Roof Peak & Hepworth via Gifford Canyon Zion

  • Updated: November 24, 2018
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

November 24th, 2018
Roof Peak (6,553')
Hepworth (6,548')
7 miles, 2,600'

I hike a fair amount. Some would even venture to categorize it as "a lot"  So you would think that after 10 ish years of this I'd be fairly well adapted and basic hikes would, in general, go smoothly. And you would, of course, be completely incorrect.

It seems like there's always some new sort of issue cropping up so it shouldn't have been a huge surprise when I woke up and made the long fridged stroll to the campsite bathroom only to realize I was having a rather major chaffing issue that was going to make any hiking rather unpleasant.

But hey, it's a Matt trip, it's freezing, and things go a little wrong. Life as usual!

Kristen and I talked over our options and decided that the only one that really made sense was to drive all the way back across the park to Springdale (again), pick up some chafe powder at the market, and then drive all the way back to the eastern end of the tunnel hopefully still early enough to get one of the highly contested parking spots just outside the tunnel.

We did the drive early only to find out that the market doesn't open until 8 am. Fortunately there's a rather nice little coffee shop called Perks located in that same center so we happily dumped out the remains of our crappy instant coffee and chugged a few cups of scalding hot liquid while we waited.

One Gold Bond purchase later we were driving back through the tunnel just in time to score the last spot in the parking area just east of the big tunnel at 9:30 am.

Most people parking here are doing so for the Canyon Overlook trail because it's one of the only signed activities on this end of the park. And most of the people failing to park here seem to be driving vehicles whose size is not a great match for their driving ability. So all I can say is go early and good luck.

We were actually in the second small lot east of the tunnel and this is the one first one. A use trail into Gifford Canyon starts here just past the pit toilet.

While there is a trail it's a bit hard to follow and we had to do some light scrambling and bushwhacking to get past the first cliff and into the canyon proper

After which it was a pleasant stroll up a sandy canyon.

About halfway to the point where we exited the canyon we had to climb up the western wall a bit but there were plentiful ducks to follow.

After about 1.4 miles we made a hard right and climbed up the gully between Roof and Hepworth. This is looking further up Gifford Canyon from partway up our exit route.

The climb out of the canyon was a glorious puzzle. The rock is all sandstone and so prone to crumbling away underneath you which makes for cautious climbing but there always seems to be something you can make work.

I had a track that showed both the southeastern face of Hepworth and a route from the backside so we decided why not do a loop. For the trip report and all of that!

We climbed to 6,000 ft at which point we started up the southeastern ridge of Hepworth.

The 450 ft up the side of Hepworth was steep and we had to work features in a few places but again sometimes always worked with a bit of care.

Sadly the view up top is no good at all...

This also gave us painful good views of Bridge and Watchmen which are now really high on my list of peaks I want to do out here. I just need longer days.

Roof looked rather impressive across the way from Hepworth.

We climbed over the summit of Hepworth and descended the south side of the western ridge. The first 100 ft or so below the summit was the most difficult since every lip you come to seems to want to underneath you and any fall feels like it's going to involve quite a lot of rolling and bouncing before you eventually come to a stop.

The ridge in the background is the route up Roof and was less steep that Hepworth had been...

...meaning there were only a few places we had to watch our footing.

After tagging roof we retraced our route back down Roof and descended the gully between the peaks.

From the top the drop between the peaks looks like a cliff but once you are at the edge again something just works.

From there we were back on our ascent route and just followed the canyon back down.

We strolled back into the parking lot around 4:30 pm and immediately attracted a small crowd who were hanging around the parking lot trying to figure out what they could do and had seen us scramble down the far canyon wall. We gave them what advice we could and carefully extricated ourselves from the parking lot which only included one near collision.

With great relief we drove east leaving the majority of the crowds behind. It was already getting dark so another peak wasn't in the cards and the temperature was dropping rapidly.

We'd ended up using an extra bundle of firewood last night due to the temperature and since we hadn't been satisfied with the anemic firewood bundles they had for sale in Springdale we decided we needed to find another supplier. For the record the trick is to a) bring your own firewood instead of leaving it sitting in the garage like an idiot or b) drive out to Mount Carmel Junction where there's a gas station that sells nice big bags for $10 for two.

It's also not too bad a drive and we were back at the campground with plenty of time to cook a hot meal and enjoy it around our mini bonfire.

Tomorrow was the Sunday after Thanksgiving aka the traffic nightmare from hell (at least for those driving back to LA from Vegas). If we were smart we would have left early in the morning and saved ourselves a bunch of pain but then we wouldn't have gotten another peak. So instead we did Observation Peak aka the best view in the Zion.

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