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Kolob Canyons Double Arch Alcove Hike in Zion

It's probably no secret that I fell in love with Zion National Park this past year. Our first adventure there was with friends Chad and Shannon in April 2023. Then, in May 2023, we went back to Zion for a short visit with my husband's sister at the end of our Grand Canyon trip. Fast-forward to New Year's weekend, and my husband and I found ourselves driving down to Zion yet again.

Zion NP is big (it covers over 146,000 acres (229 sq. mi.)). The first two visits to Zion, we exclusively spent our time in the southern Zion Canyon portion of the park, which is the more popular and well-known area of the park. This third visit would be in the lesser-known northwest section of the park, Kolob Canyons.

I may have mentioned this in previous blog posts, but most of the time, our hikes are last-minute decisions. As in, we wake up Saturday morning and make a decision within the first hour regarding what hike we'll be doing that day, then it's a rush to get everything packed and ready to leave.

But we've been doing it this way for several years now, so it does seem like I've gotten a bit more comfortable with it, despite my being more of a "plan-in-advance" kind of person. I try to embrace the spontaneity as part of the "adventure," even if it means we periodically forget to pack something (like snacks on our longest hike of the season) or find ourselves slightly unprepared.

That being said, Friday afternoon leading up to the New Year's holiday weekend, my husband presents this question to me: Are you interested in driving back to Zion?

Mind you, a drive from Tahoe to Zion NP is over 500 miles one way, so we'd have to pack for a 3-day adventure, including winter hiking gear, and hit the road immediately.

So, that's what we did.

Late Friday evening, we arrived at the hotel in Tonopah, NV, and settled in for the night, knowing we'd be getting up at 5 AM the next morning to hit the road and finish the 4-plus-hour drive across Nevada to Cedar City, UT.

Predawn sky over US Hwy 6 in rural Nevada
Predawn sky over US Hwy 6 in rural Nevada on a Saturday morning..

Peeks of sunrise in rural Nevada
Peeks of sunrise in rural Nevada.

Extraterrestrial Highway
US Hwy 375 in Nevada between Warm Springs and Crystal Springs is called the Extraterrestrial Highway.

Three hundred miles and one time zone later, we arrived at Kolob Canyons of Zion NP.

Of course, we quickly stopped in the visitor center to flash our annual national park pass, grab a park map, and check out the souvenir stickers and pins for the canyon.

I mentioned the Kolob Canyons section of Zion is lesser known. To further corroborate that, we overheard a young woman tell one of the staff inside the visitor center that she was "looking for Springdale."

The man kindly explained that Springdale is about an hour's drive away, yet, as he pulled out a paper map to show her. She seemed a little incredulous, and he patiently told her that Zion is very big and Kolob Canyons was just one area of the park, and she'd have to drive farther to reach Springdale, UT (which is the city just outside the "typical" park entrance into Zion Canyon).

I'm guessing she saw roadsigns for "Zion National Park" and thought Springdale must be around here somewhere. I'm sure the staff are used to getting that question by now. He handled it professionally, but it just goes to show you how "unknown" Kolob Canyons is.

We left the visitor center and drove up to the trailhead for our first hike in Kolob Canyons: Taylor Creek Trail to Double Arch Alcove. I was already getting excited from just the roadside views up ahead.

When we arrived at the trailhead, the parking lot was nearly full. I changed into my hiking clothes with light layers. At this moment, we discovered we forgot to pick up gallon jugs of drinking water to have on hand, mainly to fill the bladders for our hiking packs while on the road. So, we dumped the remaining water from our road trip drinking cups we had in the car and hoped that would suffice for this short 5-mile hike. At least it wasn't hot out.

Based on the posted trail info/warnings, we decided it was probably best to carry our microspikes with us on this one. Even though it was a relatively short hike, I'd rather have them and not need them than wish I had them.

We knew this hike would involve numerous (too many to count) water crossings across the Middle Fork of Taylor Creek, and early on, I wondered if I'd have been better off wearing my waterproof hiking boots instead of my trail sneakers. Again, I hoped for the best and just tried to not get my feet wet.

Most of the crossings had stepping stone rocks or frozen sections of the creek we could cautiously walk across to avoid stepping in any water. None of the crossings were particularly deep, but it just wasn't warm enough outside to endure a wet foot for a couple of hours.

The views of the red rock walls, pines mixed with cottonwoods, and the partially frozen creek were beautiful.

Partially frozen Taylor Creek in Kolob Canyons of Zion
Partially frozen Taylor Creek in Kolob Canyons of Zion.

Tucupit Point overlooking Taylor Creek in Kolob Canyons of Zion
Tucupit Point overlooking Taylor Creek in Kolob Canyons of Zion.

Middle Fork of Taylor Creek
Middle Fork of Taylor Creek running alongside the trail.

Along the trail were also two historic cabins built in the 1930s. The Larson cabin was constructed by Gustav Larson from white fir logs hauled in by wagon from Cedar City. He spent summers here from 1930 to 1933, homesteading the Kolob area and raising pigs. The Fife cabin was constructed by Arthur Fife from white fir logs, as well. Man, those homesteaders had some incredible views!

For how cold and desert-y this region is, I was surprised at the thick swathes of snake grass along parts of the trail. We saw tons and tons of snake grass on this hike.

The canyon views along this trail were just awesome.

(Remind me to dock the pay of my cameraman.)

About 2/3 of the way to the Double Arch Alcove, a family of four was coming towards us at a water crossing. The dad asked us if we minded taking their photo. I quickly obliged, taking a variety of shots and handing his phone back to him.

Before we parted ways, the son, who was all of 8 or 9 years old, spoke up and asked, without missing a beat, "Would you like us to take a photo of you two?"

Not only was I impressed with the boy's outgoingness, but his conscientiousness, thoughtfulness, and manners, as well.

Not long after this, we neared the Double Arch Alcove, a Navajo sandstone formation sandwiched between the towering walls of Tucupit and Paria points, which rise 1,700 feet above the trail.

The alcove and surrounding canyon are larger than life. It's hard to even comprehend what you're looking at.

The colors, textures, and patterns are so unique.

If we stood at the outer edge under the rock "ceiling" of the alcove, even the smallest of noises produced an audible echo from the alcove. At one point, we heard a "warble" from a bird (we think it was just a raven) who had perched atop a tree in the canyon, echoing throughout the canyon. It was pretty cool to hear that amongst the silence.

Double Arch Alcove, Kolob Canyons of Zion
Double Arch Alcove, Kolob Canyons of Zion.

Before we turned back on the trail, my husband suggested we continue up a little farther because, from his map, he saw a waterfall a short distance up the trail. We weren't expecting much of a flowing falls this time of year, and also gauging on the low volume of water in Taylor Creek today, but we didn't see the harm in checking it out.

We followed along the mostly dry creek bed until we reached a small slot canyon that, indeed, had some water trickling down its interior walls into a frigid pool below.

I can't imagine how amazing this waterfall is when it's gushing.

We made it out of the canyon safely and without running out of drinking water.

Note: We aren't sure of the accuracy of the mileage due to GPS bouncing off canyon walls.

Double Arch Alcove/Taylor Creek

Total Distance

6.91 mi

Total Time


Total Ascent

732 ft

Max Elevation

6,018 ft

Now it was on to the 1-mile round trip Timber Creek Overlook Trail, so we drove to the (busy) roadside viewpoint/trailhead parking lot and started the short climb up to the overlook.

The Timber Creek Overlook Trail had dozens of people coming up or down it. Once we arrived at the top, the views were decent, but I wouldn't deem them spectacular, plus, the overlook was pretty crowded with lots of loud, talkative families and crying and/or screaming children, so that might have detracted from the beauty a little bit. We snapped a few pics and started the descent back down to the car.

One last beautiful canyon view on our way out of Kolob Canyons.

From here, we finally headed to our hotel in Cedar City to check-in and figure out where we'd go for dinner, then it was early to bed since we wanted to get up early again the following morning for a final (awesome) hike on our impromptu trip to Zion.


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