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Guide to Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive – How to Explore This Unique Area of Zion

Looking for a landscape of beautiful box canyons and sandstone cliffs that you can explore without the crowds? While Kolob Canyons isn’t exactly a secret, it’s a totally separate area of Zion National Park that is not nearly as well-visited as the main canyon of Zion.

The best way to explore this northern section of the park is via Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive which winds through the stunning scenery and offers access to amazing overlooks, lovely picnic areas, and trailheads for hiking.


Important Info for Visiting Kolob Canyons

Kolob Canyons is not connected to the main canyon of Zion National Park (although you can backcountry hike between the areas), so it is really like a completely different place to visit. Here are all the details you need to plan an awesome visit to Kolob Canyons and explore all there is to see along Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive.


Fees to Enter Kolob Canyons

An entrance fee is required for Kolob Canyons. For $35, you can get a 7-day pass which gives you access to both Kolob Canyons and the main area of Zion National Park. An annual National Parks Pass is also accepted to enter Kolob Canyons.


How to Get to Kolob Canyons

Kolob Canyons is located about a 45 min drive north of the main Springdale entrance to Zion National Park. The entrance to Kolob Canyons is off of I-15 at exit 40, just south of Kanarraville.


When to Visit Kolob Canyons

While Kolob Canyons is open year-round, Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive sometimes closes in the winter due to snow and ice. Spring and fall are great times to visit Kolob Canyons, and October is especially nice because the weather is usually pretty perfect, plus, the fall colors are out in full force.


Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive Highlights

Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive runs for 5 miles from the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center along a ridge up to Kolob Canyons Viewpoint at the other end. Along the way, you’ll find lots of overlooks to take in the views and several awesome hiking trails.


Here are some of my favorite stops along Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive:


Taylor Creek - Middle Fork

The first trailhead you’ll come to along Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive is for the Middle Fork of Taylor Creek. This trail is 5 miles round trip, and it’s a really great river hike near Zion when you want to cool off from the desert heat.


The Taylor Creek trail is lined with soaring peaks of Navajo sandstone and lush vegetation that both provide great shade. At the end of the trail, you’ll encounter two historic cabins that are fun to explore as well as an awesome double arch alcove in the sandstone.


Check out my detailed guide to hiking Taylor Creek here!


Timber Creek Overlook

You’ll find the Timber Creek Overlook trail at the end of Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive, and it truly is the perfect finish to the beautiful drive. The hike to Timber Creek Overlook is just 1.1 miles round trip, and it features stunning views the whole way.


But the panoramic perspective at the end of the trail is what will absolutely take your breath away! The views of the rich red mountains and wild desert go on for miles and miles. Timber Creek Overlook is especially spectacular at sunset and is one of my top spots in Zion to catch a sunrise or sunset.


La Verkin Creek Trail/Kolob Arch

For a longer adventure in Kolob Canyons, you can hike La Verkin Creek Trail out to Kolob Arch. The trail begins at Lee Pass Trailhead, which is the second to last trailhead you’ll find along Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive. The hike to Kolob Arch is a strenuous 14 miles round trip, but the nearly 300-foot arch makes a worthwhile destination, and the views of Kolob Canyons along the way are absolutely wonderful.


Many people choose to backpack this trail and continue up to ​​Bear Trap Canyon and Willis Canyon. There are 13 campsites along the La Verkin Creek Trail, all of which require permits (some are first-come/first serve at the Wilderness Desk, and some can be reserved online).


Kolob Terrace Road - Not The Same But Also Beautiful

Don’t confuse Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive with Kolob Terrace Road! Kolob Terrace Road is a completely different route which is 20 minutes from the west entrance of Zion/Springdale and runs from just outside the town of Virgin, UT around 25 miles up to Kolob Reservoir.

Kolob Terrace Road does feature some cool attractions though, so it is worth a drive as well (and there’s no entrance fee since it’s not actually part of Zion National Park). Here are some great hikes that you can access along Kolob Terrace:


Lambs Knoll

Lambs Knoll is a beautiful, off-the-beaten-path cluster of breathtaking rock formations and wide-open views about 10 miles up Kolob Terrace Road. It’s a popular rock climbing and canyoneering location, and the short hiking trail (just 0.8 miles round trip) is great for families.


Learn more about Lambs Knoll in my post here!


Northgate Peaks

The Northgate Peaks Trail offers stunning views of Zion peaks and backcountry canyons in the secluded Zion Wilderness Area. You’ll start your 4.5 mile round trip hike from Wildcat Canyon Trailhead, about 15 miles up Kolob Terrace Road.


The hike begins through a forest of ponderosa pines, before the views open up to see ​​Northgate Peak West and Northgate Peak East, which provide an epic backdrop for photos…trust me, you don’t want to forget your camera on this hike!



The Subway

Hiking The Subway from the bottom up is a way to see this amazing canyon without needing to do any technical canyoneering. It is still a fairly strenuous 8-mile round trip hike that requires scrambling and route-finding, but getting to the gorgeous pools at the end is absolutely worth it! The trail starts at the Left Fork Trailhead, about 8 miles up Kolob Terrace Road.


Note: Wilderness permits are required to hike The Subway, and they are quite competitive to get.



Tips for Visiting Kolob Canyons

  • It’s a good idea to check the conditions on the Zion NPS site before heading to Kolob Canyons. Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive often closes in winter when the road gets covered in ice and snow, and it sometimes has been closed due to rockfall as well.

  • There are no campgrounds in Kolob Canyons, and the only camping is at designated backcountry sites (which you need a permit for). You can find accommodations in Cedar City nearby, and I love The Barn Airbnb there.

  • If you’re planning to do one of the hikes in Kolob Canyons, make sure you bring sunscreen, good footwear, snacks, and plenty of water. It can get hot on these desert trails, even when you’re in the shade, so be prepared! Of course, in winter, you’ll want to bring lots of layers, too.


LOCAL TIP FOR WHERE TO EAT

Located just 10 minutes from Kolob Canyons is the most amazing barbecue restaurant in Southern Utah. Fire & Smoke is a locally owned Texas style BBQ joint that specializes in brisket, ribs, pulled pork, smoked Turkey, sausage links, smoked chicken and wings.

I was so blown away by this place! You can not go to Kolob Canyons without making a stop here after your visit. You can thank me later!


We hope you have such a great time hiking and exploring along this amazing and less busy section of Zion. Kolob Canyons has something for everyone.



Happy Adventuring,

Arika




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