Zion National Park Traverse

May 2009 A classic ultrarun: 48 spectacular miles across the Park from the East Rim Trailhead to Lee Pass. 9 hours, 27 minutes.

The first time I visited Zion National Park was in 1993, during a Skurka family summer vacation out West. The unquestionable highlight of our stay there was a short day-hike up the Narrows, the towering walls and flash flood potential of which intrigued me to say the least. Sadly, and almost strangely, since that family vacation I had never been back to Zion despite my extensive travels around the West. So I jumped at the opportunity to join a group of 18 Boulderites—i.e., residents of the Republic of Boulder, CO—who were heading out there in early-May 2009 in order to explore some nearby canyons and to run 48 miles across the park.

The run was inspired by Jared Campbell and Karl Metzler, who did this route (for the first time ever as a trail run, as far as I know) in April 2008. Their rave reviews about the route and the Boulder group’s growing fatigue with the most popular adventure run in the Southwest, the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, were enough of an incentive to give it a shot. (Later I learned that Jared and Karl were not actually the first ones to run the route—according to Rich McDonald it’s been run since the mid-1990’s.)

I would describe this run—which can also be done as a long day-hike or as a multi-day backpacking trip—as “highly recommended.” Just being in Zion alone is fantastic: when you see its jagged peaks, impassable cliff bands, expansive sandstone slabs, beautiful hanging gardens, lush riparian zones, and ample wildlife (particularly birds), you’ll understand why Zion was designated one our first National Parks. Running across the park, I realize, is not for everybody, but it is an effective way of seeing a huge area in a short period of time while also getting in a great workout.

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