Our 4,750 mile road trip route for our Utah National Parks and Grand Canyon Adventure is here if you’d lie to see our entire road trip itinerary.
After our wonderful night backpacking in Capitol Reef National Park, we packed up the car and headed to Kolob Canyon, which is the northwest section of Zion National Park. This is the more secluded and less populated section of Zion, so we decided to start our trip hiking La Verkin Creek Trail in Kolob Canyon before heading to the main Zion Canyon. From Capitol Reef, the drive took about 5 hours including a stop for lunch along the way at a roadside diner. We also made a stop at the Walmart in nearby Cedar City to buy some fruit and veggies before heading through the park entrance. It was almost 4 pm by the time we arrived at the ranger station to pick up our backpacking permit. We had reserved our permit online for a fee of $5 which I think is a bargain to have the piece of mind that there will be a site for you when you arrive. When hiking with children we like to know we will have a place to stop when we want to. There was an additional fee of $15 for our family to obtain the backcountry permit. Since we already had our National Parks Pass there was no other fees to enter the park.
Once we had our permit and picked up Junior Ranger packets, we drove the short drive down Kolob Canyon Road to the Lee Pass trail head where La Verkin Creek Trail starts. Feeling a little rushed since it was already about 5 pm and we had a 4.5 mile hike to still do and camp to set up, we quickly grabbed our packs and started hiking. Even in the rush we couldn’t help but notice the area is amazingly colorful with vivid greens, blues, oranges and browns and absolutely beautiful.
We headed down the trail which was pretty steep and I thought about how the return trip was going to be tough. Our plan was to hike the La Verkin Creek Trail to our site and set up camp for two nights in the canyon with a day hike to Kolob Arch in between. This plan ended up being the perfect mix of challenging for the younger kids but still really relaxing and fun. The hike was really pretty as we came down the canyon and then the trail borders La Verkin Creek all the way to the established camp sites.
We had been hiking for a couple of hours and the sun was starting to set in the canyon when we came to Site 4 which we had reserved. We were so glad we wouldn’t be hiking in the dark! After celebrating our success, we set up our tents quickly before making a quick dinner of macaroni and cheese. We ate dinner by headlamp light before crawling into our tents to go to bed. It had been a long day starting out in Capitol Reef on the Chimney Rock Trail and ending the day in Zion on the La Verkin Creek Trail in Kolob Canyon and we were dead tired. We fell asleep to the sounds of the beautiful La Verkin Creek bubbling right next to our tents.
We woke up early the next morning to a beautiful and sunny day though it was chilly as the sun was rising so the kids wrapped up in their sleeping bags when they emerged from the tents. We made a good breakfast of oatmeal with dried fruit (Click here for some of our favorite Oatmeal Recipes!), coffee and hot chocolate and then sat by the creek for a while enjoying the gorgeous morning. It was great to have the creek as a reliable water source to fill our water bottles which we then treated with our Steripen. You can read more about how we easily purify water when backpacking by clicking here.
Once the sun came all the way up it was quite warm, but Kolob Canyon is full of trees which gave us plenty of shade to keep cool. Our plan was to hike the 4 miles round trip to Kolob Arch, one of the world’s largest free standing natural arches. We brought a picnic lunch to take with us and we set off. The hike was flat for the majority of the trail until we reached the turn off for the Kolob Arch and then it was more difficult as we scrambled over the rocky trail for a short distance of maybe half a mile. We arrived at the arch and were glad we had chosen to make this hike as it really was impressive. Short hikes like this worked really well for Maya and Garrett who were only 8 as they felt like they had accomplished something by hiking to the arch but yet they definitely weren’t overtired.
After seeing Kolob Arch we spent a couple hours playing in nearby Beatty Spring, having a picnic lunch and splashing in the creek. Our lunch was almond butter, honey, crackers and cheese and Dave surprised me with a small bottle of wine he carried in to enjoy with lunch. Wonderful! We also treated more water with the Steripen since it was now hot again and we needed to refill our bottles. The spring also had the added bonus of a cool breeze which was deterring the bothersome flies all around the area. We enjoyed everything about Kolob Canyons but the flies. The flies were AWFUL! They were everywhere and constantly landing on us, buzzing around our heads, and biting us to make us crazy. The spring brought a welcome reprieve from them so we especially enjoyed our time here.
We eventually left Beatty Spring and headed back to our campsite. The entire time we had been in Kolob Canyon we only talked to one other person on the trail and he was a day hiker to Kolob Arch. Early in the morning I saw a few backpackers hike by our site while leaving the canyon but I didn’t get a chance to talk with them. It was definitely not crowded here! We spent a pleasant afternoon by La Verkin Creek just hanging out together. The flies were not so bad by the creek and we all enjoyed ourselves. We were lucky enough to see a pretty snake sunning itself on a rock.
After spending the afternoon by the creek, we made a dinner of spaghetti with marinara sauce and chocolate for dessert before telling stories and crawling into bed since we were hiking out as soon as we were awake in the morning. It had been a great day on La Verkin Creek Trail in Kolob Canyon! The next morning we packed up as soon as we woke up and began our hike back to the car in the chilly air. The temperature difference between morning and afternoon is really stark in Zion so we were chilly in the morning and burned up in the afternoon. Luckily, by hiking early we planned to be out of the canyon before the heat set in.
The climb up the trail was pretty challenging for the twins so I stayed back with them and cheered them on while Dave hiked ahead with the older girls. When we reached the final half mile climb it was especially steep so I would count a certain number of steps and then we would take a short break. In some parts we were only walking 25 steps at a time but this worked well to get them slowly and steadily up the trail. Dave and the girls had already made it to the top so they cheered down to us from the overlook which definitely encouraged the twins as well. We eventually made it to the top- hot and tired but really happy. Our hike in Kolob Canyons had been wonderful! We headed over to the main section of the park, Zion Canyon. You can also read about our visit to Zion Canyon here.
If you go:
To help plan our trip, we used the National Park website and also read Frommer’s Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks which provided great information about both parks. Two of my favorite books that cover all of the western National Parks and I have used for several roadtrips areNational Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States and Fodor’s The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West. Both are excellent resources.
Plan for varying temps. It is cold during the night and early morning even in Summer, and quite warm during the day.
Bring Bug Repellant. The biting flies during our visit in June were relentless!