Northgate Peaks Trail Overlook on Kolob Terrace
Kolob Terrace, also known as Kolob Plateau, is a less-visited section of Zion and is accessible via the Kolob Terrace Road, just North of the town of Virgin, Utah. The drive is as wonderous as Zions more famous car routes and provides a nice sample of what this portion of the park has to offer. Vermillion hoodoos and jagged peaks rise up fields of green. Kolob Terrace is home to one of the most popular backpacking canyons in Zion: the Left Fork of North Creek, lovingly called “the Subway” by locals and frequent visitors. But we are not here for the Subway, that requires a backcountry permit and its waiting list is usually nearly full 3 months in advance. We are here for the Northgate Peaks Trail. The total length of the trail includes Wildcat Canyon Trailhead, which has a very easy to spot parking area 15 miles up on Kolob Terrace Road. Total length is 4 miles but on easy, near-level terrain. It took us about 3 hours, but it could go faster for those who don’t ogle at tall pinion pine trees like I do.
I love Northgate Peaks Trail and my inner plant-geek is giddy. There were portions of open fields, dotted with white frilly Southwestern bitterroot flowers, sandwiched between a few bleach-white sandstone formations in the distance. We crossed two snow-melt streams which trickled and bubbled in tranquil tones. I spied some bright yellow Sagebrush Buttercups pushing up between pine needles and moss. We passed a pond of snowmelt with calm waters reflecting tall pinion pines. As we near the view point the ground turns sandy and rocky, and the trail is saddled by Manzanita in full flower display on either side, some buzzing loudly with bees. The trees clear to reveal piles of volcanic boulders at the end of the trail. I climb to the edge, carefully avoiding delicate pink Mountain phlox fowers as I go. This is my reward, my slice of happy at nearly 7,000 feet: blue sky and sandstone peaks of Zion National Park.