Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Timber Creek Overlook

The Navajo Sandstone of the Kolobs Canyon from Timber Creek Overlook
1 mile round trip, 100 feet elevation gain
Difficulty: Easy
Access: Paved road to trailhead, Zion National Park entrance fee required

The hike to Timber Creek Overlook in Zion National Park's Kolob Canyons area is short but sweet, packing in views of snowy peaks and redrock cliffs into a mile of walking with minimal elevation gain. It's a good leg-stretcher for visitors who are passing through the area or a good addition to the hike to Kolob Arch for hikers in the area for a day, though I wouldn't make a dedicated trip out to this part of the park just for this hike.

This was my first hike during a recent trip to Utah- I arrived at the Kolob Canyons area of the park after picking up a rental car in Las Vegas that morning. The Kolob Canyons are removed from the main Zion Canyon area of the park; it's accessible directly off I-15 north of St. George, Utah. I reached the Kolobs Canyon area by taking I-15 north from Las Vegas past St. George to exit 40 in Utah, then turning right (heading east) once I came off the freeway ramp to head towards Kolob Canyons. I checked in show my park pass at the visitor center before driving five miles up to the Kolob Canyons Overlook, at the end of the Kolob Canyons Road. The view is already quite good at the parking lot, with Timber Top Mountain and the Kolob Finger Canyons visible directly across the Timber Creek.

From the parking lot, the trail headed to the south, passing a few picnic tables at the start. The trail generally stayed near the top of the ridge; due to recent snows, the soil was wet and the trail resembled a mudpit at points.

Trail to Timber Creek Overlook
The sparse vegetation along the trail (Utah is more or less a desert, after all) provided continuous open views of the Navajo Sandstone cliffs that define the Kolob Finger Canyons.

Kolob Canyons
After a half milfe of gentle descent, the trail ended at a rocky knob on the ridgeline. The views here were very open, with nearly a 360-panorama of the Kolob Canyons to the east and the snow-capped Pine Valley Mountains to the west. Nearby ridges of the Hurricane Cliffs were covered in low-growing pines and junipers.

Pine Valley Mountains from the Overlook
As the name of the hike suggests, the viewpoint at the end overlooks the Timber Creek watershed: the most impressive aspect of the view was flat-topped Timber Top Mountain, which towers over the Kolob Canyons. The overlook had a good viewshed to the south: I could see cliffs of Navajo Sandstone marching continuously southward, marking the western edge of the great Colorado Plateau.

View of Timber Top Mountain
The Navajo Sandstone of the Kolob Canyons was formed from massive ancient sand dunes that compacted into the rock. While most of the Navajo Sandstone at the Kolob Canyons is a beautiful burnt red, much of the same formation is white in Zion Canyon- although both colors of sandstone result from the same sand dunes, the red sandstone, which is typically lower in the formation, derives its color from a higher iron content. This sandstone is the principal formation in the White Cliffs, one of the multiple layers of the Grand Staircase that reaches from high on the Colorado Plateau's Pink Cliffs at Cedar Breaks and Bryce Canyon down to the Grand Canyon.

Despite the clear weather that day and the brevity of the trail, I saw only a handful of other hikers on the trail; of course, I arrived on a Friday during winter, so hiker density is likely higher during the summer and on weekends.

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