Peaks Climbed: The Watchman & Johnson Mountain

Peak Heights: 6,545' / 6,120'

Route: Std Route

Difficulty: Class 4

Location: Zion National Park, Utah

Trailhead: Visitor Center

Mileage & Gain: 10 mi & 4,500 ft RT

Date Climbed: April 21, 2018

The Watchman, standing high and proud over the visitor center, is one of the big, iconic peaks of Zion Canyon. Like clockwork, dozens of spectators line the bridge at Canyon Junction every evening to capture the same sunset shot of The Watchman poised above the Virgin River. I’d previously visited this famous guy two times, the first a near epic during which many hours were spent routefinding on it’s complex, gully-ridden south face. Some have failed to find the way. On my second trip I was disappointed to encounter numerous cairns marking the way… some of which I might have accidentally kicked over.

The lesser known Johnson Mountain resides above the town of Springdale, equally visible but largely ignored. I’m partial to Johnson myself, partly because it put up such a good fight. It took me two attempts to puzzle out the way to the top. The summit area is one of the coolest in Zion, a sanctuary of sorts.

I chose to revisit and share these two classic peaks with Patrik on our first trip to Zion together. The Visitor Center is now the only legal access point since the area has seen a residential explosion in recent years. In the past the approach has required much less effort. The Watchman went off without a hitch and, not surprisingly, some of the cairns had regenerated since my last visit. Johnson Mountain, on the other hand, put up a respectable fight once again. We wasted a lot of time and energy before piecing the puzzle together again… which was somewhat embarrassing for me!

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