While much of Zion National Park is a chaotic churn of tourists, primarily in Zion and Kolob Canyons, the far reaches of the park surprisingly receive few visitors, particularly in the off season. Here, the Chinle Trail that cuts through the southern low elevation desert landscape of the park is exactly what other more crowded hikes aren't: tranquil and modest.
Although it's a total of 15.4 miles there-and-back to the Coalpits Wash, the hike/backpacking trip can be much shorter if you're able to get one of the campsites along the Scoggins Wash, and the overall mild elevation gain makes the distance far less formidable, particularly during the cooler off season. In fact, the Chinle Trail is at its best during fall and winter, when other trails are less accessible and the Utah desert sun is far less intense.
After 3 miles into the hike, past the Huber Wash and under the shadow of Mount Kinesava (7,285'), keep your eyes down to spot the countless ancient remnants of the Petrified Forest. Here, the debris both large and small are commonly referred to as petrified wood, the fossilization of ancient forests which turn to "stone." Technically speaking its a process called permineralization in which the vegetation's organic matter is replaced with minerals and in the process retain their original structure.
After passing through the Petrified Forest you'll continue through the desert's native residents; western juniper, tall sagebrush, bunch grass, and numerous varieties of cactus accompany you as you make your way to the trail's first campsites or the Scoggins and Coalpits Wash.
Note: All overnight stays at the trail's five backcountry campsite areas require a reservation and permit.