With early spring thunder storms moving through the area, I decided to head to the least affected area (according to weather radar). I haven't spent much time in this section of the park, or at least on this side of Hwy-9. My travels usually pull me south through the deep canyon separating Crazy Quilt Mesa and Checkerboard Mesa.
The trailhead is just inside the East Entrance Gate to the Park. Follow the asphalt road past the 2 homes (surprised) and continue on as the road turns to gravel/sand. A wide turn-around area with picnic tables, but limited parking, mark the trailhead and entrance to the East Rim Trail.
An informative information sign outlines the trail as being 10.8 miles from this eastern gate trailhead to the Weeping Rock Trailhead located in the main canyon. A shuttle system will need to be set up if hiking the entire route. "This trail travel through the forested mesas of eastern Zion. The path gradually climbs over 1,000 feet, then descends 2,400 feet into Zion Canyon." I wasn't sure how far I was going to hike, but I didn't plan on dropping all the way into the main canyon. I'm just stretching my legs and carrying a pack after the ski season comes to a close.
The trail is a pleasant, wide sandy stroll at a gradual incline. This trail must see massive traffic during the year and true to form a trail runner passes me within the first 30 minutes. I notice several small scramble routes up through the cliff face and wonder if the trail doubles back above the rock line. My suspicions were confirmed at mile 2 after hiking up another canyon, the trail makes a switchback turn onto the higher ledge. The elevated views of the trail, winding through the canyon, gave me an appreciation for the total distance this trail encompass.
It's starting to rain. I can see heavy concentrations of rain falling on different peaks around the park, but so far nothing but a nice drizzle is hitting my area. The trail reaches a point and turns north again following another deep recess of canyon. I can see the trail on the other side continuing the gradual climb to the plateau. At mile 3, I find a flat rock and eat lunch. The view into this side canyon is stunning. Shear cliff face on both sides. I eat my lunch in peace and quiet. If this trail is busy during the summer months, it is calm now. I haven't seen another soul since the runner passed me. I finish and continue on down the trail. Spotting a side trail that wanders to a rock outcropping overlooking the canyon I decided to take a look and a few pictures.
The drizzle has turned into a constant rain now, so I decide to head back toward the car. I need to complete this trail sometime this year. At 10 miles, it is doable as a day hike. But it would also be fun as an overnight backback trip as well. Hiking back down the trail I come across a father and son, debating on turning back. I encourage them to hike at least to the point for the view.
At the trailhead again, a couple in full pack are going to brave the weather and rain for an overnight experience. It might be wet, but it will be a great experience.