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Zion National Park

Watchman Trail (Zion) Hike Guide

  • 3.2 miles - Moderate Effort
  • 1:30-2:30 Hours (Total)
  • 600 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 4,420 feet
  • No Dogs Allowed

If you're looking for a great leg-stretcher of a hike from the Zion NP Visitor's Center, the Watchman Trail is the perfect option. Often overlooked, the Watchman Trail offers a fun and relatively easy fast track into Zion's natural landscape. After a few hundred feet of climbing, you're rewarded with a viewpoint showcasing the iconic Watchman peak and Zion Canyon. And because it's not a big-name hike, you often don't get the big crowds here.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn-by-Turns for the Watchman Trail in Zion NP
  • Where to Start the Watchman Trail
  • Insider Tips & Recommendations

Where is the Watchman Trail?

The Watchman Trail is easy to find; it starts from the Visitor Center area. No need to take a shuttle bus. Use this trailhead address:
Zion National Park Visitor Center 1 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT 84767

Watchman Trail Map Overview
The Visitor's Center is on the right once you pass through the entrance gate to the park. There is also a Watchman Campground, which is different from the Watchman Trail. Park at the Visitor Center as you would normally do.
Watchman Trail Start
The Watchman Trail starts just past the shuttle bus station if you are walking from the Visitor Center. Cross the road that you drove in on to find the trailhead.
Watchman Trail Zion Directions 1
There are signs throughout the Visitor Center area that point you toward the Watchman Trail.
Watchman Trail Zion Directions 2
There are more prominent signs for the trail at the shuttle bus station.

Gear For the Hike

This is a short hike; you need no special gear to complete it. However, you're best served by wearing fitness or light hiking clothing with comfortable footwear like trail runners. Also, bring at least 0.5L of water; it can get hot during the day, and you'll probably sweat a bit on the climb.

Gear That I Love Right Now

Nothing is sponsored or promoted, just the actual gear that I use.

Gear Inreach Mini 2
Garmin InReach Mini 2If you are out of cellphone range the Mini 2 will reliably allow you to hit SOS via satellite. You can also send non-emergency texts to just say that you're late, let friends and family follow along, and check the weather. You can see my review here.
Gear Topo Pursuit
Topo Pursuit 2The wide toe box means no blisters, an aggressive tread is great on the trail, it dries very quickly, and it has lots of cushion for long days. It combines everything I love about every other shoe into one.
Gear Epix Pro Up Ahead
Garmin Epix ProThese watches are pricey, but I use them 24/7 for sleep tracking, workouts, heart rate, and tracking my hike. It has preloaded hiking maps that help me navigate the trails and is a backup to my smartphone navigation. The Epix Pro has a great battery life, a screen similar to an Apple Watch Ultra, and works in harsh conditions when just using the buttons. See my review here.
Hikelite 26 Gear
Osprey Hikelite 26This updated version of the Hikelite 26 offers incredible value for the money. It's got a wide trampoline back, so your back doesn't get sweaty. It's under 2lbs, has deep side pockets, and is a great balance of what you need without what you don't.

Check out the complete list here. ( Updated May 2024)

Watchman Trail Maps

Click Here To View

Use This Map:
View in CalTopo | PDF Map | GPX File

Elevation Profile

Watchman Trail Map Elevation
The beginning is flat, but we soon climb along a canyon to the viewpoint loop at the top. You'll feel the climb, but it's not too long or as challenging as the climb to Scout Lookout.

3D Map

Watchman Trail Map 3d Map
The trail climbs to a small plateau several hundred feet high, where you then hike a small loop to the viewpoint. The Watchman looms above to the south as you hike.

Watchman Trail Hike Directions

Watchman Trail Zion Directions 3
Follow the Visitor Center's Watchman Trail signs and then cross the road at the crosswalk.
Watchman Trail Zion Directions 4
You'll soon pass an information display for the Watchman Trail on your right.
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A minute past the sign, look for a dirt trail off to the left.
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There's a small sign pointing you onto that last junction.
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Follow the trail as it heads upstream along the river.
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And then you'll have another road crossing. Once across the road, the trail goes to the left.
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The trail starts gently climbing.
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You'll catch some postcard-perfect glimpses up Zion Canyon.
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And then you'll head up a series of nicely engineered switchbacks.
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As you climb you can see the trail continue on the other side of the canyon. That's where we're hiking to.
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Don't kick or knock rocks down, there are people hiking beneath you on the switchbacks.
Watchman Trail Map Rock Formation
The trail climbs through the sandstone Moenave Formation. Dinosaur footprints are sometimes found in this formation, created when they walked in the soft sand about 200 million years old.
Watchman Trail Zion Directions 13
You'll also see the Watchman poking out in the distance.
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Once on the other side of the canyon, the trail levels out. The climbing is over.
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When you get to a flat rocky area, go straight through to start the loop trail.
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Look for small signs like this along the short loop trail.
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The loop trail goes downhill for a short stretch.
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When it dead ends at the viewpoint, ignore the smaller trails to the right and continue left on the official loop.
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You'll arrive at a marked split. The overlook is down to the right. When you are done, return here and continue on the loop trail to get back to the start.
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Here you are at the official Watchman Overlook.
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There's a small sign making it official. Stay away from the edges.
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To the right you have views up into Zion Canyon.
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And to the left, The Watchman, at 6,545 feet.
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Continue on the loop trail. In a short while you'll climb some steps.
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And then arrive back at the area where you started the loop.
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From here, just hike back down the way you came. That's the hike!

Need More Info?

  • Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.
  • When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.