Watchman Trail in Zion Hike (No Shuttle Reservation Alternative)

Hiking The Watchman Trail in Zion is a quick and easy Zion hike perfect for the whole family. It begins right at the Zion visitor center, meaning you can leave right from your hotel in Springdale and never even have to worry about parking.

After we couldn’t score reservations on the Zion shuttle we found The Watchman Trail to be the perfect alternative. It’s ideal for a sunrise or sunset hike in Zion and is a popular choice for visitors in the park. Here’s all you need to know to hike The Watchman Trail yourself.


How to Hike The Watchman Trail in Zion

Key Facts

  • Length: 3.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 368 ft
  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Zion Visitor Center, or walk from your hotel in Springdale or take the Springdale Town Shuttle.

Parking and Trailhead Information

zion national park

The Watchman trailhead is just past the visitor center. Pay your park fee at the park entrance gates or flash your America the Beautiful Pass and follow the easy path along the Virgin River for about .3 miles. You’ll see the South Campground on your left; keep walking before the trail curves to the right. Cross the road, and you’ll see the trailhead and sign for the Watchman Trail.

Given its easy location near the visitor center, this means you don’t have to have a Zion shuttle reservation for The Watchman Trail. If you fail to score one for the day, this is a fantastic Zion hike you can do. However, because of its ease and accessibility, it’s one of the most popular trails in the park. Go at sunrise or sunset to avoid crowds.

There is some free parking and pay parking at the visitor center. However, if you arrive midday, you likely won’t have any luck finding a parking spot. We walked from our hotel in Springdale as it added a nice stroll through town, but there is also a free Springdale shuttle system that frequently runs through town.


About the Trail

Watchman trail in zion

The first part of the trail is pretty flat and easy. If you look to your right, you may see people standing at the top; this is where you’re heading. You’ll see Watchman’s Peak on your right and give you a greater sense of your surroundings. The trail is pretty boring for the first .5 miles or so, but as you gain elevation, the views over the valley get better and better.

hiking Watchman trail in zion

The trail is well trodden with no exposure, scrambling, or steep drop-offs. Watch children as there are few spots that narrow.

As with many hikes in the desert, there is very little shade on this trail. Keep that in mind regarding water, sunscreen, and the time of day of your hike. Along the trail, there are a few “steps” that are nice and helpful.

Watchman trail in zion

The trail ends at a cliff overlooking Zion National Park. With viewpoints of the Temples and Towers, lower Zion Canyon, Watchman Peak, and the town of Springdale. You can end your journey here and retrace your steps back, or extend your hike and enjoy the loop trail.

Watchman trail in zion
Completing the Loop

How Does it Take to Hike the Watchman Trail in Zion?

Watchman trail in zion

Estimate The Watchman Trail to take you between 1 to 2 hours to complete. It’s a short and sweet hike that’s great to do if you are hurried on time. It’s great to combine in conjunction with another like like Angels Landing. Since it’s so short, it’s great to head up for sunrise with your morning coffee or sunset with a cold drink.

We are fast hikers, and it took us 25 minutes up and 20 minutes down. We hung out at the viewpoint for 30 minutes taking in the view, and enjoyed the 10-minute loop trail at the end. If you are a trail runner, this would be a fun trail to tackle.


How Hard is The Watchman Trail?

Watchman trail in zion

NPS rates this trail as moderate, but I would put it on the easy side. It’s great for families or those with mobility issues as it gains elevation over time and there is no scrambling involved.


When Should You Hike The Watchman Trail?

Watchman trail in zion

There is very little shade on this hike, so it’s best to hike in the early morning or late afternoon when the temperatures are lower. Remember to wear sunscreen and bring lots of water. Because it’s a hike in Zion that doesn’t require shuttle reservations, this trail is heavily trafficked. To avoid crowds, hike at sunrise or sunset.


Final Thoughts on The Watchman Trail

Watchman trail in zion

It’s far from the most thrilling hike I’ve ever done, and the view isn’t anything to write home about like at Delicate Arch in Arches or Horseshoe Bend in Page. It’s a great hike to do when you are looking for something short and sweet so you can make it back to town in time for dinner, or if you want to combine the trail with another thing to do in Zion! I liked enjoying a sundowner up here rather than back in town with fewer views!


Get a US Parks Pass to Visit Zion

To enter Zion National Park you are required to purchase a Parks Pass. Pass prices are as follows:

  • 1-7 Day Vehicle Entrance: $35.00
  • 1-7 Day Motorcycle Entrance: $30.00
  • 1-7 Day Individual Entrance (foot or bicycle): $20.00

If you are visiting multiple US National Parks it’s best to purchase an America the Beautiful Pass for $80 for the year and grants you access to all registered parks. At just $80 for a year it’s quite a steal and you won’t have to worry about stopping at park gates to pay!

About Natasha

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.