Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Zion N.P. trail heads to hanging gardens

Weeping Rock, Zion National Park. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Topo map, Weeping Rock Trail.

Park's popular
Weeping Rock
Trail runs half
mile round trip

Day hikers can walk through a natural hanging gardens on the Weeping Rock Trail at Zion National Park.

A great family-friendly hike, the footpath ascends a hillside to a concave cut into a rock face from which water seeps. Though the walk leading to the hanging gardens is somewhat steep, the trail is only a half-mile long.

A popular hike because of the hanging gardens, the great view from it, the short length, and the ease of access, expect the trail to be busy, especially in summer. Still, March through October mark the best time to visit the site, as during winter a flood of water often pours down the rock face and the cold fills the alcove with icicles. Avoid it during rainfalls as well, as the mist that is part of the hanging gardens’ beauty will be absent.

Shaded walk
Reaching the trail during spring through autumn requires taking a park shuttle. Private vehicles generally aren’t allowed April 1-Oct. 30 in Zion Canyon, where the trail is located. A shuttle can be picked up at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center; once on it, get off at the Weeping Rock shuttle stop. If driving, from Utah Hwy. 9 turn north onto Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (also known as Floor of the Valley Drive) and use the Weeping Rock parking lot. The shuttle stop and parking lot are one and the same.

From the parking lot, take the East Mesa Trail south, crossing Echo Canyon Creek via a footbridge. On the bridge’s other side, you’ll immediately reach the junction for the Weeping Rock Trail. Go left/east onto to it.

For about 0.2 miles, the trail rises a hundred feet through shady maples, cottonwoods and ash trees. Cable Mountain rises above the trail to the right/southeast.

The trail recrosses the creek via a footbridge. From here, the path is uphill all the way as the canyon walls close about you.

Weeping Rock
The out-and-back trail ends at the Weeping Rock. Water seeps from the wall because the Kayenta layer of rock beneath it prevents moisture from seeping further downward. The only place the water can go is out the layer of sandstone here.

The result is a lush garden fed by the spring water, which has been in the rock for about 1200 years. Mosses, ferns and columbines all can thrive on the moist vertical walls.

When standing next to the alcove, you’ll definitely feel the mist form the sprinkles. You’ll also notice that the moisture keeps the area a few degrees cooler than the rest of the trail.

On the way back to the parking lot, you’ll be treated to a great view of The Organ and Angels Landing rock formations. The former rises over the Virgin River’s Big Bend west of the Weeping Rock.

Be sure to watch your step on this trail, as the rock surfaces can be slippery. Though the trail is paved, it’s too steep for wheelchairs or strollers.

Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.