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Mountain of the Sun

Spectacular, challenging summit hike. Long difficult approach. Represents the best of Zion backcountry adventure.
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 8.1 miles
Duration: Full day

Overview:  As the shuttle crowded with Zion Canyon visitor's makes it's way slowly up the main canyon, the second stop is the lookout for Court... more »

Tips:  Backcountry Route! Safely hiking backcountry routes depend on your own good judgment, adequate preparation, and constant attention to ... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Trailhead & Parking

As you exit from the 1.1 mile long tunnel immediately to your right is the small parking lot for Overlook trail and the only Bathroom facilities on this end of the park. Continue on toward Mt. Carmel Junction .4 miles, the second large drainage is Upper Pine Creek. On the North side of the road is two small parking pullouts, use caution making U... More

2. Upper Pine Creek

Descend into Upper Pine Creek which is easily identifiable by the 1930's built culvert that passes under the highway. Also by the wide, sandy bottom of the wash.

3. Reminder #1

After hiking along Upper Pine Creek for a short while you will come across a good reminder of why this is not a good wash to be in during a rain storm. This log, roots wedged against the rock face was "deposited" here by flash floods, it didn't "fall" here. To add some perspective I'm 6' tall.

4. Reminder #2

Further along the Creek bed is an important reminder on how these beautiful areas are constantly under change.

5. Waterfall & exit Upper Pine Creek

A little over 1/2 mile hiking Upper Pine Creek on the right hand side of the wash is a beautiful waterfall (or dryfall). Just past the waterfall as the canyon begins to get clogged by brush is another dryfall on the left hand side, this is the best place to exit the Creek bottom. Using the natural ledge system and sometimes hiking straight up... More

6. Slickrock drainage

As you reach the top of the dryfall, a beautiful wide slick rock wash works its way down from the first major obstacle. Continue heading West along the dryfall until you reach the obstacle.

7. Where sheep tread

The first major obstacle is the dryfall at the end of the slick rock drainage. On the left hand side is a series of weaknesses and ledge systems that is the bedding ground for the mountain sheep in the area, following their tracks, droppings and hoof prints as you can recognize the weakness in the ledges and pick your way to the top. A bit of... More

8. Petroglyphs

Back in the slick rock bowl the next goal is to reach the saddle at the top and Northerly of the bowl. This is achieved by following the drainage, again using wide ledge system, weaknesses and zig, zagging up the wash. Close to the top is a large double billboard size wall that contain petroglyphs.

9. Saddle #1

Upon reaching the first Saddle, breathtaking views to the West open up in a Panorama of massive sandstone mountains. The West Temple is framed by East Temple on the left and Twin Brothers on the right looking down and across Spry Canyon. Back over your shoulder equally breathtaking views of the terrain you just covered.

10. Canyon Floor

Walking South along the Saddle, look for weakness in the slick rock for your decent to the Canyon Floor behind Twin Brothers. Follow a Zig Zagging pattern first on the South side of the dryfall, then working your way to the North side, several large Pine Trees offer good weakness and ledge systems to pick your way lower. I spotted several Cairns... More

11. Saddle #2

Soon after a nice slick rock sidewalk hike Saddle #2 is reached behind Twin Brothers. This prominent saddle (gentle to the South and hard, steep to the North) divides the flow of water.

12. Bouldering

For the next 1/2 mile, this steep, hard, boulder strewn decline becomes the norm as you pick your way down the wash. Staying to the right is bushwacking and sand, with good hand holds made from roots and limbs. Staying in the wash is bouldering climbs and stagnate pools, fallen trees and filler limbs. There is no easy way down, I went down on... More

13. Not soon enough

Not soon enough the canyon floor becomes easier to negotiate and almost abruptly the way opens up to a large slick rock clearing.

14. Cave

On the west side is a small wash covered in brush and trees. If you travel up this small wash there is small slot canyon that turns into a cave. Cool and moist even during the heat of summer it provides a cool reprieve before heading up Mountain of the Sun.

15. Ramp to Mountain of the Sun

From the slick rock clearing look South up the vegetated ridge, this is your direction of travel. Follow the slick rock backbone, staying high and to the South, some bushwacking through the trees and shrubs to Saddle #3 between Twin Brothers on the South and Mountain of the Sun on the North.

16. Across the Saddle higher

Work North back across the saddle and drainage until you are working your way higher up Mountain of the Sun. Choose your route with care, work your way up the drainage on the Southeast side until reaching a large, steep slab of slick rock with a small (3') buttress and fault weakness extending to a large pine tree. The fault had strong, sturdy... More

17. Large Buttress & Teaser view

Immediately to your left is another Large Buttress (25') and wash heading straight up the face. This scramble covers a lot of ground and is loose sand rock but fairly easy to negotiate. Near the top and to the right is a small Pine tree and a noticeable trail. Moving sideways across the scramble, stepping up and under the tree, you will be... More

18. Final Ramp & Scramble

Refreshed from the views along this portion of the trail, the last ramp becomes visible. There is a FALSE ramp that is straight in front of you with an EXTREME hazard down and through a sandy, slick, angled to a drop off trying to get to it. Instead look to your left, this is the direction of travel, up through an easy to climb, dirt ramp with... More

19. Summit

Carry a rock the final few steps and add to the pile. Sign the register in the metal container (special thanks to someone who took what appears to be the original register and had it laminated then returned it). The 360 degree views are spectacular, but the view into the Court of Patriarch's is everything the Tour announcer said it would be ... More

20. Stick with the Devil you know

For the return trip My advice is "Stick with the Devil you know" if using GPS, switch to backtrack mode and follow your exact route down. Many routes lead off the Mountain of the Sun, and it is easy to find yourself in situations you are not familiar with.

Picture: Friction slide down the last 20' of rappel. Not my most favorite thing... More