Sand Bench Trail – the underestimated gem of Zion National ParkProArtInc.net
Location: Zion National Park, Utah
Length: 3,5 mile
Elevation gain: 440 feet
GPS coordinates: N 37 14.239 W 112 57.745
The Sand Bench Horse Trail is one of the trails of Zion National Park, which probably has the most contradictory reviews of the visitors who decided to explore it.
The beauty and uniqueness of the views offered by this trail is undeniable. Approximately seven thousand years have passed since a part of one of the most famous Zion peaks – The Sentinel – collapsed, thus causing an enormous landslide, named later the Sand Bench. Running over this enormous landslide, the Sand Bench Trail lavishes the park visitors with fascinating views of gorgeous Patriarchs, royal Sentinel, majestic Mountain of the Sun, conspicuous Streaked Wall and other astonishing peaks of Zion Canyon, that seem to be located just few steps from the trail. Moreover, you can see yourself that this is one of the quietest and least visited trails of the national park, so your privacy and solitude will not be disturbed by crowds of tourists here, having time to relax amidst beautiful nature and soak in the uniqueness of the landscape.
The Sand Bench Horse Trailhead is easy to find as it is situated at the Court of the Patriarchs, near the shuttle stop with the same name. Starting your hike at the shuttle stop you should cross the road and walk along the trail running to the footbridge over the Virgin River. Going westwards the trail opens for the hikers outstanding views of the Court of the Patriarchs. At the trail junction where the Emerald Pools Trail connects with the Sand Bench Horse Trail you should take a left turn and follow the Sand Bench Trail till the place where it forks, making the loop.
If you are visiting Zion National Park during the season when the shuttle bus is not available, you can drive to Zion Lodge and from there take the Emerald Pools Trail and follow it until it joins the Sand Bench Horse Trail.
You can hike the Sand Bench loop clockwise or counterclockwise, but mind that following the trail clockwise you will climb much steeper side of the landslide.
There is only one thing that can cast a gloom over your hike. And that is the condition of the trail itself. First, most of the trail is covered with deep soft sand which makes your walk quite strenuous. And the second disadvantage is the “smell” of the trail. The thing is that this trail is one of few trails used for horseback excursions, which are conducted here from the middle of March till the end of October. And actually the “gifts” left by horses on the trail are making it smelly and will force you to watch your steps really carefully, thus making the hike even more exhausting.
That is why the best season for hiking this trail is probably from late autumn till early spring, when the providers of horseback excursions have their “winter break”. If you nevertheless decided to explore this trail in summer, the best way for it is to chose the horseback ride or you may chose early morning (before 7 a.m.) or evening time (after 5 p.m.) for your hike to avoid the day-time heat and sharing the trail with horseback riders.
Photo: Roman Khomlyak
Photo Editing: Juliana Voitsikhovska
Information: Svetlana Baranova
Pictures taken: 10/29/16