Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Checkerboard Arch - Zion National Park - 9/5/13

Checkerboard Arch from View Point

South Side of Checkerboard Mesa

Checkerboard Arch Trail on South Side of Checkerboard Mesa

Climbing Around Wash Obstacle
 Ten advanced hikers arrived in Springdale for the first hike of the day to Checkerboard Arch. Although this hike is suggested to be a moderate hike, we knew that it would have some scrambling and route finding within its 5.5 miles. We were ready with GPS and maps but, as it turned out, the trail was not very difficult for today's group. We drove over to the east side of Zion National Park and parked in a turnout on Highway 9 between Checkerboard Mesa and Quilt Mountain.

Quilt Mountain on Left
 We found a trail that led from the road to the wash that held several pools filled with water. They have been having a lot of rain here lately. The wash quickly turned into a brushy rocky mess but there were trails that climbed up to the left to take hikers around obstacles. We are used to this sort of hiking so we had no problem finding our way up the wash with several variations.

Hiking Through the Wash Between Checkerboard Mesa & Quilt Mountain
 We could see the saddle coming from about a quarter mile away and when we got to its climb, we were ready. The sandy footing was somewhat wet which helped tremendously in our steep climb to the saddle summit.

View of Wash from Saddle

Checkerboard Mesa on Left
 We took a break at the top. The heat and humidity were both very high. Our views of the wash from where we came on one side and of the Parunuweap Canyon in the distance on the other side were very satisfying. We made a shorter descent on the other side of the saddle following a very clear trail. The good trail led us to the left around the south end of Checkerboard Mesa. (There is also a very feint trail that leads straight to the East Fork Virgin River.)

South Side of Quilt Mountain

 The trail was now in a sandy desert and slickrock area. Checkerboard Mesa's quilted sandstone rose steeply up to our left as seen in the second photo of this entry. We crossed the desert and slickrock with three sandstone mountains coming into view on the other side. As we approached the wash area between Checkerboard Mesa and the other three mountains, we could see the Checkerboard Arch on the side of the middle mountain of the three. It was located high up on its side as seen in the first photo of this entry.

Beginning of Circle Around Checkerboard Mesa
This section of the trail was in a wide open setting.

Arch is Found on the Side of Middle Mtn to Right

Taking a Break in the Shade
 Since this group of hikers likes to explore, there was some discussion about hiking up to the arch or even finishing the hike as a loop around the Mesa. The loop around the Mesa requires a very steep climb up and over a saddle that is almost as high up as the summit. And, it is a very difficult negotiation. Same with the Arch. Considering the heat of the day, we decided to stick together and do the hike as the planned out and back.

South Side of Checkerboard Mesa & Quilt Mountain
After having hiked up the wash a little ways, we stopped in some shade and had our snack break. As you can see in the photo, we were enjoying our shade and view! Our return along the south side of the Mesa retraced our steps over the slickrock and sand. The views were just as beautiful going this direction as they were going the other way.

Hiking Back to West Side of Checkerboard Mesa

Hiking Up to Saddle on South Side

Scrambling Down the Wash Trail
We separated a little as we climbed up to the saddle summit again. We were thankful that this side of the steep saddle did not gain as much elevation. Another break was taken at the top. The heat of the day had descended but the rest of the hike was in the deep wash where shade was abundant. First, we had to go down the long side of the saddle in the sun and sand. There is a deep trench that the trail has made here and the photo to the left shows how the descent ends. From there, we negotiated the brushy and rocky wash one more time and came out at the pools of water where we started.

Brush in the Wash
The total elevation gain for this hike is around 1000 feet over the 5.5 miles. It is a beautiful hike and is definitely good to do again.

Hiking Around Wash Pool

Finishing Hike Among Filled Pools

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