Every year, more than 4.5 million visitors make their way through the gates of Zion National Park. That count is high enough to make the property the third most visited national park in the nation, only falling behind Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and the nearby Grand Canyon National Park.
One of the biggest draws of visiting any national park is the promise of wide open expanses of natural land. Crowds of noisy tourists or long lines to get into the park hardly fits into that picture-perfect image. Luckily, in every national park, there are plenty of places to escape, even during the busiest days of the year. Zion is no exception. Keep reading to learn a few of the best Zion trails that are often overlooked.
1. Cable Mountain Trail
Most experienced hikers who visit Zion are aiming to hike to the famous Angels Landing. Unfortunately, even the relative difficulty, steep climb, and dangerous peak aren’t enough to keep crowds from forming. In fact, during Memorial Day weekend, the busiest weekend of the entire year for the park, lines form at the trailhead leading to the Landing. Hikers may wait an hour or more just to start their hike. Then, they share the trail with hundreds of others, making it a bit less enjoyable than during other times of the year.
Hikers looking for a similar challenge without the crowds should head to Cable Mountain. At 7.6-miles roundtrip and with plenty of steep, up-hill climbs, the trail will take you most of a day to complete. But make it to the top and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the valley below, as well as a glimpse into the history of the park. The trail gets its name from the remnants of the old cable system that’s still visible. The cable system once carried lumber off of the mountain and into the canyon below. Built in 1901, it was abandoned in 1930 and has been sitting nearly untouched ever since.
2. Pine Creek Waterfall Trail
Those looking for a far easier hike than Cable Mountain should head to Pine Creek Waterfall. Ideal for beginners, hikers young and old, or those just looking for an easier stroll, the trail is just 1.5 miles roundtrip. It is a scenic trail though, and you’ll need to climb over a few boulders and zig zag down a rough trail. However, you’ll wind up at a green, wet oasis that’s perfect for cooling off on a hot day.
To find this somewhat-hidden trailhead, enter the park at the South Entrance, then continue for 1.5 miles. There you’ll reach a U-curve. On the curve, watch for the small dirt pull-off and you’ll find the start of this trail.
3. Taylor Creek Trail
A more in-between trail in terms of difficulty and length than Pine Creek Waterfall or Cable Mountain, Taylor Creek Trail is 4.5-miles roundtrip and moderately difficult. Unlike the other two trail options, Taylor Creek offers views of one of the park’s most popular landmarks; an arch. On this trail, you’ll get a great view of the Double Arch Alcove. This is perfect for snapping some pictures without worrying about throngs of tourists getting in the way.
Taylor Creek Trail is located in Kolob Canyon, the western-most section of Zion. The distance from the entrance gate, as well as the lack of facilities that the rest of the park has to offer, like shuttles, the Lodge, and campgrounds, make Kolob Canyon one of the least visited parts of Zion.
4. Hidden Canyon Trail
If you still plan to face a few crowds and hike some of Zion’s most popular trails, this is a great sidetrip. Located at the Weeping Rock trailhead, Hidden Canyon is a 2.2-mile roundtrip hike with a steep climb, but stunning views. During the 2,000 foot climb in elevation, you’ll pass pools, boulders, and arches. At the top, you’ll be able to see Angels Landing, The Great White Throne, and Cable Mountain.
This trail has been growing in popularity in recent years. But hike it on a day when the park isn’t packed or early or late in the day, and you may just have it to all to yourself. Don’t let the relatively short distance fool you; you’ll still need to pack plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.
Beating the Crowds During Your Summer Visit to Zion
Visiting Zion National Park during the summer months is a great chance to enjoy warm, beautiful weather for hiking or enjoying the outdoors. For families with kids, it may be the only way to visit the park for more than a quick weekend trip. Even with a few crowds to contend with, it’s still one of the best seasons to visit.
Any of the trails on this list are great for avoiding crowds during the busy summer months. But if you do still want to experience some of the more popular hikes, there are a few things you can do. Aim to get to the park very early in the day. For shorter trails, arriving after 4pm will also allow you to avoid many of the day visitors to the park. If your schedule is flexible, visiting the park through the week rather than during the weekend will also fewer people in the park as well.