In the southwest corner of Zion National Park lies an exposed desert trail with wonderful views, few visitors, and some petrified trees. The Chinle Trail lies outside of the main Zion Canyon so it receives few visitors and a unique experience. Those that prefer the trail can hike it as an out and back while others may use it to explore the area’s many washes.
If you want a curious look from just about anyone you run into in Zion National Park, tell them you’re going to hike the Chinle Trail. Chances are, they’ve never heard of it. The trail starts off of Anasazi Way before you get into the town of Springdale, UT. The trail wanders through private property, then BLM land before getting into the National Park a little over a mile later.
Kristen and I started out in mid morning when it was already pretty hot outside. Unfortunately, there is no shade making this a hot choice for much of the year. The flip side of that is that the views are panoramic starting with the domineering views of Mt. Kinesava and all the way up the west side of the West Rim of Zion Canyon. The trail skirts around Kinesava’s flanks until you come up to Huber Wash.
Huber Wash, like the other washes, is a creek bed of sorts that frequently flash floods when rain comes. Because of this, it has great walls and a sandy bottom. It also is not a place you want to be when it’s raining. We followed Huber Wash along the rim until the trail crossed the wash and continued on.
The trail traverses across the desert with better views of the west side of the West Rim, but keep your eyes at your feet as well as you’ll be crossing through a petrified forest. Take pictures and examine them, but leave it for the next visitor as it’s not cool and illegal to take any as a souvenir (although super tempting, I know).
Eventually, the trail comes to and crosses Scoggins Wash where it heads west along the wash. Thankfully we had enough water for the day as there wasn’t any to be found along the trail. We passed a couple more campsites, then turned north along Coalpits Wash, eventually meeting up with the wash itself and the end of the trail. From here you can drop into the wash and head down that way. We opted to explore Scoggins Wash on the way out.
We turned around and backtracked along the trail until we were back at campsite 3 and followed a pack trail down into Scoggins Wash. From there, we followed it with its interesting walls and sandy bottom. Travel was fairly quick with some navigating boulders required. Nothing was very technical, but the frequent erosion due to water flowing through can make it unpredictable.
We had some storms brewing in the distance that made us a bit nervous, so we hustled down to the junction with Coalpits Wash and out through the cottonwoods and willows to the trailhead. Some parts had us cruising while others had us trying to guess which way was the least tricky.
The trail is a great hike for desert hiking, but as far as enjoyment goes, it is dwarfed by the hikes in both Zion and Kolob Canyons. For those that say that Zion National Park is too crowded, may find some solitude on this trail and in these washes.