May 29, 2024
Zion National Park

The 5 Best Hikes in Zions National Park

Zion National Park, nestled in the heart of Utah’s red rock country, is a sanctuary of towering cliffs, deep canyons, and breathtaking landscapes. Renowned for its diverse ecosystems and geological wonders, the park offers an array of hikes ranging from easy walks along the Virgin River to strenuous treks up steep sandstone cliffs. With trails catering to adventurers of all levels, Zion invites visitors to enter a world where nature’s artistry is on full display. This guide will explore the best hikes in Zions National Park, each offering a unique way to experience the park’s unparalleled beauty.

Why Hike in Zions National Park?

Hikes In Zion

Zion National Park is more than just a haven for outdoor enthusiasts; it’s a living museum showcasing millions of years of geological history. The park’s iconic Navajo sandstone cliffs, sculpted by the forces of nature, rise majestically against the sky, changing colors with the day’s shifting light. Hiking in Zion is a journey through time, where every turn reveals ancient rock formations, diverse habitats, and panoramic vistas.

The park’s unique topography supports a rich biodiversity. From the desert floor to the woodland plateaus, Zion is home to a variety of plants and animals adapted to life in extreme environments. Hikers might spot mule deer, bighorn sheep, and a plethora of bird species, including the peregrine falcon. The Virgin River, the lifeline of the park, has carved one of the most famous slot canyons, The Narrows, offering hikers a chance to wade through its cool waters surrounded by towering walls.

Beyond the natural beauty and wildlife, hiking in Zion National Park offers an immersive experience that fosters a deep connection with the natural world. The sense of accomplishment after scaling a challenging trail, the tranquility of secluded paths, and the awe-inspiring views create memories that last a lifetime. Whether you’re seeking solitude, adventure, or simply the beauty of nature, Zion’s trails provide an escape into a world of wonder.

Top Hikes in Zions National Park

Top Of Angles Landing
Top of Angles Landing

Zion’s landscape is a hiker’s paradise, offering trails that range from easy nature walks to challenging backcountry adventures. Here are five must-do hikes in Zion National Park, each promising an unforgettable experience.

Angel’s Landing

Angels Landing - Best Hikes In Zions National Park
Angels Landing

Angel’s Landing is one of Zion’s most famous and thrilling hikes. The 5.4-mile round-trip journey takes you on a steep ascent to a narrow ridge with sheer drop-offs on either side. The final half-mile, known as the “Hogsback,” requires hikers to navigate a series of chains bolted into the rock for safety. The reward at the summit is a 360-degree view of Zion Canyon, a breathtaking panorama that makes the challenging hike worthwhile. Due to its popularity, start early to avoid crowds and ensure a safer experience on the narrow path. Also, consider your comfort with heights, as this hike is not recommended for those who fear heights.

The Narrows

The Narrows

The Narrows is a unique hike where the Virgin River is your trail. This hike can be tailored to any length, with the most popular option being a 9.4-mile round trip from the Temple of Sinawava to Big Spring and back. The towering canyon walls, some as high as 1,000 feet and only 20 feet apart in places, offer a dramatic backdrop to the cool waters of the Virgin River. Suitable footwear is necessary, as you’ll wade and sometimes swim through the water. Hiking The Narrows requires planning; check the park’s website for conditions, as flash floods can make the hike dangerous or inaccessible.

Observation Point

Observation Point

Observation Point is a rewarding hike slightly less crowded than Angel’s Landing, offering one of the most iconic views of Zion Canyon. The 8-mile round-trip hike takes you through Echo Canyon, a beautiful slot canyon, and ascends 2,148 feet to the summit. From Observation Point, you can see Angel’s Landing below and have a panoramic view of Zion Canyon. While strenuous, the trail is well-maintained and offers a variety of scenery, making it a favorite among many hikers. For a less challenging route, consider the East Mesa Trail, an alternative path to Observation Point that is shorter and less steep.

Emerald Pools Trail

Zion Emerald Pools Trail
Lower Emerald Pool – Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USACC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Emerald Pools Trail is a family-friendly option that showcases Zion’s diverse landscape. There are three pools: Lower, Middle, and Upper, each offering its unique beauty. The hike to the Lower Emerald Pool is an easy 1.2-mile round trip, while adding the Middle and Upper Pools makes for a moderate 3-mile hike. Along the way, hikers are treated to waterfalls, lush vegetation, and stunning views of the surrounding cliffs. The trail’s accessibility and the beauty of the pools make it a popular choice for families and those looking for a less strenuous hike.

This gentle, paved trail spans 1.2 miles round trip, guiding hikers to the Lower Emerald Pool at the foot of a natural alcove. The perennially wet site is graced with a striking waterfall in the spring or during rainy seasons. On this visit, the waterfall displayed its lively cascade. Beyond the falls, the path grows more rustic, weaving behind the waterfall through the alcove—a journey that, while enchanting, may lead through particularly muddy stretches. The trail then ascends to the Upper Emerald Pool, home to a loftier and even more breathtaking waterfall, mainly when visited at peak times throughout the year.

Canyon Overlook Trail

For those short on time or looking for a more leisurely hike that still offers spectacular views, the Canyon Overlook Trail is a perfect choice. This 1-mile round-trip hike takes you to a viewpoint overlooking Zion Canyon and Pine Creek Canyon. The trailhead is located just east of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, making it easily accessible. You’ll pass through a small cave and see interesting rock formations along the way. The viewpoint at the end is a fantastic spot for photography, offering dramatic vistas of the canyon below.

Planning Your Hike: Tips and Recommendations

Before lacing up your boots and hitting the trails, there are a few things to consider to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in Zion National Park:

  • Permits: Some hikes, like The Narrows beyond Big Spring and overnight backpacking trips, require permits. Check the Zion National Park website for the latest information on permit requirements.
  • Best Times to Visit: Spring and fall offer the most pleasant weather for hiking in Zion. Summers can be extremely hot, and winters may have snow and ice on the trails.
  • Gear: Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes with good grip. For hikes like The Narrows, consider renting water shoes and a walking stick from outfitters in Springdale.
  • Safety: Always check the weather and trail conditions before heading out. Carry plenty of water, especially in the summer, and be mindful of the signs of heat exhaustion.

FAQ About Best Zion Hikes

What are the Best Hikes in Zion National Park for beginners?

The Emerald Pools Trail and the Canyon Overlook Trail offer manageable distances with rewarding views, perfect for beginners.

Is hiking gear required for the Best Hikes in Zion National Park?

Essential hiking gear includes sturdy boots, water shoes for The Narrows, and plenty of water. Check trail specifics before you go.

Can I hike Angel’s Landing and The Narrows in one day?

It’s possible but challenging. Starting early and assessing your fitness level and hiking speed is crucial for a safe and enjoyable experience.

Final Thoughts About Best Hikes in Zions National Park

Hiking in Zion National Park is an experience that connects you with the natural world intimately and profoundly. Whether you’re scaling the heights of Angel’s Landing, wading through the waters of The Narrows, or enjoying the tranquility of the Emerald Pools, Zion’s trails offer something for everyone. Remember to hike responsibly, respect the natural environment, and leave no trace behind. Happy hiking!

Monica Seasons

Monica is a freelance author and publisher. She is currently working with Thumbwind Publications. You may find her looking for that perfect cup of coffee in Ely, Minnesota, when she is not writing.

View all posts by Monica Seasons →