening plan, but first we had one more hike to do in Zion. It was a more out of the way hike, and certainly one of the less popular as a result. This was the journey to Kolob Arch, one of the two predominant arches in Zion, the other being Crawford Arch. It’s also a 14 mile round trip to get to the arch, which probably has some impact on its popularity. The fact that it’s a 30-45 minute drive out of the park and to a entirely different area also probably has something to do with it.
We started at Lee’s Pass Trailhead and descended into the valley wrapping around to follow LaVerkin Creek for a while and then following one of it’s tributaries up to the arch itself. It was often obvious that this was a drier time for the area as there were lots of temporary riverbeds and a few would have been waterfalls had there been more recent rain.
We counted down the backcountry campsites along the way, starting within a mile or so of the trailhead and ending at numbers 8 – 10 right near the arch with 11 & 12 a little beyond the arch fork. The early sites would be great if you only wanted to backpack a little ways and then make camp and do the rest of the hike with minimal gear and the latter sites would be better if you wanted a full hike in and a full hike out the next day.
Upon reaching the arch, we were briefly confused as the trail seemed to split into three or four smaller offshoots with no indication of which one should be followed. After scrambling up a few of them, we realized that we were at the end of the trail and the arch was visible against the cliff side just by looking up, though it was impossible to see sky under the arch due to the angle of the view and the fact that the unofficial trail to go further under had been formally closed. Kolob Arch is quite large, but must be viewed from a good distance away, so it doesn’t quite have the majestic appeal of some of the more popular arches in, say, Arches NP.
We found a nice little boulder a ways up one of cliffs to have lunch. Before heading out, I did take a detour up an unofficial trail that lead closer to the arch and provided a view with just a sliver of sky showing to make it obvious that this was an arch. After a few pictures, and knowing that we’d stop for more pictures on the return hike, we headed back. I think all total the hike took us 7 or so hours, starting just after 11 (picture timestamp at the visitor center was 10:40) and returning right around 6:30. We were heading toward Capitol Reef some time just before sunset.