Just Go to Zion National Park - Hiking the Watchman Trail – Just Go Travel Studios

Just Go to Zion National Park - Hiking the Watchman Trail

Utah Zion National Park

It’s no secret that Zion National Park is full of great hiking opportunities for hikers of all skill levels.  While the trails to Angels Landing and Observation Point tend to get a lot of publicity, some of the shorter, family-friendly hikes are also outstanding and deserve their time in the spotlight as well!

The Watchman Trail is one of those hikes.  At just 3.2 miles (out and back), this trail provides great views and interesting spots along the way with only a small amount of elevation gain (small relative to other hikes in the park, that is!).

This trail is great for anyone seeking a short hike with more difficulty than something like the Riverside Walk, but wanting to stay away from the crowds or difficulty on hikes such as Angels Landing.

See what to expect on this great family hike in Zion!


 Zion National Park Itinerary


Things to do in Zion National Park, maps of the Canyon (including information on the Kolob Canyon area), what to pack before your trip and useful links are covered in our extensive itinerary for Zion National Park.  Our guide can be downloaded and printed, allowing you to have it available when cell service isn’t present in the park!



The trailhead for the Watchman Trail is located just northeast of the Zion Canyon Visitor Center parking lot.  This is also shuttle stop #1.  For directions from Springdale, check out the map here.

The Watchman Trail map

Watchman Trail Map and Trail


This parking lot has a ton of spots.  However, on busy days it fills up very early in the morning.  If you are not here by 8:00 AM, you’ll be out of luck (if not earlier).  Another option is to park outside the park and walk in, as the visitor center is located right near the southern entrance to the park.  Also, be advised that lines of cars are commonplace outside of the main entrance to park. 

In other words, arrive early in the morning to beat the rush and avoid frustration!

The other option is to take this hike in the afternoon or early evening.  By doing this, the park tends to be a bit quieter, and the views (and lighting in the canyon) can be absolutely incredible.

There are clean bathrooms at the Visitor Center, but no bathrooms exist on the trail itself.













After crossing the road from the Visitor Center, the trail follows along the Virgin River.  This flat section of the hike lasts for just under a quarter of a mile.

Hiking along the Virgin River in Zion National Park

After walking for about 5-10 minutes, the trail separates from the river and crosses an access road.  This is when the trail starts to head uphill at a very easy grade and when you'll start to see views of Zion Canyon.  This continues until around the 0.75-mile point, before the steepest part of the trail starts.

View of Zion Canyon from the Watchman Trail

Climbing up the Watchman Trail in Zion National Park

While not overly steep, if you are hiking during the heat of the day, you’ll find yourself working hard in the exposed sun.  The steepest part of the trail contains switchbacks (thankfully!) before flattening out on the way to the overlook.

Switchbacks on the Watchman Trail in Zion National Park

Almost all the way up the switchback incline, there is a small bench carved out of rock.  Our kids enjoyed taking a bit of a break here before continuing the rest of the way.

Bench on the Watchman Trail in Zion






The trail ends with a short loop around a plateau, but the real highlight is the overlook to the west.  From here, you can see views into Springdale to the south.  The best views are of the Canyon to the north, which include the Towers of the Virgin.

This is a fantastic spot to sit and take a break before heading back.  However, be advised that there is no shade, so plan on only being here for only a short time if you are here in the middle of the day.  If you happen to be up here for sunrise or sunset, there are few spots in the world that will give you a view like this!  The light dances off the canyon light you won’t believe.  Just make sure you have a headlamp in case you find yourself hiking in darkness (or the early light if you are heading up for sunrise).

The view from the Overlook on the Watchman Trail in Zion National Park

The short loop at the top of the plateau adds about 0.2 miles of extra hiking, but it is worthwhile doing if you have the energy.

Watchman Overlook in Zion National Park



After relaxing at the overlook, the trail takes the same path down the mountain.  The way down is quite a bit easier, but just be careful to not jar any rocks loose on the way down the switchbacks, as there will likely be plenty of hikers coming up.


Free 2-Day Shipping on Orders over $49!


  • While we wouldn’t consider this to be our most favorite hike in Zion, it is definitely worth the time if you have it. We enjoyed taking our family on this hike in the early morning before heading out to Bryce Canyon National Park. 
  • We recommend combining this hike with a trip to the Visitor Center, since they share the same parking lot. Another great thing to do after this hike is to hop onto the shuttle and head up the Zion Canyon Scenic drive to other locations in the park.
  • Since much of the trail is exposed, we highly recommend bringing a hat, sunglasses and extra water. Sunscreen is also a must.
  • While there is plenty of information about hiking trails in Zion National Park online, we’ve found that the best tool to have for hiking in the parks is a good map. We recommend the National Geographic map for Zion National Park.  The map is waterproof and made of durable paper, contains info on all the hikes and also can give you insight into different sites you are looking at while on your hike.




                  Just Go Travel Studios Kids





                  Related Posts

                  Just Go to Capitol Reef National Park - Best Day Hikes
                  Just Go to Capitol Reef National Park - Best Day Hikes
                  There are a ton of great Capitol Reef National Park hikes that are worth trying out when visiting this remote location i
                  Read More
                  Just Go to Zion National Park - Easy Hikes
                  Just Go to Zion National Park - Easy Hikes
                  Zion National Park is a fantastic destination for hikes of all kinds.  From the famous Angels Landing and Observation Po
                  Read More

                  Older Post Newer Post

                  Leave a comment

                  Please note, comments must be approved before they are published