One of the things I love most about Southern Utah and Northern Arizona is the full range of lands available for exploration. While the National Parks and Monuments have trails that are well maintained and marketed, BLM and Forest Service lands tend to be a little more rugged and less traveled. Eagle Crags is one of the latter examples. It lies on BLM land and is one of the access points to the Canaan Mountain Wilderness Area. This hike offers a broader view of many of the beautiful features of Zion National Park, alongside other land features that are privately owned. Unfortunately, those areas cannot be visited, but their beauty can be taken in on this hike.
To reach the trailhead, take SR9 to Rockville, Utah, and turn onto Bridge Road. Cross the bridge and continue until the paved road takes a sharp right. Keep going straight on the dirt road which will wind up the side of a large mesa. Be mindful of your speed and where you are going. The road cuts past private property, and high visitation can lead to frustration for the locals. The Eagle Crags trailhead requires a high clearance vehicle to reach and may be inaccessible after weather events. Be sure to come prepared with plenty of water and good hiking shoes. During summer months, the trek can become unbearably hot due to the lack of shade. Be sure to go early morning or evening during that time of year. Spring and fall are the ideal time of year to embark on this adventure.
The trailhead is clearly marked with a parking area and a large map of the terrain. The trail heads in a north-eastern direction and is well defined. The Eagle Crags are the prominent jagged rock formations at the point of the mountain. The beginning portion of the hike consists of approximately two miles of rocky desert landscape. As you continue down the path, you will notice a variety of desert plants including yucca, juniper, shrub oak, rabbit brush, prickly pear, Mormon tea, and more. It is not uncommon to see signs of animals as well. Jackrabbits, road runners, snakes, a variety of lizards and birds, and even coyotes and mountain lions inhabit the area. I spotted a coyote on one early morning hike and a rattlesnake on another midday excursion. Neither of them was looking for trouble, just be mindful.
There is a moderate upward slope for most of the hike, until the end where the trail becomes steeper and begins to switchback closer to the crags and multiple lookout spots. As you reach the top, you will see the main canyon of Zion National Park, Parunuweap Canyon and the East Fork of the Virgin River, and a beautiful ranch with a large reservoir. The trail gradually wraps around the east side of the crags and will eventually become less worn. While there are routes up onto Canaan which can be used to traverse the mountain and down through Water Canyon, that should only be undertaken with great care as it is an overnight trip. Turn around whenever you feel comfortable. Typically, the hike will be around five miles round trip and can take anywhere from two to five hours depending on your desired speed.
Upon completion of the hike, there are numerous restaurants and watering holes in Springdale. If you do this in the summer months, there is little chance that you will not want a bit of food and drink. Kings Landing has my vote for the best burger in Southern Utah. Zion Canyon Brewing Company makes terrific beers, and their brewpub is always a welcome stop after a long hike in the area. If you are heading back toward Hurricane, River Rock Brewing Company serves perhaps the best food and coffee in the area. Their pizza is excellent. They have Zion Canyon brews on tap as well.