Sand Bench Trail

The Streaked WallThe Sand Bench Trail in Zion National Park is mainly used by the horse concessionaire for trail rides. That being said, it’s still a hiking trail. While some of the views are great, the lack of cover and trail conditions (very sandy and smelly) make it lower on the list than most of the other Zion Canyon hikes.

Back in September of 2014, Kristen and I struck out on the Sand Bench Trail. Not much is talked about in regards to this trail. There is a very brief mention about it in the official Zion National Park handout stating, “Hike atop a massive landslide under The Sentinel. Deep sand and little shade.” We found that all to be true.

The Sand Bench Trail was the last hike of the day for us. Like us, I’d recommend hiking it in the evening as you’ll spend most of your time with little protection from the sun. We started out at the Zion Lodge, did the loop, and came out at the Court of the Patriarchs bus stop.

Mountain of the SunThe beginning of the hike starts after crossing over the Virgin River by the Zion Lodge and, with the exception of the deep sand and horse manure/urine smells, is a nice hike. We followed the Virgin River in the trees with the wonderful walls of Zion Canyon peeking in and out. The trail rounds into the Court of the Patriarchs (with the trail that joins up from the bus stop over the footbridge) with great views of the court. Across the canyon, Mountain of the Sun and Twin Brothers proudly stand.

The trail crosses over a stream that, depending upon water flow, is hoppable, but the trail is definitely washed out. Shortly after, the trail forks into the loop. We hiked the loop clockwise, but wished that we had hiked it counter clockwise. The trail goes up and over the top part of the landslide. Going clockwise, you go up the steeper way, which wouldn’t be so bad, but the deep sand makes it exhausting.

Mule DeerMost of the loop is hiking in open sagebrush country with some stands of juniper trees. Due to the less travel, we saw numerous mule deer and desert cottontails. At the top of the landslide, you are right below the Streaked Wall which is a beautiful, sheer, sandstone cliff with vertical coloring from water traveling down the walls.

At the top of the loop, you find a corral for the horses amongst the juniper forest and an overall nice change of scenery. The trail loops back along the edge of the landslide looking down onto the Virgin River and the rest of the Zion Canyon with the road below. It follows the edge back to the loop junction where you can head back to the Zion Lodge or Court of the Patriarchs.

While there are beautiful moments along the trail, there are other hikes that are more enjoyable that show off the beauty of the Zion Canyon equally or better.

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