Sand Bench Trail is a 5.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Springdale, UT that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Horses are also able to use this trail.
Directions from South Entrance: Drive northward to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and take the shuttle into the canyon. For the full trail Disembark from the shuttle at the Zion Lodge. For the shorter trail Disembark from the shuttle at the Court of the Patriarchs Viewpoint. Hikers should cross the scenic drive and use the foot bridge to access the Sand Bench trail.
Difficulty depends on which part of the trail you choose. The section of trail that runs from the junction with the Emerald Pools Trail near the Lodge and the footbridge over the Virgin River down to the junction with the trail that runs out to the road at Court of the Patriarchs is easier. It is approximately a mile and a half one way measuring between the two trail junctions and is generally rolling hills with nothing steep or precarious. Very nice views of the river and the mountains on the opposite side of the river and deer and wild turkeys can be seen at times. The other part of the trail is more difficult and includes the loop, generally known as "Sand Bench Loop". It can be accessed from Court of the Patriarchs via a road and trail that leads to a footbridge across the river and then to a trail junction. The distance is a little under a half mile to here and the left fork is taken to go to the loop. The trail goes through mostly forested land and a small stream can be crossed without any trouble. The trail begins to climb and then there is a trail junction for the loop. A sign at this junction gives the distance of the loop itself as 2.5 miles but my Garmin put it as closer to 2.8 miles. Whichever fork is taken there is a climb from the loop junction. If the left fork is taken there's a climb of about 1.2 miles with a grade of 7.1%. If the right fork is taken the climb is about .9 mile and the grade is 7.4%. I did the loop clockwise. On the left fork the trail is rather narrow and sunken in places and there are rock steps built in a couple of places. Footing can be tricky. There are some very nice views of the mountains on the opposite side of the river from this left fork and from one or two spots you can see the Virgin River below. Deer can also be seen along this part of the trail and I saw a number of them including a buck. There is no potable water along these trails so of course bring plenty of your own. Now, a note of caution. These are horse trails and horseback rides start from a point near the Scenic Drive. So yes, there is horse manure along these trails; if that bothers you then don't go. But you can avoid the horses and riders themselves by choosing the season or hour for your hike. The season for the rides is generally during the warmer months, and I believe there are only two rides daily on the loop trail, so you can avoid them by hiking early or late in the day. These trails are not particularly popular and receive light usage. I did the loop portion of the trail in late January and saw no one on it. The other section gets a little more traffic but you won't see many people. I've always been on a weekday so I don't know for certain what it's like on a weekend but it likely will be a little busier. But if you like solitude during your hiking then this is the one for you!
Do this trail on horseback, not on foot. Even in the off-season, the leftovers from the horses make this trail very messy.
This trail is very easy but offers a wide variety of exploratory opportunities. It follows the river bed and there are tons of deer and evidence of other animals in the area such as beaver, rabbits, fox. It is a great was to relax and explore the valley. The fall trees added such beauty to the red rocks and river. Lots of fun. great for kids....I mean ME!!!! hahaha
Actually rode this trail on horses with my children. Does that count. Beautiful views from a different vantage point.