Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Wildcat Canyon (& Northgate Peaks Overlook) - Zion National Park - 5/12/16

Northgate Peaks Overlook

Wildcat Canyon

Zion from Lava Point Overlook

Hiking Down Barneys Trail
 On Thursday, the long awaited hike on the Wildcat Canyon Trail was on the roster. Since it is located in a wilderness area of Zion National Park, we were required to have only twelve hikers on the trail on one day. A permit was not required since we were only day hiking. Therefore, the key exchange hike going from point to point was divided into two groups of six hikers. The writer was lucky enough to begin at the top and hike down. We still had a small amount of elevation gain but not as much as the group that began at the bottom. BTW, our group passed a plainclothes ranger as we hiked. He may have been counting.

Finally, the Trailhead - 1.25 Miles into Hike
 Since the West Rim Road was still closed for the end of ice melt season, we parked at the Lava Point Overlook to begin. Lava Point Road is found exactly at the large brown sign around 20 miles up Kolob Terrace Road.

Antique Farming Implement
 The bottom trailhead is located at around the 15.5 mile marker at the point of the second road switchback. We had stopped there for the restroom before going on up.

Starting Down the Trail

Nice Trail
 So, we found Barneys Trail even though it did not have a sign at the overlook, and descended the somewhat steep small trail that led to the West Rim Road below. Next, we descended the road until we came to the West Rim / Wildcat Canyon Trailhead on the right. As we passed through the blooming manzanita bushes, we noted an old rusted farming implement on the side of the trail. The trail was well worn and we had no problems following it the whole day. The trail soon curved around to the right and we got our first view of Wildcat Canyon on our left.

Wildcat Canyon View
 We had barely gotten 2.5 miles into the hike when we met up with the jackrabbit group of six who had started at the bottom trailhead! As it turned out, they had neglected to hike the two mile out and back overlook of Northgate Peaks.

Lava Point Upper Left
 At any rate, keys were exchanged and everyone went on their way. Unfortunately, their group had to do a bit of climbing at the end of their hike to go up Barneys Trail to the cars.

Break in the Shade

Pond on Trail
 We hiked through quite a bit of mud ... or rather, found our way around it most of the time. The trail was probably covered with snow only one week previous. But, the distant view of Wildcat Canyon off to our left offered some reward. We passed three springs total in this area located very near the trail. As we neared the top of our little ascent, we found shade for a late morning snack break. We were still waiting for the Wildcat Canyon Trail to "Wow" us.

Hiking through the Field
 We passed a small clear pond on the left side of the trail then came to a segment of trail that passed through a grassy field area.

Distant View of Northgate Peaks
 Off to our left, we got a distant view of Zion with nearer white sandstone peaks. We learned later that these were the Northgate Peaks.

Hiking through the Pine Grove

Approaching Northgate Peaks Overlook
 After the grassy field came the pine grove. There was a lot of shade on this hike even though the weather this day was perfect. Flowers were blooming all about and the sky was a cool blue. At 6 miles into the hike from the top, we came to the Northgate Peaks Trail junction. This is also the Subway Trailhead. We turned left and began a nondescript one mile hike out to the end of the overlook by taking the right fork away from the Subway. Much to our surprise, the overlook was definitely the best part of the whole hike! We were duly "Wowed!"

Horse and Riders Nearby
 We arrived at the end of the bench we were hiking and were faced with a near view of three white sandstone peaks at the front and two sides. We rested on the lava rocks and took several photos.

Northgate Peak East
 While we were here, some cowboys came up to take our group photo. They had ridden in on horses that were tied up on the knoll above us. The setting was Clint Eastwood-ish!

North Guardian Angel (L) / Northgate Peak West (R)

North Guardian Angel Peak
 After the overlook, we returned to the main trail and turned left. With only one mile left to the bottom trailhead, we were ready for a rest. As we neared the cars, one of the hikers from the other group met us. They had finished their hike about an hour before us and two of them were still hanging around. This was a very pleasant hike in the wilderness. Although the regular Zion views were few, it was a nice way to decompress into our Zion adventure.

9 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain

Six Hikers at Overlook

Subway Trailhead

Balancing Bridge

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