Over millions of years, the Virgin River carved out the 2,000-foot Zion Canyon. Right now, it is the fourth most visited national park in the United States, with over four million visitors per year.
Over the years, Zion National Park has gained popularity and sits among other national parks that top the go-to list for hikers all over the country. Aside from the spectacular views it offers, this national park is the home of great trails.
If you’re planning to go on a hike, here are the best hiking trails in Zion National Park.
The Narrows Trail
The Narrows Trail tops the bucket list for most hikers. This trail stretches on for 16 miles, and the hiking takes a couple of days. The trail starts outside of Zion National Park, specifically in Chamberlain’s Ranch, and the difficulty level depends on what approach you choose—bottom-up or top-down. The best time to hike on this trail is during the summer months from early June to late August. It closes during spring as the melting snow creates a large flow rate from the Virgin River and becomes unsafe to pass.
This trail gives hikers two options. One is known as the bottom-up while the other one is known as top-down.
The bottom-up way gives you the option to turn around at any point, which makes it ideal for those who opt to spend less time hiking. Hiking starts from the Riverside Walk, and the rest is up to you as you can turn around at any point.
On the other hand, the top-down option requires endurance as you need to finish the 16-mile distance. It will take a maximum of two days to hike it. If you choose this approach, the starting point will be the Chamberlain’s Ranch going to the Temple of Sinawava.
One distinct difference between the bottom-up and the top-down hiking option is the Narrows Trail. The latter has fewer crowds than the former.
Angel’s Landing Trail
Speaking of the most popular hiking trail in Zion National Park, Angel’s Landing Trail ranks in first place. This trail extends 5.4 miles and reaches 1488 feet of elevation. It takes about two to five hours of hiking. The difficulty level categorizes as strenuous because of its steep and long drop-off cliffs.
Angel’s Landing Trail is the most dangerous hiking trail in Zion National Park. According to the National Park Service, there were 11 fatalities on the park’s trail starting from 2010 to 2020 due to falling. Wear hiking boots with no slip-sole and good tread. Always keep your distance from the edge of the cliff and watch your footing. Make sure to hold on to the chain rails. In cases with sudden weather changes, immediately seek higher ground before the rain. Don’t pull dangerous stunts like taking a selfie near the cliff’s edge.
Angel’s Landing starts from the Grotto Trailhead. It makes Zion’s Canyon shuttle the sixth stop. Just like the case in Observation Point, Angel’s Landing offers one of the most jaw-dropping views among the Zion National Park trails.
Observation Point Trail
Observation Point Trail stretches an 8-mile distance and a height of 2300 feet above sea level. This trail takes between four to six hours. Hiking this trail requires a strenuous level of difficulty. You can opt to hike in Observation Point via the East Mesa Trail, which shortens the path from 8 miles to 7 miles.
When you reach the highest point, the long and difficult walk rewards you with an incredible view. The view offers a magnificent panoramic view of what seems like the whole of Zion National Park. When you look down, the Virgin River extends through the valley, and Angel’s Landing will meet your sparkling gaze.
To reach it, you need to take a shuttle that starts at 7 am at the earliest. The shuttle will drop you at stop number seven, the Observation Point’s trailhead, where the Weeping Trail parking area is located. Spring and Fall are the best seasons to go, but you can go all year-round as long as the trail is free of ice and snow.
Emerald Pools Trail
Compared to the previous trails mentioned, the Emerald Pools Trail offers a short distance of 1.5 to 3 miles, depending on the hiking distance you prefer. It is a family-friendly hike as the difficulty level falls in the easy category.
Emerald Pools Trail starts from the Zion Lodge, and you have a footbridge that you need to cross. This trail features three sets of pools—the Lower Emerald Pool, Middle Emerald Pool and Upper Emerald Pool.
The Lower Emerald Pool measures a round-trip of 0.6-miles. Here, you can see plants under two tall waterfalls and pools below it. This part of the Emerald Pools suit you when you have kids along or have an elderly person along with you.
After the Lower Emerald Pool follows the Middle Emerald Pool with the hiking trail getting tougher. The pools in this area are the streams making the waterfalls.
The final mile stretches along the Upper Emerald Pool. The hike up here makes it worth it because of the presence of the shaded area where you can relax while seeing a faint waterfall from the entrance of Heaps Canyon located just above it.
Canyon Overlook Trail
The Canyon Overlook Trail starts from Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.
This hiking trail makes an attraction in itself because of the way it curves and attaches itself to the side of the mountain, and as you go along, a wooden pathway hung on a cliff will suddenly greet you. The gem of this hike is getting into a hidden cave to relax or have a picnic.
Its distance measures one mile, and it takes an hour of walking. If you want one of the best hikes, then this trail suits you. It rewards you with the best Zion Canyon view without a strenuous hike. The difficulty level of this hike is moderate to easy.
Getting to this trail requires a car since the Zion Shuttle can’t access it. Starting from the Visitor Center, go to the east entrance of Zion National Park by heading northeast of Highway 9. The trailhead is located near the ranger station by Highway 9.
Pa’rus Trail stands as one of the best trails because of how you can leash up your dog and go for a hike. It’s the only trail inside the national park that allows your fur babies as long as you put them on a leash. It also allows bicycles inside the park. The name Pa’rus comes from the Paiute language which means “bubbling, tumbling water.”
This trail measures 3.4 miles, located near Springdale. Overflow Parking Lot makes the most accessible path going to the South Campground if you decide to use this trail. The shuttle stops thrice in this trail which makes it easier to get back once you decide to hike the trail one-way. The three stops include Zion Canyon Visitor Center, Zion Human History Museum and Canyon Junction.
Hiking this trail lasts for about one to two hours and the difficulty level falls in the easy category. You can hike this trail year-round. However, March to May and September to November make the best months to go. July to August can be too hot for a hike because these months fall in the summer where temperatures in Utah can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit at the peak of July.
Pa’rus gives spectacular views of the lower Zion Canyon. The trail comprises a well-paved pathway and beautiful bridges that take you across the Virgin River. This trail offers a wildlife view early in the morning as foxes, deer, coyotes and even occasional lions can be spotted in this area.
From the most thrilling to the most relaxing adventures, you can never go wrong with Zion National Park. If you want an extra-adventure that will test your endurance, trails such as Observation Point, Angel’s Landing, The Narrow’s top-down and Upper Emerald Pools will suit your taste.
On the other hand, if you are up to a more relaxed adventure, trails such as the Canyon Overlook, The Narrow’s bottom-up, Lower Emerald Pool, Middle Emerald Pool or Pa’rus Trail will surely fit your preference.
Zion National Park implements the “Your Safety is Your Responsibility” rule.
Take note of these safety tips along the way as you explore the majestic national park to fully maximize your hiking experience.
- Research for the possible weather conditions as you set the time of your hike so that you can bring the things that you need if the weather changes.
- Familiarize yourself with the distance and destination through research and planning. In cases like accidents or getting lost, you won’t get stranded because you know where to go.
- Do not stray from the marked trails to prevent yourself from falling. Most reported cases of tourist injury or death are mainly caused by going off the trail.
- Maintain a safe distance from the wildlife. Do not pet or even touch animals because you may provoke them, they may attack you.