ZION NATIONAL PARK’S MOST POPULAR HIKING TRAILS
From strenuous treks to meandering nature walks, there is a trail (or two or three or more) for everyone in Zion National Park.
While there are plenty of options for those looking to get off the beaten path and away from the crowds, the park’s most popular trails include some big bucket-list options. Keep reading to learn which trails are Zion’s most popular, and what it will take to complete them.
The most iconic view in all of Zion is only accessible on this 5.4-mile trail. If the length doesn’t scare you, the conditions might. This strenuous hike features switchbacks, steep climbs, and several narrow expanses with drop-offs on either side and only a chain-link railing to help you stay steady. But if you’re brave enough-and properly prepared-to make the climb, it’ll be well worth your efforts.
The climax of this stunning hike is a ridge at the top of a steep cliff face, and the ground more than 1,500 feet below you. Only experienced hikers with the proper gear should attempt this climb. In the summer, the hike’s difficulty coupled with the extreme heat can make it dangerous. Snowfall in the winter months can also make the rock faces slick.
While Angels Landing might be the best view of the park, The Narrows is perhaps Zion’s most unique trail. That’s because it takes you through the national park’s signature geological feature, a stunning slot canyon carved into the rock by the Virgin River. Of course, to hike the trail, you will need to be prepared to get your feet wet, so water shoes or hiking boots with good drainage are a must in the summer, while waders are necessary during the colder months.
Unlike Angels Landing, you can make your hike through The Narrows as short or as long as you’d like without sacrificing the experience. You’ll need a permit if you want to make the 16-mile downstream trip through the canyon. But a 6-mile roundtrip hike is more popular among day visitors. You can also hike into the canyon for a mile or 2, or even less, and simply turn around and hike back out. This is great for families or anyone short on time or just not up for the longer hike.
Not all of Zion National Park’s most famous trails are lengthy or difficult. At the end of the Zion Canyon Shuttle Loop is the trailhead for this gentle hike, aptly called Riverside Walk. This paved, accessible trail is perfect for families, older visitors, those with mobility trouble, or anyone just looking to enjoy the park without the strain or sweat (unless, of course, you visit on one of those triple-digit heat days!). In short, it’s a must-see for every visitor!
At just 2.2-miles roundtrip, this hike winds along the gently flowing Virgin River, until just before it enters the slot canyon and The Narrows hike begins. It’s also easy to shorten, by simply turning around when you’re ready and hiking back to the shuttle stop. You’ll walk side by side with stunning cliff faces, some of which have hanging gardens that fall picturesquely over the trail. This is also a great trail for spotting birds and other small wildlife.
Another easy walk everyone can enjoy is Weeping Rock. At just a half-mile roundtrip and a mostly flat walk, you can stroll through the canyon among trees until you reach the trail’s main feature.
There you’ll find Weeping Rock, the slopping dome cliff that hangs out over the trail, with plants hanging from the rim. A set of stairs will take you up onto a platform where you can stand under the ledge and look out on the view of the mountains and the water dripping from the rocks above.
There are actually three pools that make up the Emerald Pools, all of which are located on this hike. Some visitors opt to hike only to the first pool, while others choose to hike the entire thing. Lower Emerald Pools is just 1.2-miles roundtrip from the trailhead, located at the Zion Lodge. This easy, paved section of the trail is ideal for families. The pool is at the base of a waterfall during the rainy season. But even when the waterfall isn’t flowing, the scene is still beautiful, with plants hanging over the cliff and forming a lush garden. From this first pool, you can also look down upon the valley, with views of the Virgin River.
Middle Emerald Pools is a 2-mile roundtrip hike that climbs about 150 feet in elevation. Another set of waterfalls can be found here, as well as equally stunning views.
The Upper Pools require a 3-mile roundtrip hike and 350 feet in elevation gain, but they are worth the extra effort. Powerful waterfalls rush over the edge and into the pools when there is runoff in the Spring. You’ll also enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the valley far below.