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Gifford Peak - Zion National Park

Technical summit hike into seldom explored and rarely seen parts of East Zion
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 5.2 miles
Duration: Full day

Overview:  Existing behind the skyline of The Watchman, G2 and Bridge Mountain; hidden behind the sandstone ridges of Gifford Canyon, is a no... 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. Parking and Trailhead

Heading east on hwy-9 immediately as you emerge from the long 1.1 mile Zion Tunnel is a small parking lot and restroom facility on the right hand side. This is the parking lot for the Zion Overlook trail and also holds the only restroom facilities on this side of the park. If this parking lot is full, use the overflow parking lot further down the ... More

2. Hiking Gifford Canyon

Gifford Canyon is a common hiking area for people interested in a little more than an established trail. The wash is wide, with nice slickrock falls and fallen trees.

3. Dryfall and exit from Gifford Canyon Junction

Walk along Gifford Canyon until you find a very large sandy area below a massive dryfall that enters the canyon from a shear drop off on the East side (about 3/4 mile). Walk toward the solid red sandstone wall and continue up the creek bed (note: there is a wash that enters on your right hand side, at this sandy area, avoid this wash and stay with... More

4. Exit from Gifford Canyon

Hiking up this new wash for a short distance you will be greeted with a buttress wall about 30 feet high. Continue to follow the stream bed until you emerge onto a hillside of slickrock. Sparse trees and bushes dot the hillside. Toward the skyline to your right is a very prominent cliff and to your left is a series of cliff faces with pine trees... More

5. Shelf System Scramble

Continue to work your way higher until you reach the cliff and shelf system on the South side of the hillside. If you have really good eyes, you can spot a very large solid white boulder sitting on the red slickrock near a pine tree. This serves as an entry marker for the shelf system scramble. From here look for the wash running off to your left,... More

6. Sandstone Bowl

Upon entering the sandstone bowl avoid the temptation of hiking down into the bowl. Instead work your way along the inside rim, where the red sandstone meets the white rock creating a nice walkway. Once inside the bowl pick the easiest route to the top. The closer you are to the path the water takes the easier it will be to climb up and out (about... More

7. Cryptobiotic Crust

Cryptobiotic crust can be found in this area, it is a dark, crusty-looking soil. Please do not step on it, it is alive and is a very important ecological base for desert environments.

8. Plateau

A nice walk awaits you upon reaching the Plateau. Head West. Looking back over your shoulder to the east you will see Twin Hoodoo Peak on your Right and Peak 6310 on your left (These are sometimes identified as Jenny Peak and Jenny's nipples). Only 1/4 mile separates the two peaks. The saddle between the two is part of the Parunuweap Pass hike. To... More

9. Entrance to Gifford Ridge Line

Continuing down into the wash between Gifford Peak and the plateau. A small shelf system accented with a pine tree is noted as the entry onto Gifford Peaks north face ridge line.

Remember this entry / exit point. It is easy to miss on the way down.

10. North Face Ridge Line

The ridge line is class 3 Zion scramble. Continue to use the shelf systems, rock weakness and vegetative lines to make the ascent. A game trail is evident and leads into a gully further west on the north face.

Scramble up the wash and around a dead Ponderosa pine tree. The wash narrows into a slice of rock, a class 4 shelf system presents... More

11. East to South side traverse

Moving easy now the class 2 traverse leads around to the east side, and continues on to the south side of Gifford Peak. Beautiful views of the smooth slickrock canyon can be seen between Gifford and Hepworth Peak. Avoid the first line up and continue working around the face toward a gully. The gully rises with a buttress to a saddle. The saddle... More

12. Crux

The crux is a 30' foot class 5.2 face with a dead log leaning against it. Protection would be difficult to place and the holds are good and evenly spaced, I found it convenient to free this section and rappel from a strong bush on the descent.

13. Summit of Gifford Peak

From the crux the summit is class 2 scramble. I found a glass jar with two entries surrounded by a few rocks at the summit. I replaced some of the rocks and found a nice large flat rock to cover the jar, so you might have to look carefully to find the summit registration. Like most summits in Zion, the views in all directions are spectacular... More