Checkerboard Mesa (P.O.I.)

Trip Date: 9/1/2017

Location: Zion National Park

Permit/Pass: Private Vehicle: $30. Valid for 7 days. Admits private, non-commercial vehicle (15 passenger capacity or less) and all occupants to Zion National Park, including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas. Motorcycle: $25. Valid for 7 days. Admits one non-commercial motorcycle to Zion National Park, including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas. Per Person: $15. Valid for 7 days. 

Trail maps: NPSmap 

Directions: From Interstate 15 just north of the town of St. George take Utah Highway 9 east toward Hurricane (follow the signs for Zion National Park). After a bit over 12 miles, and passing through Hurricane, you reach a junction with Hwy. 17 in La Verkin where you turn right to continue on Hwy. 9 East. Continue for about 20.5 miles to, and through, the town of Springdale (just outside of the park) and to the park's entrance kiosks. Once through the kiosks continue north on Hwy. 9 for about a mile and a half to where the road turns east and crosses the Virgin River (careful on this bridge, it is often crowded with photographers). From here you head up into the canyon to the east on some long switchbacks until you reach the mile long Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Just after you clear the east end of the tunnel you begin a series of twists and turns that, after a bit over eleven miles from the entrance kiosks, brings you to a left turn into the parking and viewing area for Checkerboard Mesa.

Synopsis: Checkerboard Mesa is a wonderland of possible on and off-trail experiences. But like many high-desert areas, there is plenty of opportunity to get lost. However, for those who are good with a compass and a map, confident in their orienteering skills, and enticed by the spectacular colors and formations of these amazing surroundings, even a short drive through this area will be hard to accomplish without pulling off the road, picking a canyon, and heading out.

Trail sequence: off-trail

Type: Out and back

Distance: 0.7 miles

Elevation: Min. - 5576', Max. - 5712'


Rating: Easy (factors: heat, rocky terrain, route-finding)

Notes: Our ramble described in this guide was short and off-trail, but there are established trails in the area, and the beauty of Checkerboard Mesa has ensured we'll investigate those next time.

Track: Checkerboard Mesa off-trail - Zion NP: AllTrails, GaiaGPS

Turn by Turn:

  -- One can strike out in virtually any direction here, but we were entranced by the big, crosshatched promontory directly south of the parking area, so we began our impromptu hike by following a use trail along the west side of the road.

  -- As we came to a bend where the road veer to the west we crossed and worked our way up the east side of the ridge,  gradually climbing over slickrock and sand and eventually coming to a dead-end. At this point we turned back toward the road and, for reasons of time constraints, headed back to our car.

  -- As we neared the road we spotted a culvert that seemed to allow access to the wash on the other side of the road. We headed for it and ducked under the pavement, coming out in a beautiful striped red-rock rockfall that intersected with a north-south wash.

  -- We turned right (north) and followed the wash the short distance back to the parking area, climbing up the bank toward the lot's north end, then switching back to the south corner.

Photos: Flickr