NOTE: The Hidden Canyon Trail was closed on August 28, 2018 due to a rockfall. The slide blocked the trail and nine hikers were trapped inside the canyon. All were rescued via a short-haul helicopter operation, and nobody was injured. THIS HIKE IS CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Check the NPS current conditions page for the latest updates.
Hike an exposed trail and do some scrambling in a fun, “hidden” canyon in Zion National Park.
Hidden Canyon Trail Guide
MAP: Trails Illustrated
DESIGNATION: Zion National Park (entrance fee required)
BEST SEASONS: spring and fall
DISTANCE: listed one way – 1 mile to enter the canyon, 0.5 to the arch, another 0.5 or so beyond the arch is possible.
TIME: NPS recommends about 3 hours
ELEVATION: trailhead ~4,300ft, turnaround ~5,300ft
ACCESS: shuttle bus only throughout most of the season (Generally early February through late November)
DIRECTIONS: When shuttle buses are running, board at the visitor center and exit at the stop for Weeping Rock. Follow the East Rim Trail and turn right at the junction for Hidden Canyon.
Drive up the main canyon to Weeping Rock when buses are not in operation.
ROUTE: well maintained, exposed trail into canyon, followed by social trails and 3rd class scrambling
GUIDEBOOK: Favorite Hikes in & around Zion
10 Things to know about hiking Hidden Canyon
1) This is an exposed trail: if you don’t like heights, stay away.
There’s a section of this hike that traces the edge of a cliff. A chain handrail has been drilled into the rock, so this stretch is very similar to the upper part of Angels Landing. Going up this trail to check it out is great way to judge if you have what it takes finish Angels Landing.
2) It’s more fun than your average hike!
Once you’re beyond the ledges, you’ll enter Hidden Canyon and the trail basically disappears. After the adrenaline-inducing approach, it’s even more fun to scramble over rocks and through trees to see how far you can get in this canyon.
3) It makes sense to combine this hike with Observation Point.
Fit hikers can knock out two significant trails and hit both of these on the same hike.
4) Hidden Canyon has a history with rock climbers.
Rock climbing in Zion National Park began with William Evans in 1927 when he logged a first ascent of the nearby and prominent Great White Throne. He had an accident on the descent and suffered a fall, but survived.
Rangers were aware of his climb because he lit signal fires from the summit. They launched a search when he did not return, and during the search effort they happened to discover Hidden Canyon. The next year, in 1928, they blasted out a trail to Hidden Canyon with dynamite.
5) There’s a canyoneering route that comes down here from the top.
Reportedly it involves 7 rappels, the longest of which is 100 feet. All of these are off of natural anchors, like trees and logs. The nearest approach is via the Stave Spring trailhead, which requires a shuttle. It can also be done without a shuttle (But a much longer approach) from Weeping Rock.
Some reports mention that this isn’t an especially scenic canyon (As far as technical canyoneering in Zion is concerned). The general thought seems to be why even bother going when there are so many other options? A permit is required for all technical canyoneering in the Park.
6) Don’t miss the natural arch.
A lot of people do miss it! The arch tends to blend in with its surroundings, and is located up near the end of the canyon. There’s reportedly a second arch beyond the first technical obstacle, but for very skilled climbers only (Canyoneers choose to rappel down this obstacle).
7) Extreme measures to beat the crowds are worth the trouble.
All of the main hikes in Zion nowadays are so crowded. I always recommend getting up really early to wait in line for the first shuttle bus into the park, or going very late in the afternoon to weed out the folks that are afraid of the dark. Visiting in the winter is a great idea, but this hike isn’t especially winter-friendly (Big cliffs and a deep canyon with lots of shade and lingering snow).
8) This is a strenuous little hike!
Don’t be fooled by the short mileage on this one, and note the elevation change! The bulk of it occurs in the first half-mile, where you’ll gain about 800 feet in a series of steep switchbacks.
9) At least two people have fallen to their deaths from here.
The National Park Service says that two people have died along Hidden Canyon from “falling.” They make a point of noting that their listings are incomplete and do not consider cases where “suspicious activity” is involved (And yes, “suspicious activity” often means pushing). Read the book Death and Rescues in Zion National Park for more info.
10) This trail was closed indefinitely as of August 28, 2018
A big rockfall occurred on a narrow section of trail that forced the park service to close the trail. Monsoon thunderstorms at this time of year bring brief but heavy rains that tend to dislodge things in a rocky desert environment like Zion. There isn’t much word on when and if they’ll be able to reopen it.
My Trip Notes and Photos
I hiked into Hidden Canyon on October 3rd, 2009 on a day hike that I combined with Observation Point. A couple of other hikers mentioned the natural arch when it was just around the corner. Otherwise I may have missed it because I was already thinking about turning around.
A lot of people really love Hidden Canyon. This was the last significant hike I did on a visit to Zion that started with the Narrows from the top-down on the previous day, followed by Observation Point and this side trip. I must admit I was a little underwhelmed with this one, and likely just physically tired.
It was fun to take artistic pictures of the cool-looking rocks!
Have you been to Hidden Canyon? Do you remember which side of the canyon the arch is on? (I forget). Let me know in the comments!