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Kolob Terrace Road: Guide to the Quietest Part of Zion

Kolob Terrace Road guide offers fantastic options for hiking, glamping, and camping in the quietest area of Zion National Park.
Kolob Terrace Road
Lara Farhadi | flickr.com

Kolob Terrace Road, also known as Kolob Reservoir Road, is a steep, scenic drive that cuts through the Zion National Park and splits it into two parts – Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyons.

It is the least visited portion of the park and its best-kept secret. This Kolob Terrace Road guide is everything you need if you want to escape the summer heat and Zion’s crowds.

Where is Kolob Terrace Road?

Kolob Terrace Road is in Zion National Park, southwestern Utah. It connects the town of Virgin on State Route 9 with Kolob Reservoir.

A few miles after the reservoir, the road changes its name to Kolob Road and will take you to State Route 14, near Cedar City.

If you are looking for a more adventurous option when approaching Zion National Park from the north or driving to Cedar City from Zion, this is it.

Why Take Kolob Terrace Road?

Zion National Park is one of the most-visited yet compact parks in the US. Hence, during the high season, it becomes overcrowded with visitors. Most people who visit Zion are looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of big cities. Instead, they are queuing to take the packed shuttle bus into the main canyon.

This is where the Kolob Terrace Road comes in. It is quiet and tranquil and allows to avoid the crowds of the main canyon and escape the summer heat.

The road is also a stunning route with unforgettable views of Zion National Park. You can drive it for its beauty and remoteness.

Apart from its scenic value and calmness, Kolob Terrace Road provides access to campgrounds, viewpoints, glamping, trails, and the reservoir. Also, you can take this route for an adventurous detour to or from Cedar City.

Related: 19 Top Things and Activities to Do in Zion National Park + FAQ

How Long is Kolob Terrace Road?

Kolob Terrace Road is approximately 25 miles (40 km) long. It takes about 1 hour to get from Virgin to Kolob Reservoir.

There isn’t much traffic on this route, but the bends and steep inclines will slow you down. Plus, it is a scenic drive; you will want to pull over and take in the views.

Is the Kolob Terrace Road Paved?

Kolob Terrace Road is paved with a tarmac all the way from Virgin to Kolob Reservoir. After which, it turns into a well-looked-after gravel road almost all the way to State Route 14.

If you are driving to Kolob Campground (see below) from Virgin, the road is 100% tarmac. However, getting to Lava Point Overlook or Lava Point Campground (see below) requires taking a 1.5 miles (2.4 km) gravel sidetrack.

Is Kolob Terrace Road Open?

Kolob Terrace Road is open all year, subject to road conditions. Because of the high elevation (8000 ft), the winter comes early to Kolob Terrace. The road may be closed as early as November and becomes snow-free in late April.

However, Zion National Park officials do their best to keep the road accessible and safe. In winter, the route is plowed up until 6,500 ft (1,980 m), about halfway to the reservoir.

For the most up-to-date information on the status and conditions of Kolob Terrace Road, see the NPS page.

Kolob Terrace Road Camping Options

Camping in Zion National Park. Guide to the Kolob Terrace Road.

Kolob Terrace Road provides access to some of the quieter campgrounds around Zion National Park. Here are a few options:

1. Lava Point Campground

Lava Point Campground is a small (six campsites) campground without amenities except for toilets. It is part of the Zion National Park; hence, you will need a backpacking permit to stay here. Apart from that, it is free to use and works on a first-come-first-served basis.

2. Kolob Campground

Kolob Campground is located at the Kolob Reservoir, right by the water. It has 21 campsites and can accommodate a few RVs. It is the perfect spot to cool down if you are tired of Zion’s heat, as the campground is located high in the mountains.

For more information, visit their website.

3. Wright’s Family Ranch

Wright’s Family Ranch is another option for camping near Kolob Terrace Road. The family has owned the ranch for six generations and runs a dispersed-style campground on their land.

This is an off-the-grid option with plenty of space and fantastic views. It suits self-sufficient campers with a taste for peace and quiet.

For more information, visit Wright’s Family website.

4. Free BLM Camping off Kolob Terrace Road

Free BLM Camping off Kolob Terrace Road is available at Lambs Knoll Climbing Area. Located just outside Zion National Park boundary, this site provides eight small campsites for tents.

There is no information about RV or van camping on the signs, but folks seem to camp in the large car park.

Glamping at Kolob Terrace Road

If you didn’t bring a tent or need a little more comfort to fall asleep, glamping is the way to go. Kolob Terrace Road offers access to a few gorgeous glamping spots:

1. Under Canvas Zion

Under Canvas Zion is the best glamping experience on Kolob Terrace Road, or maybe even in the whole Zion area.

Neatly tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Zion’s main canyon, Under Canvas Zion offers their guests to spend a quiet night in a luxurious canvas-walled tent.

These tents are large, comfortable, and modern. Guests get to enjoy the scenery and sounds of the wilderness from the comfort of their beds.

For more information, visit Under Canvas.

2. Zions Tiny Oasis

Zions Tiny Oasis is more than glamping. You are offered to stay in modern tiny houses specifically built to accommodate Zion’s guests.

If you ever wondered about the tiny home movement and sustainable living, this is your chance to try it.

Each tiny house comes with all the amenities a typical city home is expected to have. Shower, TV, WiFi, and even a washing machine with a dryer. All in the middle of the desert.

For more information, visit Zions Tiny Oasis.

3. Zion Wildflower Resort

Zion Wildflower Resort has a few options to offer to its guests. You can stay at canvas glamping or luxury bungalows, depending on your preferred comfort level and budget.

Amenities include bathhouses, activity areas, firepits, and free WiFi.

Also, the resort is conveniently located at the very beginning of the Kolob Terrace Road, by State Route 9.

Hikes and Trails Off Kolob Terrace Road

Kolob Terrace area

You can access several trails from Kolob Terrace Road, including the Subway – one of the popular routes in Zion. Most of the hikes here are out-and-back. However, it is possible to start at one trailhead, finish at the other, and then hitchhike back to your car.

1. West Rim Trail

West Rim Trail is one of the easier but lengthy trails in Zion National Park. It is 14.2 miles (22.9 km) long and connects the Kolob Terrace area with Zion Canyon. The trail is calm and tranquil, without crowds, and has breathtaking scenery.

Most backpackers take two days to complete this trail, stopping at the designated campsites on the route. However, experienced hikers with light packs can complete it in one day.

West Rim Trailhead is accessed from Kolob Terrace Road via Lava Point gravel sidetrack. You can hike this trail out and back or arrange a shuttle to complete the whole length of the course.

2. Hop Valley Trail

Hop Valley Trail is a sandy track that connects the Kolob Terrace area with the Kolob Canyons section. Remote, tranquil, and stunning, this trail is for solitude seekers and romantics. But be prepared to hike on the sand.

There are two ways to hike this trail from Kolob Terrace Road. The first way is 15 miles (24.1 km) out and back hike to Kolob Arch – one of the area’s main attractions. The second way is to hike 13 miles (21 km) to Lee Pass Trailhead on the Kolob Canyons Road and arrange a shuttle.

3. The Subway

The Subway is a legendary slot canyon that isn’t connected to trails. Instead, it requires hiking through the wilderness and route finding. There are two ways to explore the Subway, and both require permits.

The first is a top-down way that starts at the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead on Kolob Terrace Road and finishes at Left Fork Trailhead. It is a technical canyoneering route that needs ropes, harnesses, rappelling, route-finding skills, and swimming in cold water.

The second option is a bottom-up way which starts at the Left Fork Trailhead on Kolob Terrace Road. This 9 miles (14.5 km) route isn’t as technical as the top-down way but still requires route finding, scrambling over boulders, and swimming in cold water.

4. Wildcat Canyon Trail

Wildcat Canyon Trail is a relatively easy hike. Most people enjoy this area for its remoteness and stunning views. Also, a part of this route is passing through woodlands so you can get some shade during the summer. There are a few ways you can hike this trail.

The first way is an out and back hike to Northgate Peaks which incorporates Northgate Peaks Trail. It is a 4.2 miles (6.8 km) return route that takes you to the overlook with breathtaking views of rugged Zion terrain.

The second way is to take the whole length of the trail from Wildcat Canyon Trailhead to West Rim Trailhead. It is a 4.9 mile (7.9 km) route with some gentle accents. Most people will find it easy. To take this option requires a second car, shuttle arrangement, or hitchhiking down the Kolob Terrace Road back to the start.

5. Connector Trail

Connector Trail is frequently overlooked, but it is a nice 2-hour hike through the pine forest. It runs from Hop Valley Trailhead to Wildcat Canyon Trailhead on the Kolob Terrace Road and is about 5.1 miles (8.2 km) long.

The best thing about this trail is that it can be incorporated into other hikes in the area. For example, you can take it as a long way to Northgate Peaks overlook or extend your Wildcat Canyon hike.

The Kolob Terrace area has many hiking options; most are crowd-free and relatively flat compared to Zion Canyon. For more information and the map of the Kolob Terrace Road hiking area, visit this page.

Related: 19 Top Things and Activities to Do in Zion National Park + FAQ

Other Things to Do on Kolob Terrace Road

Kolob Reservoir off Kolob Terrace Road
Photo: Tracey Adams / CC BY 2.0

1. Visit Kolob Reservoir

Kolob Reservoir is an artificial lake at an elevation of 8160 ft (2500 m). It is an attraction of its own, and you can spend a whole day here relaxing after hiking in Zion. Sunbathing, swimming and canoeing are just some of the things to do.

However, one of the main activities you can do at the reservoir is fishing. You can catch Rainbow and Cutthroat trout here. But be mindful of regulations though, the fishing restrictions are in place.

2. Climbing and Canyoneering at Lambs Knoll BLM Site

Lambs Knoll is an area just outside Zion National Park. It is frequently described as a hidden gem of the Zion area.

Rock formations here allow for multiple activities like climbing, canyoneering, bouldering, hiking, and exploring. And the best part is because Lambs Knoll is located on public land, the access is free of charge.

Unlike the sandstone walls of Zion Canyon, the area is beginner-friendly for climbers. Many companies arrange introductory climbing and canyoneering tours to Lambs Knoll. For example, check out Red Desert Adventure.

In addition to activities, you can spend a night here at a free campsite. Although small (just eight sites for small tents), it provides a break from the costly campgrounds in the area.

Final Thoughts

Kolob Terrace Road provides access to the quietest area of Zion National Park. This part is breathtakingly beautiful, and the scenic drive itself is worth your time.

Kolob Terrace Road area has it all. You can relax by the lake; escape the summer heat high in the mountains; hike numerous trails; climb and explore canyons at Lambs Knoll. You can stay in a free campsite or splash out on once-in-a-lifetime glamping under the stars. But most importantly, you can find peace and solitude here.

If you’re planning a trip to Zion National Park, we have a guide just for you.

Also, get some motivation with our Funny and Inspirational Hiking Quotes.

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