Taylor Creek Trail Winter Overview - Kolob Canyons Wilderness
Taylor Creek Trail is a wonderful day hike in the Kolob Canyons Wilderness section of Zion National Park. The Kolob Canyon Wilderness is outside of the main Zion National Park area that most people are familiar with. This means that Taylor Creek Trail is a lot less crowded than most trails in Zion National Park!
Taylor Creek Trail is about 5 miles total out and back in the Kolob Canyon Wilderness that follows the middle fork of Taylor Creek. I use the word "follows" loosely as the trail crosses Taylor CReek multiple times which is absolutely stunning in the winter with all the blue ice!
Despite how much fun my wife and I had on this almost private hike in Zion National Park, it was far from what we had planned. My wife and I first went to Zion National Park shortly after I got out of the Marine Corps. On our first visit together we hit almost all the major hikes, Angels Landing, The Narrows, and a smaller one called The Watchmen. The one hike we were missing was Observation Point. I had a map I made on Caltopo years ago, and pulled that one out and was ready to go. Since I researched the hike years ago I didn't think twice about it. After an awesome trip to Bryce Canyon, we were ready for the next challenge. We woke up early, drove into Zion National Park and promptly got told by a nice Ranger that the Observation Point trail we planned on had been closed for 3 years due to a landslide!
After the initial grief of our "planned" hike falling through, an amazing Ranger in the visitors center compleatley understood what we wanted and pointed up towards the Kolob Canyon Wilderness!
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Taylor Creek Trail Map
The Taylor Creek Trail map above and be downloaded and viewed on Caltopo here. The terrain Profile of the trail is just one way of the out and back.
Taylor Creek Trail Winter Trip Report - Zion National park
After our discussion with the Park Ranger in the Zion National Park Visitors Center, we promptly left Zion in order to drive around to the Kolob Canyon Wilderness. The drive from the Zion National Park Visitors Center to the Kolob Canyon Wilderness Visitors Center is just about 45 minutes long. It felt odd driving out of Zion while everyone was driving in, but I also had a huge smile on my face because I wanted to get away from the crowds.
When we got to Kolob Canyon Wilderness we had to park at the visitors center and check in. The ranger here let us know that the Taylor Creek Trail is pretty icey and can be in-passable at times due to the multiple river crossings. They mentioned that they hadn't heard anyone making it to the end of the trail all week due to the conditions.
Instantly a little voice in my head was saying "challenge accepted" when I heard that no one had made it to the end. My wife and I came prepared with Microspikes (Amazon Affiliate) and had no worry about icy terrain. My only concern was the water crossing though, if they were deep I would not mess with getting too wet in cold temperatures. Also my Jeep Wrangler does not have any working heater at this time....
You can check out my full pack on the app I created here.
When we got to the parking lot to the trailhead there were only about two other cars there. I was very happy to see it was a lot less crowded than the main Zion parking lots were earlier in the morning.
My wife and I initially had our Microspikes in our bags, planning to put them on if we encountered any steep sections of ice. That first steep section of ice came quickly... basically the start of the hike.
In the image of the terrain profile above in the map section you can see the initial dip that the trail takes before its consistent steady incline up to Double Arch Alcove. This entire down section was a sheet of ice, come prepared if you are doing this hike in the winter.
After the precarious walk down the initial slick slope we were instantly walking up some built in stairs and were off on our hike and officially in the Zion Wilderness. Luckily for us the snow was not too bad and the trail was fairly easy to follow. If you are not well versed in land navigation I would not recommend a winter hike like this because you can easily lose the trail when it is covered in snow. On the plus side though this trail mostly follows the river which helps with navigation, but it crosses so many times you could easily get thrown off trail in the winter.
Taylor Creek Trail may not be as epic as the many famous hikes and treks in Zion Canyon but the red rocks here are stunning. The trail starts out in a fairly wide area after the initial dip then as you slowly make your way up Taylor Creek, the canyons slowly narrow in. It never gets as tight or claustrophobic as The Narrows but the forest greenery, red rocks, and in our case snow all contrast together in one of the most peaceful strolls I have ever had in a National Park.
As the ranger warned us at the Kolob Canyon Wilderness Visitor center earlier in the day, this hike has multiple river crossings.
Luckily for my wife and I the water levels must have been lower than the previous report that the ranger received, and we had no trouble crossing each river dry. We may have had to take one or two well timed leaps, and used a mixture of rocks and ice as nature's temporary bridges, but each crossing was easily manageable on this trip. Assess each day on its own merits though, just because water levels were low enough, and ice bridges were strong enough for us does not mean you will encounter the same conditions on your own hike.
In addition to all the natural beauty on this hike along Taylor Creek, there are also a couple of instances of man made beauty as well. Usually on a hike out in the middle of nature I love the fact that I am away from anything man made, but there is something about a quaint cabin in the middle of the woods that just fascinates me. I probably am just thinking about what it would have been like to live in the cabin out in the middle of Kolob Canyon, and it must have been wonderful!
Larson Cabin was fascinating, but I wish they had a little bit more history to read about it on the trail. All the sign next to it said was Circa 1930 and, "This cabin is part of our cultural heritage. Please protect and preserve this area."
I decided to do a little Googling when I got home to learn about the cabin and it had some interesting history. Apparently the owner built this cabin in the early 1930s then was called to go on a mission to Switzerland for the LDS Church. Unfortunately for him, while he was away the US government established the Kolob National Monument and he lost his homestead. Reach more of his story here, on the Inter Mountain Histories website.
As we slowly moved through the forest towards the end of the trail at Double Arch Alcove I loved stopping and checking out the snow and the ice. Living in Southern California I don't get to see as much snow and ice as I used to when I lived out on the east coast and it is a whole lot of fun to photograph.
Eventually we made it to the end of the trail, where we were greeted by the impressive Double Arch Alcove! Since I didn't have a chance to do much research on this hike before starting it, it was a complete surprise! My wife and I had no idea what to expect on this trail, and had no idea if there would even be anything special at the end. The Double Arch Alcove was massively impressive!
Double Arch Alcove was so monstrously huge, I was unable to get a great shot on my camera. My wife saved the day with a pretty epic GoPro picture that shows its scale while I was trying to take pictures of the icicles at the edge.
Do not go into the Alcove at all during the winter, those icicles hanging above were massive and you could see them slowly melting with icicle rain drops falling from high above.
After taking in the amazite site of Double Arch Alcove we took a quick break in the snow watching the icicles melt while we had a quick bite to eat before it was time to get moving again back down Taylor Creek Trail!