Description: A backpacking trip that will take at least two days. The trail follows a wilderness route down Deep Creek until it reaches the Virgin River and The Narrows. The hike drops almost 3,000 feet in elevation.
Distance: 14.2 Miles One Way
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Dangers: Possible Flash Flooding and Possible Cold Waters
Highest Elevation: 7,900 Feet Above Sea Level
Jurisdiction: BLM (Bureau of Land Management), Kanab Field Office; Zion National Park
Deep Creek Trailhead Location: The Deep Creek Trailhead is located in a rather remote location a good distance away from Zion National Park. You will need a driver, since this is a one way hike. To find the Deep Creek Trailhead, begin in Cedar City, Utah and follow these directions:
From Cedar City, drive east on Highway 14 (The 14 is a beautiful mountain Highway.)
After 15 Miles, turn right onto Webster Flat Road. Ignore the many side routes and trails and remain on the main road.
After about 4 miles, the road will leave Dixie National Forest and will place you on private land. Continue on main road.
In 2.2 more miles, you will find a culvert over Fife Creek.
This culvert over Fife Creek is the Trailhead.
The Deep Creek Trail is a hiking trail that few attempt. However, for those who know how to prepare, this hike will be an unforgettable experience. The Deep Creek Trail begins as a simple livestock trail that follows Fife Creek. Since this is private mountain property, be sure to be respectful to the land owners, by remaining on their land for as little time as reasonably possible and avoid damaging any fences and be sure to close any gates you open.
The countryside at the beginning of the Deep Creek trail is beautiful, with plenty of green grass, quaking aspen, and a good amount of lava rock and lava boulders. Along the way here, you will find a nice, grassy vale that enters from the east (to your left.) It is at this point that you will cross the stream and climb over a log fence and follow the right side of Fife Creek. After about a quarter mile, you will turn west (to your right) into a dry wash where the path will lead you until you climb out of the wash and onto an old roadbed that will take you to the hillside above the Fife Creek Valley and drop down to a green meadow where Big Spring flows from the ground and into Fife Creek. It is at this streambank that the old roadbed will disappear and you will follow the stream downstream for about 75 yards and will again find the old roadbed. The road will then lead you through forests of spruce, quaking aspen and ponderosa pine. In about a half mile, there is a fork in the road where another roadbed heads downhill to the stream; but stay on the higher path for another 50 yards where you will find densely growing pine and manzanita (a favorite food source of elk.) It is at this point that you will follow an old trail to the left, which will take you down into the valley to the west of the stream. You will see, once you reach the stream, a well-beaten path on the far side of the stream; but do not follow it. Remain on the western side of the stream and follow the narrower trail. This narrower trail will continue, offering you views of small waterfalls and high rock walls like China Point and the Gray Cliffs of the Carmel Formation, the second stage of the Grand Staircase that eventually leads down to the Grand Canyon. The narrow trail will at times be difficult, with fallen trees across it in some places and plenty of thickly growing brush to push through at other places.
As you follow this trail downhill, the vegetation and forest type will change with the elevation. Rather than being surrounded by spruce and aspen, you will be amidst Douglas-Fir and more Ponderosa, which are both more suited to a warmer climate. You will eventually reach the cottonwoods where O'Neil Gulch allows the West Fork of Deep Creek to flow into the valley. It is at this meeting of the streams that the old trail ends and the going becomes more difficult.
For the 1.5 mile trek between O’Neil Gulch and Big Oak Wash, you will have to choose between simply remaining in the stream, following it downstream, or following some of the many livestock and deer trails. If you choose to walk down the stream, you will need to be careful as you traverse many waterfalls, slippery rocks, rather technical crossings, and deep pools. If you choose to follow the livestock trails, you will need to push and crawl through thickly growing Gambel Oak in steep terrain. Either way, you will end up at the same point about half a mile downstream where tall banks are on either side, forcing you to follow the stream, with its continuing difficulties.
When you reach the area of the str4am just above Big Oak Was, you will find a larger waterfall which you will not be able to climb or jump down. You will scramble along the steep slopes to the sides. The going gets easier after this.
Once you are at the bottom of the waterfall near Bog Oak Wash, you will be able to follow the sides of the stream rather than have to walk in it, offering a break from traversing the slippery cobblestones and tricky footing. Once you reach the point in Deep Creek where Crystal Creek flows in from the west, you will find quicksand to be more and more common, so you will need to make use of dry ground or rocks as you hike. Tall cliffs will rise on either side of you. About a mile past the Crystal Creek confluence, you will spot the first of the Navajo sandstone which you will see along the way to Zion Canyon. Here you will enter the Deep Creek Narrows, where the shade of the high, towering Navajo sandstone cliffs will provide you with a much cooler air and there will be plenty of bigtooth maple and Douglas-Fir. You will wind through this canyon until a slot canyon enters from your left and this marks a point where the traveling will again increase in difficulty as you will be unable to avoid wading through deep pools in Deep Creek. When you reach the area where Box Canyon enters from the left, the walls on either side of you will change from being totally vertical to more sloping for a time until they again close in at the point where Deep Creek itself flows into the North Fork of the Virgin River. From here, the river flows downstream into The Narrows of Zion Canyon and you will again find many other people hiking.