Distance: 14 miles | Time: 7 – 8 hours | Level: Hard
For hikers wanting to truly experience Zion National Park, away from tourists, planning an overnight hike is a must. Kolob Arch via La Verkin Creek Trail is great option for hikers wanting to appreciate the beauty of Zion without the crowds.
With an average of over four million visitors a year, most of the trails in Zion are jammed packed with other hikers. Chances are you’ve seen your fair share of Instagram photos and Pinterest travel articles highlighting Zion National Park’s most popular hikes. Trails like Angels Landing and The Narrows are popular for good reason, but far from all the park has to offer.
Areas such as Kolob Canyons still warrant adventurers with empty trails and moments of solitude. Backpacking La Verkin Creek Trail is a no-brainer for all off-the-beaten-path adventure seekers. Experience different areas of the park, sleep beneath the stars, and witness the incredible rock formations of Zion, alone.
In this guide, I’m outlining everything you need to know in order to plan an unforgettable backpacking trip in Zion. I’m sharing where to purchase overnight permits, what to expect on the trail, what to pack, and how to find Beatty Spring.
Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Kolob Arch via La Verkin Creek Trail in Zion National Park
How to Secure an Overnight Backpacking Permit
Before venturing into the backcountry of Zion National Park, all hikers must purchase an overnight backpacking permit. This permit is in addition to your Zion park entrance fee ($30/vehicle). If you’re planning to visit more than one park in Utah, I recommend investing in the America the Beautiful National Park Pass ($80/vehicle). You can do so here.
Overnight permits can be obtained in person at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, located on the Springdale side of the park. Once you arrive at the Visitor Center, find the Wilderness Desk.
How much do wilderness permits cost?
$15.00 for 1-2 people.
$20 for 3-7 people.
$25 for 8-12 people.
To purchase a permit, you’ll need the following information on hand:
- Cash or Card
- Make and model of your vehicle
- License plate number
Due to our own lack of planning, we purchased our wilderness permit day-of. Luckily there was still availability. However, if it can be avoided, I recommend purchasing your permit ahead of time. Permits can be reserved here.
Keep in mind, even reserved permits will have to be picked up in person at the Wilderness Desk. The desk is open from 7:00am to 5:00pm. If you’re hoping to get an earlier start than 7:00am, be sure to pick your permit up the night before.
You can find more information on obtaining wilderness permits here.
Camping on La Verkin Creek Trail
When purchasing a permit, you’ll have the opportunity to choose your campsite (depending on availability). At the time, we chose blindly, having not done much research. Now having completed the hike and passed several of the campsites, here’s our recommendation(s):
Campsites #1 – #3
Campsites #1 – #3 are based along the Timber Creek bed rather than La Verkin Creek. We visited Zion in July and Timber Creek was completely dry. If you want to be near flowing water, I would recommend avoiding these campsites. Campsite #1 is only about one mile into the trail and #2 and #3 are not much further in. If you’re planning to split the 14 miles between the two days and envision yourself camping deep into the Kolob Canyons, these campsites are not the best choice.
Campsite #6 was the post marker we walked by and thought, “Man, too bad we aren’t camping there!” The campsite is located across La Verkin Creek rather than on the same side as the trail. This small detail provides campers more privacy than some of the other sites, such as #5. What makes site #6 so magical though is the small swimming hole located right in front of it. The creek is absolutely freezing but it’s the perfect retreat after a long day of hiking in the Utah desert.
Campsite #10 offers prime real estate as it’s the closest site to the spring and to Kolob Arch. We were fortunate enough to snag this campsite and were extremely happy with it. It’s also located across La Verkin Creek and nestled amongst the trees. We had read several AllTrails accounts of hikers not being able to locate the spring. Luckily, we did find the spring and were able to refill our bottles. I share specifically on how to find Beatty Spring below.
Campsite #11 – #13
If you’re up for the trek these sites are a great option. They are further along the trail so less foot traffic and more privacy. However, keep in mind they add distance to the hike and are located past both Kolob Arch and Beatty Spring.
Hiking La Verkin Creek Trail
Where to Park
Once you’ve obtained your overnight permit for Kolob Arch via La Verkin Trail, you will need to drive roughly one hour to reach the trailhead parking lot. To reach the trailhead, you will drive through the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center. Please note, wilderness permits cannot be obtained here.
To find parking, navigate to the Lee Pass Trailhead. Right after the trailhead there is a parking area where you can leave your car and prepare for the hike. Do not leave any valuables in your car overnight. Before heading out for the hike, be sure to place your parking permit slip on your dash.
From the lot, go back towards the way you came until you see the trail on your right.
What to Expect
The trail wastes no time before descending into the canyon. In the first mile you lose about 500 feet of elevation, and continue to descend for another two miles. On our way in, we passed two small groups of day hikers and one couple also overnighting — that’s it. It was a surreal feeling to be hiking in one of the busiest National Parks in the country and to cross paths with less than 10 people.
Overall, the trail offers very little shade. You will pass through some areas of coverage but they won’t last long. For the most part the trail is very hot and exposed.
If you’re hiking in the summer months (June – September) make sure to get an early start so you can put in some miles before the sun enters the canyon. As for all hiking in Utah, expect to be hot and thirsty.
Another thing to expect during the summer months are deer flies. Deer flies do bite and were quite a nuisance during our hike. They like to hang near slow moving water and are usually not alone. Long pants and sleeves help but do not fully protect you from bites. Bug spray, I’ve heard, does not deter them either. In the early mornings and evenings they seemed to calm down, but be on guard during the heat of the day.
If you’ve accepted the fact that you’re going to be hot, thirsty, and possibly be bitten by deer flies, and you still want to do this hike, you’re in for a treat. For the entire duration of the hike you’re surrounded by red, towering sandstone cliffs. The views are dramatic and endless.
The best part? You have them nearly all to yourself.
Once you reach the canyon floor you pass through several different terrains. The trail includes a soothing stream, wildflower grasslands, creek beds, sandy patches, and shaded forests. The views are constantly changing and always beautiful.
Do prepare yourself for stretches of loose sand. Walking in sand sucks, no need to beat around the bush, but it doesn’t last long and it sure tops walking a paved path with 100 other tourists.
The opportunity to see Kolob Arch is what draws many people to this hike. Kolob Arch is one of the longest natural arches in the world. From the main La Verkin Creek Trail, the arch is about a 0.5 mile detour, one way.
Again, we hadn’t done much research and didn’t know what to expect. If I’m being honest, we were slightly underwhelmed when we spotted the arch. The arch is very high and quite a ways off in the distance. Due to restoration efforts hikers cannot get close to the arch and must admire it from afar.
It’s not a must see landmark in my opinion but cool to say you saw, nonetheless.
What to Pack
Water. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. As someone who normally doesn’t require much water, I was constantly guzzling it down. The general rule for how much water to carry is about one liter for every two miles. It sounds extreme, but it’s necessary.
While there is a natural spring, don’t rely on finding it. Pack enough water to sustain you during the overnighter. We found Beatty Spring (and I explain in detail how to find it below) but there are several accounts of hikers not being able to locate it.
Sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen. Most of the trail is exposed with only brief moments of shade. Protect yourself from the sun and take brakes in the shade when you need them.
Good hiking shoes. The terrain on La Verkin Creek Trail is nothing too intense. However, the hike is long and a good pair of hiking shoes can really save your feet. Also bring along a pair of sandals for around camp. You’ll be happy to take your hiking shoes off.
Layers. The temperature swings between daytime and nighttime can be extreme in Utah. When the sun is out you will be hot, but you’d be surprised how chilly it can get at night once the sun dips behind the canyon walls. Layers can also be a life saver when it comes to protecting yourself against the deer flies.
Bathing suit. Nothing feels better than plopping down into a cold creek after a long day of hiking in the blazing sun. The water is absolutely freezing but if you can bring yourself to get in it anyways your muscles (and sanity) will thank you. Like I mentioned above, the best swimming spot is right in front of campsite #6.
Tent, sleeping bag, and pad. Sleeping on the ground under the stars does sound adventurous in theory; however, there are bugs everywhere. I highly recommend sleeping in a tent. Despite our best efforts they even made their way into our tent. You’ve been warned.
Source of Light. We never go camping without our Luci lantern. It’s small, lightweight, compact, and provides a warm glow around camp. Headlamps are also a great thing to have on hand.
Stove, fuel, and kitchen set. If you’re planning to just camp out one night you could technically bring food that doesn’t need to be cooked, but where’s the fun in that?
Plenty of food and snacks. I always pack more snacks for a hiking trip than I think I’ll need. Nothing makes you hungrier than hiking in 100+ degree weather.
Bag for trash / waste. I talk more about the seven Leave No Trace principals below, but please make sure that you are packing out everything that you bring onto the trail.
Time passing activities. The best thing about camping is the amount of down time you have. Bring a book, deck of cards, journal and pen, etc. Or, simply sit in silence, listen to the nature sounds, and quietly express gratitude for where you are.
Bug repellant. While bug repellant wont help with the deer flies, it will help with the mosquitos and might help deter other pesky bugs. Definitely something we wish we had brought.
Medical kit. You can never be too careful when hiking in the backcountry. Always have a small med kit handy, just in case.
How to find Beatty Spring
Reviews on exactly how to find Beatty Spring can be confusing and misleading. Below, I have provided step by step instructions for how to find the spring.
To access Beatty Spring, follow these directions:
- After passing camp post #10 continue to follow the trail for a couple of minutes.
- Five or so minutes after passing the marker for campsite #10, the trail is going to cross the stream.
- Immediately after crossing the stream, turn right.
- After turning right, walk slowly and listen for trickling water. After crossing the creek, you are within 15 feet of the spring.
- Keep your eyes peeled to the uphill on your left (opposite the stream). You do not need to walk far.
- Once you spot water trickling out from the hillside, you have found Beatty Spring!
Remember to collect water directly from the original source (a.k.a. where it is flowing out of the hillside, not down at the bottom).
At the spring, refill your water bottles, splash some fresh water on your face, and do a little happy dance because you, my friend, do not have to worry about running out fresh water!
When you’re done at the spring, be nice to your fellow trail mates and leave behind some rock cairns (if they are not already present) to mark where the spring is.
Protecting the outdoor spaces we love is crucial, and everyone’s responsibility. Leave No Trace is a set of seven principals encouraging and educating people on how to minimize impact on the environment.
What are the Leave No Trace seven principals?
Plan Ahead and Prepare. Planning ahead is key in keep yourself safe while backpacking. Research the hike, know the weather forecast, pack accordingly, etc. Planning and preparing not only keeps you safe but allows you to have fun while hiking.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. Always use the designated trail when possible. Do not create short cuts or explore off trail. Only walk on durable surfaces and avoid stepping on vegetation and living soil. Choose to set up camp in a responsible area and minimize your foot traffic around camp.
Dispose of Waste Properly. Pack out all trash. Leave absolutely nothing behind. Human waste (a.k.a. poop) must also be packed out anywhere in Zion National Park. Plan accordingly.
Leave What You Find. Do not remove anything from the trail (rocks, flowers, etc.). If you clear an area to stake a tent, replace the cleared brush before leaving. Do not leave marks on trees or rocks.
Minimize Campfire Impacts. Always check fire danger warnings for the area and obey all signs and restrictions. Use existing fire rings when possible or construct fire mounds. Always ensure the fire is completely out and return the area to its natural state. Never throw plastic items into the fire.
Respect Wildlife. Minimize your noise on the trail (unless you’re in bear country). Do not approach animals and do not leave any food or garbage accessible.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors. Everyone wants to, and should be able to, enjoy their time outside. Be aware of others hiking around you and share the trail.
© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org
Backpacking Kolob Arch via La Verkin Creek Trail was one of our favorite experiences in Utah. If you have any questions regarding the trail or anything related to Zion National Park feel free to drop your question below in the comment section.