Difficulty: Strenuous, many stream crossings necessary when Timber Creek is flowing
Access: Paved road to trailhead, Zion National Park entrance fee required
As of 2017, Kolob Arch is the sixth longest natural arch in the world and the second longest on the continent, second only in North America to Landscape Arch on the other side of Utah. This massive sandstone arch is hidden deep in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park and is only accessible by a long day hike or an overnight backpack. This is the longest day hike in this more secluded corner of Zion National Park. The arch is impressive and the red rock scenery of the Kolob Canyons along the way is beautiful. However, the state of Utah has more picturesque arches that are more easily accessible, the Zion Canyon section of Zion National Park has scenery that is more uniquely stunning, and the length of this hike requires a full-day time investment. While Kolob Arch was a rewarding hike for me and will likely be rewarding for other hikers who choose to visit it, I wouldn't place it at the top of the list of must-do hikes in Utah for visitors arriving from outside the state.
I hiked to Kolob Arch on a trip to Zion National Park, arriving at the Kolobs Canyon section of the park after leaving Las Vegas with a rental car that morning. Kolobs Canyon is removed from the main Zion Canyon area of the park; it's accessible directly off I-15 north of St. George, Utah. I reached the Kolobs Canyon area by taking I-15 north from Las Vegas past St. George to exit 40 in Utah, then turning right (heading east) once I came off the freeway ramp to head towards Kolob Canyons. I checked in show my park pass at the visitor center before driving three and a half miles up the Kolob Canyons Road to the Lee Pass Trailhead. Parking was on the east side of the road, just south of the pass itself; the trailhead was about 50 meters north along the road from the parking lot.
The trail began by following a low ridge leading out from Lee Pass. The trail undulated through both elevation gain and loss, although the net change through this section was a descent as the ridge dropped gradually towards the valley of Timber Creek. Stunning views of the Kolob finger canyons were frequent on the left (east) side of the trail: I had glimpses into the recesses of some of these cuts into the Navajo Sandstone. The finger canyons are so named as these short canyons resemble finger-like projections into the massif of sandstone.
|Timber Top Mountain|
|Meadows along Timber Creek|
|Navajo Sandstone of the Kolob Canyons|
|La Verkin Creek Canyon|
|La Verkin Creek|
|Spires of Navajo Sandstone in La Verkin Creek canyon|
|La Verkin Creek|
By the time I started to head back, it was late in the day; dusk had set by the time I returned to the creek crossings on Timber Creek. The final stretch of the hike is uphill, so it's important to leave enough energy for a steady but long ascent at the end of a 14-mile hike. I finished the last two miles of the hike in darkness; by the time I returned to the car, the night sky had been splattered with many thousands of stars. While on the way back, I remembered that I had seen a mountain lion warning sign at the visitor center just that morning and cursed myself for not getting out earlier and for going on such long hikes alone; ultimately, I made it back without any misfortune. I drove off to nearby Cedar City for chile rellenos and a good night's sleep.