Hiking to Scout Lookout, Zion National Park
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Scout Lookout is a challenging 4 mile hike which passes through the iconic Walter’s Wiggles before reaching the Scout Lookout viewpoint, a flat saddle with incredible views of the Zion Canyon.
Often overshadowed by the extra half mile of adrenaline inducing trail that leads to Angels Landing, Scout Lookout has gained popularity as a standalone hike in recent years.
For those of you planning a trip to Zion National Park we wanted to share our experience and tips for hiking the Scout Lookout trail.
Winter 2020 Update: Scout Lookout remains open as Zion resumes limited operations. Angels Landing, a further half mile after reaching Scout Lookout, has reopened as of late September 2020. The situation is constantly evolving so make sure to check the official NPS website for the latest information.
Scout Lookout Trail
Zion National Park, located beside the town of Springdale in Utah, is home to the tallest sandstone cliffs in the world and they soar over the Virgin River and the Zion Canyon valley floor.
Scout Lookout is accessed by hiking a portion of the long-distance West Rim trail. The trail is shared with those hiking the West Rim trail, typically descending from Lava Point to the Grotto, and those attempting to reach the iconic Angels Landing.
The hike to the lookout includes the iconic Walter’s Wiggles, a series of 21 switchbacks, and Refrigerator Canyon. The trail is challenging and fun and rewards with spectacular views of the Zion Canyon making it one of the best hikes in Zion National Park.
Scout Lookout Trail Map
How to Use this Google Map: Click on the grey star at the top of the map and this map will be added to your Google Maps account. You can then view it on your phone or computer in Google Maps by clicking on the menu button, going to “Your Places” and selecting this map. We use these maps all the time as you can set out your itinerary ahead of time and quickly reference the saved maps.
Where to stay in Zion
- Camping: There are two campsites, Watchman Campground and South Campground, within the park. Both campsites are located near the visitors center at the South entrance. At the Watchman sites are released for reservation on a 6 month rolling basis while in the South Campground it is on a 14 day rolling basis.
- Zion Lodge: located deep within the park the historic lodge offers a mix of cabins and hotel rooms. We’ve stayed in the Lodge and it’s a nice traditional option which really allows you to immerse yourself in the park. The lodge fills up well in advance so it’s worth checking your dates well in advance of your trip. We highly recommend staying here as its an incredible location – check prices here!
With limited accommodation in the park itself visitors to Zion typically stay in Springdale, a small town next to the south entrance. The Springdale Shuttle connects Springdale to the Zion Visitors Center and the Zion Shuttle so it is just as easy to stay adjacent to Zion and there are more food options in the town.
- Cable Mountain Lodge: great selection of family friendly rooms, excellent food and an outdoor pool overlooked by the Zion Watchman! Its location, adjacent to the Zion Visitors Center, means you can hop on the park shuttle bus and reach any of the trails within minutes. Our Zion favorite – check prices now!
- Flanigan’s Inn: just 10 minutes walk from the Zion entrance and located on a Springdale Shuttle stop, Flanigan’s Inn is a reasonably priced option with good sized clean rooms, a pool and a hot tub – check prices now!
Hiking to Scout Lookout
The Scout Lookout Trail is a challenging 4 mile hike with steep switch back, a shaded canyon and the iconic Walters Wiggles. It rewards with impressive views of Zion Canyon.
Hike Length: Scout Lookout is around 4 miles round trip
- Hike time: 2 to 3 hours return
- Elevation Gain: elevation gain of approximately 1,000 foot
- Hike Difficulty: challenging hike due to the huge elevation gain.
- Trail: West Rim
- Shuttle Stop: The Grotto
The hike to Scout Lookout begins at the Grotto and follows the West Rim trail for the entirety of the hike. The journey starts with footbridge crossing over the Virgin River to the trail head. Almost immediately, the iconic Angels Landing rock comes into view.
The trail then leads upstream gradually climbing on a paved path.
After about half a mile the trail starts to climb and winds up the hillside via some long switchbacks. There are exposed rock ledges on this part of the trail but the path is wide.
It levels out at a shaded canyon known as Refrigerator Canyon. A cool breeze often blows through the aptly named canyon and the combination of shade and flat ground provide a good chance to catch your breath.
Scout Lookout tip: Refrigerator Canyon is the only shaded part of the trail so make sure to take advantage of this natural rest point on hot days.
Refrigerator Canyon leads to the final stretch, the iconic Walter’s Wiggles. Walter’s Wiggles are a series of 21 steep switchbacks that are named after the first Superintendent, Walter Ruesch. It is an incredible part of the trail and the dizzying switchbacks are a relentless test of stamina.
There are some incredible views along the trail.
After conquering Walter’s Wiggles you will arrive at Scout Lookout. The views from Scouts Lookout are incredible: the Virgin River and the incredible rock formations surrounding the Zion are stunning.
Scout Lookout tip: If your hiking group is a mix of Scout Lookout and Angel Landing hikers, it will take an extra 1 to 1.5 hours to hike to Angels Landing and make it back to Scout Lookout. If you want to make the descent together then venture further out on the West Rim trail while you wait. On our most recent visit to Zion I continued along the West Rim with our young kids while Dave made the final approach to Angels Landing and we met up to hike back to the Grotto together after about 90 minutes.
Hiking Scout Lookout with kids
Although not as family-friendly as the Pa’rus trail and the Riverside Walk, Scout Lookout is still an option with kids provided extreme care is taken along the exposed parts. It is a challenging and fun hike and we saw many kids as we hiked.
One side of the trail is exposed with huge drop offs that are not protected for most of the trail. The path is wide so kids can hike safely provided they are able to understand the risk and follow instructions to stay away from the drop offs.
A hiking backpack is the best way to bring younger kids on the hike and allows for both safety and little legs running out of steam!
On our last visit to Zion, we hiked to Scout Lookout with our toddler and 9 month old. Our 2 year old was in his hiking backpack (we use an Osprey Poco Plus) and the 9 month old in her soft carrier, an Ergobaby 360. We’ve used these on hundreds of hikes and recommend both if you are planning on hiking with younger kids.
Scout Lookout tip: given the exposed paths, we only recommend this trail for younger kids if they are in a hiking backpack or older kids who will follow instructions.
Tips for Hiking Scout Lookout
- Water: bring at least 1 liter of water per person and 2 liters in the summer months.There is a water fill up station by the Grotto picnic tables.
- Hiking after rain:the trail can be slippery after rain but this is more of an issue on the final push to Angels Landing after reaching Scout Lookout.
- Summer accessories:sunscreen and a hat to protect from the sun
- Winter accessories:layers of clothing, a warm hat and a good jacket. The trails can be icy in places in Zion in Winter so invest in good hiking shoes/boots or Yaktrax on sneakers for grip.
- Restrooms: there are bathrooms located at both the Grotto and Scout Lookout. The Scout Lookout restrooms should be saved for an emergency!
Alternative Hikes in Zion National Park
Zion National Park is home to some iconic hikes and we love exploring its trails. Some great hikes in addition to Scout Lookout are:
- Angels Landing: one of the most iconic and challenging hikes in Zion, Angels Landing is a half mile extension to Scout Lookout. The trail follows a narrow mountain spine out to the center of the Zion Canyon. Part of the trail is so narrow that there are chains for hikers to steady themselves on. There are massive drops on either side of the spine so extreme care needs to be taken. There are incredible views of Zion Canyon from Angels Landing.
- The Narrows: the iconic Zion Narrows follows the Virgin River into a narrow slot canyon. It is a difficult 9.4 mile out and back hike depending on how far you venture. The trail begins at the end of the Riverside Walk.
- Riverside Walk: Riverside Walk is a peaceful hike along a relatively flat paved trail which runs adjacent to the Virgin River. It starts at the Temple of Sinawava, the final stop on the Zion Shuttle and the start of the trail leads up the canyon past the tall weeping walls, lush vegetation and the occasional waterfall!
- Canyon Overlook: Located in the east of the park, Canyon Overlook leads hikers 1,000 feet above the Zion canyon floor. It is a 1 mile moderate hike with little elevation gain. The Canyon Overlook Trail has one of the most spectacular views in Zion National Park
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