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South Guardian Angel - Kolob Terrace

Sierra Clubs "desert classic peak" and part of the "top one-hundred desert peaks".
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 11.4 miles
Duration: Full day

Overview :  Standing watch as guardians over the Kolob Terrace section of Zion National Park, North and South Guardian Angels can be seen from the... more »

Tips:  Backcountry Route! Safely hiking backcountry routes depend on your own good judgment, adequate preparation, and constant attention to ... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Trailhead, Parking, and Restrooms

Heading toward Zion National park on Hwy-9, turn north on the Kolob Reservoir road, located on the east side of Virgin, Utah. The road is narrow, but paved.

Stop at the Northfork trailhead parking lot (this parking lot is the end of The Subway hike and often hikers are attempting to set up a shuttle system by dropping off their car at the bottom ... More

2. Maintained Trail

A single path leads east, information board, and trash cans mark the spot. The hiking is level class 1 with a maintained easy trail.

3. Junction with Wildcat Canyon Trail

The path merges with the Hop Valley trail and continues east. Another junction soon separates Hop Valley trail and The Subway Trail - Northgate Trail again by turning south.

4. Junction between The Subway and Northgate Peaks

The Subway Trail and Northgate Trail junction. The Subway Trail continues east dropping down into the canyon, while the Northgate Trail continues south along the plateau.

Stay on Northgate Trail.

5. Alpine Hiking

Mostly shaded by Ponderosa Pine trees, the wide path meanders toward large slickrock caps that are starting to make an appearance between the trees.

6. Lava Point

The Lava Point marks the end of the maintained trail. South is The North Guardian Angel framed by Northgate Peaks on both the East and West side

7. Leaving Maintained Trail for Backcountry Route

Drop off the lava point to the left (east) follow the well worn path to the base of Northgate Peak East. The path is well marked, class 2 backcountry route.

Follow the wash and faint path to the south. A fair amount of bushwacking is needed as the trail crosses over the wash and up along the soft dirt hillside of Northgate Peak East. Dropping... More

8. Plateau Hiking

Cross the vegetative plateau (manzanita and scrub oak) aiming for the small rise just east of North Guardian Angel.

From this vantage point the full splendor of South Guardian Angel fills the horizon.

9. Slickrock Bowl and Ridge Line

Begin the long descent into the Left Fork of North Creek by crossing over on the hikers right of the small sandstone caps and into the minor slickrock bowl. Move to hikers left (east) following the plentiful shelf systems and descending at the same time, soon the form of a ridge line is noted.

Once on the ridge line continue to descend,... More

10. Route finding skills required

Frequent cairns mark the steep path that drops into the Subway, but good route finding skills are still required. The path crosses 2 - 3 different washes on it's descent. If you travel very far without seeing a cairn, backtrack and look a full 360 degrees. The path often moves back along a shelf system before dropping into another wash.

... More

11. Left Fork of North Creek (the Subway)

The river bottom is peaceful and quiet. Refill water supply (filter and purify).

12. Left Fork Arch

Directly across the stream bed a sandy wash enters the Subway. A well worn trail traverses up the sandy hillside (30') to Left Fork Arch. This jug handle shaped arch makes a nice photo opportunity.

13. 15' Crux ranked 5.4

To the hikers left of Left Fork Arch, proceed up the wash about 50'. A slab leads to a boulder problem. This short 15' class 5.4 move right leads above the boulder and becomes wash class 3 scramble. A tree above the boulder has webbing for belay and rappelling on the descent.

Note: a class 3 work-around can be found in the next gully to the... More

14. Wash scramble to saddle

Above the boulder problem, scramble up the wash to a junction. Take the left branch which contains a chock-stone. Climb up and around, or under and proceed to the next obstacle. A short 4' face, once above follow the well worn switchback path to the saddle.

15. Saddle and long southerly wash

The saddle marks the end of the climb out of Left Fork of North Creek. Follow the faint trail into the next wash and proceed in a north-northeastern direction up the wash. Skirt the ridge line to the north and drop into the next wash east.

Follow this long wash in a southerly direction about .75 - 1 mile. A large wash enters about the .5 mile ... More

16. Slickrock begins

The sandy wash ends fairly abruptly, climb up the sandy rise at the end and follow the faint trail around the ridge passing through scrub oak and Ponderosa pine trees. You will begin to notice a very large wash to the east falling away as you climb.

Head toward the sandstone ridges and the obvious gap. The white tip of South Guardian Angel is... More

17. Slickrock Bowls to Saddle

The slickrock bowls are class 3 scramble, good shelf systems allow for access.  Be sure to look behind you at the changing landscape, several entrance points exist and you don't want to drop all the way to the bottom of the wash to exit. 

Directly in the center near the top of the steepest bowl is a giant individual hoodoo. Proceed to... More

18. South Guardian Angel Ridgeline

Turn south, and begin the long beautiful ascent up South Guardian Angel.  The travel is class 2 - 3.  Once the sandstone turns white there are several class 3+ areas.  None I would consider class 4, plenty of shelf systems allow for good, solid footing. 

19. High Summit

The ridge line gives way to the high summit, continue south skirting the several hoodoos that dot the summit area.  A short scramble behind a pine tree and up to the final hoodoo is class 3+.  Drop low and horizontal to the ledge system will keep the traverse under class 4. 

20. South Guardian Angel Summit

Scramble up the summit hoodoo of South Guardian Angel.  No summit cairn exists, a small pile of rocks protect the summit registration. 

21. Return scramble

The return trip is long and tedious. Use caution at the crux (POI #13) setting up the rappel. Be sure to check water supplies and top off reserves at the Subway. Verify headlamp and GPS in good working order before it gets dark.