The Northgate Peaks Trail in Zion National Park offers seclusion among it’s wonderful ponderosa pines. Unlike busier areas of Zion, people you meet along the trail are most likely backpacking or canyoneering. This level walk along the grassy forest is anything but suffocating and the chance to see a whole different set of animals is great.
The Wildcat Canyon Trailhead is located along the Kolob Terrace Road and is the jumping off spot for the Northgate Peaks Trail. We arrived in the afternoon and started wandering along this four mile round trip trail. Little rock outcroppings provide the classic Zion white and red Navajo Sandstone. The trail starts in open meadows and wanders through the ponderosa pine forest. Like most ponderosa pine forests, it’s open and airy, not suffocating, which allows you to see deep into the forest no matter where you are.
After a bit of walking along the Wildcat Canyon Trail, we took the Northgate Peaks Trail heading south. Along that trail, the canyoneering route to the Subway breaks off down Russell Gulch. Across the gulch, and looking towards Wildcat Canyon, white cliffs stand in stark contrast to the surrounding greenery.
You stay on the finger heading out to the canyons as the twin peaks of the Northgate Peaks come into view. The trail ends with an unobstructed view of the peaks framing the stately North Guardian Angel. Views all around create a nice place to reflect and enjoy and head on back.
Along the way we saw many great forest birds and mammals. A highlight was the bugling of a bull elk. We decided to wander through the sagebrush towards the bugling and saw a herd of about ten elk.
Overall, a wonderful, quiet hike, that’s great for just about any level of hiker.