Upper Pine Creek is a large north-south drainage system that crosses under SR9 0.4 miles east of the east end of the Main Zion Tunnel on SR9. This creek runs north from the road for about 1.5 miles through beautiful country.
This is a beautiful hike along an open stream bed for 0.6 miles, then up and along a section of slickrock, and then into an upper section of stream bed.
On March 17, 2017 we returned to this drainage and it has completely changed. Most of the sand has been washed out and the bulk of the trail is rock strewn. Also many trees have been washed into the drainage during a flood. Also part way along there was a significant rock fall which has brought a lot of rock down into the drainage at one location.
Overall rating = moderate
Distance: 3.0 miles – easy
Elevation gain: ~800 feet – moderate
Terrain: Sandy wash plus slickrock – easy
Exposure: Flat wash plus steep slickrock ascent – moderate
To see the trail rating system used here see Trail Rating System
If coming from the west take SR9 through Springdale, Utah, into Zion National Park. Turn right on SR9 at the Canyon Junction and take the switchbacks up and through the Main Zion Tunnel. From the Main Tunnel exit travel 0.4 miles to Pine Creek and park on the north side of SR9.
If coming from the east turn onto SR9 at the Mount Carmel Junction and drive into Zion National Park. From the entrance gate drive 5.2 miles to Pine Creek and park on the north side of SR9. This location is ~0.8 miles after you exit the small tunnel on SR9.
Scramble down the path on the north side of SR9 into the Upper Pine Creek watercourse.
The first 0.6 miles is fairly easy walking along an open sandy streambed. Shortly before the lower drainage ends in a boulder field, there is a 150 foot ascent up fairly steep slickrock on the west side of the Creek. This ascent requires shoes with good rock traction, and you may want to use a section of rope for those less sure of their footing. We tied a 100 foot section of rope to a large tree at the top of the steepest section.
The route continues north along open slickrock above the canyon floor for some distance and enters an upper streambed. From the end of this streambed you continue on and upwards until finally blocked by thick brush.
The upper section has beautiful views of the surrounding area including Deertrap Mountain directly to the north.
Upon our return to SR9 we walked through the drainage tunnel under SR9 and entered the Lower Pine Creek drainage. At this point Clear Creek empties into Pine Creek from the east, and Lower Pine Creek continues downhill and west through a long section of slot canyon. This section becomes narrower and wetter before opening out into a wider section just below the parking lot at the Main Zion Tunnel entrance. Pine Creek then turns north under SR9 at the entrance to the Main Zion Tunnel. From here, Pine Creek continues a few hundred yards to a section of technical slot canyon leading to the valley floor. This section requires a permit. Eventually Pine Creek empties into the Virgin River.