Sand Bench TrailZion Canyon National Park, Ut
Amazing Views, Geological Wonders, and Path Less Traveled
Length: 7.6 mi
Elevation Gain: 466 ft
Approximate Hiking Time: 4-5 hr
Features: Amazing Views
Nearest Town: Springdale, Ut
Sand Bench Trail offers some of the best views of Zion National Park’s west side from up above. As a trail less traveled you’ll also get some time to immerse yourself in nature.
Try one of the horse excursions or start at the Court of the Patriarchs trailhead if you’re not up for walking the 7.6 miles round trip from the traditional trail start point at the Emerald Pools,
- Trail Condition 90% 90%
- Usage 80% 80%
- Trail Head Easy to Find 100% 100%
- Kid Friendly 50% 50%
1. Amazing Landscape Views
Views abound of Zion Canyon, with overlooks to the west and east as you hike along the trail.
2. Horse Tour Excursions
Try one of the horse tour excursions if you want to check out the amazing views this hike has to offer, but don’t feel like hiking the whole trail.
3. A Path Less Traveled
The Sand Bench Trail is one of the less traveled hikes in Zion Canyon National Park. You may have stretches of time where you don’t see anyone else on the trail. Ahhh nature!
Start the trail at the Emerald Pools parking area or Zion Lodge, stop 5 on the shuttle for the traditional trailhead start.
Otherwise, you can take the trail from Court of the Patriarchs, stop 4 on the shuttle. This trailhead takes the shorter trail to the loop.
From the Emerald Pools parking area, cross the bridge and turn left. Follow the trail as it runs along the Virgin River keeping an eye out for wildlife. Less people = more chance to see some animals on or near the trail! On our hike we saw wild turkeys and deer.
The trail is pretty easy for the first 1.5 miles until you reach the loop. There is one small water crossing if you are doing this hike in the late winter/early spring as the snow is melting, otherwise, the trail is sandy/hard pack.
At the beginning of the loop we turned right. Though is hindsight turning left and taking the loop clockwise would have offered slightly better views. We kept finding we had to turn around to take it all in.
From the start of the loop the trail almost immediately starts to climb and continues to do so for about 430 ft to the top of the first upward section. Take time to look backwards as you climb through this section for amazing views down the valley.
The trail then drops as you near the end of the bench. There are amazing views facing the west side of the park. Here you’ll also notice that you’ve almost walked back to the turn off for Zion Canyon Scenic Drive!
Once you are done soaking up the view, it’s back up another couple hundred feet to the top of the bench before returning to the beginning of the loop. Follow the trail back to Zion Lodge or take the side trail to Court of the Patriarchs. If the shuttle is running it can shorten the hike.
Note: If you are starting this hike from Court of the Patriarchs, follow the service road from the shuttle area towards Sand Bench Trail. It will eventually turn into Sand Bench Trail.
Why is this hike rated hard?
While the trail has an elevation gain of only about 466 ft, most of the walking is done on a dirt/sandy surface that can be challenging. Especially as it’s 7.6 miles long with little to no shade.
More Hikes to Choose From
Check out this and more hikes in and around Zion Canyon National Park and Springdale.
Length: 3.2 mi
Elevation Gain: 640 ft
The Watchman Trail offers views of Zion Canyon, Springdale, and the surrounding area for those who reach the top.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Length: 1.2 – 3.4 mi
Elevation Gain: 70 to 620 ft
Emerald Pools is a desert oasis tucked into Zion Canyon. There are 3 pools: lower, middle, and upper. Visit one, two or all three!