You don’t have to be a hiker to visit Zion National Park. But, if you are going to spend your vacation time seeing one of America’s top destinations, you will really want to get the essence of what makes this park great. Hiking is a fantastic way to do that.
Get into the interior of the park and experience the scenery. Feel your heart pound as you negotiate breathtaking drop-offs. Get close to the cliff faces and spires that put this park on the map. Hiking is the best way to FEEL the park and see why it’s so beloved by those who grace the gates. There are 112 hiking trails in Zion National Park. Make sure you take the best ones the park has to offer when visiting on you vacation.
Considered to be one of the most challenging hikes, not only physically, but mentally, Angel’s Landing is a place that many adventure seekers have on their list of things to do before they die.
Sensory overload is one way to describe being on this trail. From the switchbacks, to the shear cliffs that nip at your toes and warn you to stop, this infamous hike is one for the books.
Did I mention it’s also one of the most dangerous hikes in the world? Since the 1980’s, 18 people have died on this hike, most from falling to their death. However, considering that hundreds of thousands of people ascend and descend this trail every year, this number is not overly extraordinary.
Angel’s Landing is a beautiful and challenging 5.4 mile round-trip hike that has almost a 1,500 foot elevation gain. It includes switchbacks, rock scrambling, climbing very narrow paths with the use of chains embedded in rock, and 1,000 foot drop-offs. This hike is for the experienced and physically fit hiker who is not afraid of heights.
For the ones that do take the trail, you are in for an experience of a lifetime and you will now encounter less people on the trail than previous years. As of April 2022, you must have a permit to hike Angel’s Landing. Apply before your trip or while you are there. Permits are issued by a lottery system. The fee is $6 to apply for a permit and if you win a permit, you will be charged $3 each person in you group up to six people. Good luck and be careful!!
The Narrows and Angel’s Landing compete for title for most popular hike in the park and for good reason. There is something special about The Narrows. Think slot canyon with 1,500 foot cliff faces while wading in ankle to waist deep frigid snowmelt. Does that sound thrilling? Thrilling doesn’t even begin to describe this hike. You know that when you need special gear, a hike has to be good.
In order to wade through the Virgin River through miles of rock bottom boulders you will need sturdy shoes, ski poles or hiking poles, so the current doesn’t knock you off balance and a dry sack to keep your water, food and other needs dry.
You can hike up as far as you would like but the most beautiful part of the canyon, Wall Street, is where the canyon narrows to 22 feet and the walls lengthen to over 1,500 feet. The round trip mileage to get there and back is 6 miles. If you want to go farther, keep on going if you are equipped and have camping gear. You can walk as far as 17 miles round trip which, for most people needs to be a two day trip.
An easy to moderate hike can turn into a moderate to strenuous hike, depending on how far you go. Ninety percent of patrons will opt to hike to Wall Street and turn back. Therefore, if you choose to keep going the rest of the hike will be a quieter, more serene walk in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
A word of warning. In the spring and summer, the canyon is prone to flash floods. it is essential that you check weather forecasts before attempting The Narrows. An exciting, fun-filled day can turn deadly in the blink of an eye if this warning is not heeded.
The Zion Narrows Riverside Walk
If you aren’t up to spending copious amounts of time in frigid water, then you may want to hike the 1.9 mile roundtrip Riverside Walk. Formerly known as “The Gateway to the Narrows”, this hike runs beside the river and instead of wading, you are walking to where the dark and mysterious part of The Narrows start.
If you are feeling up to it, you can trek along in the river for a bit and turn back. Otherwise, this is a great hike to see the green, fern and moss laded cliffs that invite you to stay a spell, without the strain of wading through rushing water.
Trails that welcome pets are hard to come by in national parks, but this one is Fido friendly and is paved! Taking this easy 3.4 mile meandering trail along the Virgin River is great for seasoned hikers and novices alike. Enjoy the scenery of the Zion Canyon floor as you keep vigilant to spy one of the many wild animals that might pop up on this trail. You will also like crossing bridges over the Virgin and the expanse of wildflowers that grow along her banks.
A pro tip is to go at sunset when most animals want to come to the river for a drink and get a chance at seeing coyotes, deer, foxes and sometimes mountain lions. This is a great “end of the day” trail that works well after dinner if you are looking for something to top off the day.
Emerald Pools Trail
The “emerald” pools on the Emerald Pool Trail were once a beautiful green color due to the algae that used to grow in them. But, time and environmental changes have eliminated the algae from the pool. Nevertheless, the name has stuck and the pools are just as stunning without the color.
The Emerald Pools Trail is actually separated into three segment, one being more strenuous but more stunning than the next. Start at the trailhead and hike the easy .6 mile paved path to the Lower Emerald Pool and enjoy dripping springs through moss, fern and flower covered rock that fall into the pools below.
Middle Emerald Pool is another .25 miles up a the trail that offers sweeping canyon views and another pool that is fed from the upper falls above.
When you reach the Upper Emerald Pool, a striking 400 foot waterfall greets you tumbling down a sheer cliff face, feeding the rest of the pools below. Spring and early summer are the best times to see these falls at their best, but you can also catch a show after a torrential rain anytime of year. This is one of the most beloved hikes in the park that you can’t miss!
Zion Canyon Overlook Trail
Photographers and appreciators of incredible scenery clamor to get to this trail before vacation’s end. On this overlook trail you will see some of the most spectacular views the park has to offer. It’s also a relatively easy trail, at just one mile round trip. Therefore, this hike is great for children and others that aren’t “into” hiking.
Getting to the overlook is a treat in itself that includes stone steps and fern laden alcoves down slick rock. Once at the overlook, you are gifted with the sight of the canyon floor in all its glory. The vibrant green of the flora below pops against the burnt orange of the canyon giving the eyes the feast they were hoping for.
This hike is probably the single most important hike in the park, especially for patrons that are just passing through and don’t have time for much more than a drive through the park as it represents the essence of what Zion is all about.
The Watchman Trail
If you are visiting the Zion Visitors Center is Springdale, you might want to combine that visit with this sweet little 3 mile out and back trail that introduces visitors to their first views of the park.
This trail will not take you to the top of the mountain but rather about 300 feet up to give you the awesome views of the mountains and Cottonwood trees below. This hike is ravishing in the fall when the trees are a brilliant yellow-orange. So, make sure you take advantage of this quieter, yet brilliant hike in Zion.
West Rim Trail
This hike is for the experienced backcountry hiker that is looking for a lesser traveled yet riveting experience in the wilderness. Switchbacks and cliff hangers are the game of this hike as you wind up the canyon wall to the plateau. So, this means 2,000 foot drops below to the canyon floor, therefore you must watch your footing.
At 8.5 miles you will reach the Cabin Spring where you can choose to turn around or add 5 miles to your 15 mile uphill journey and see stunning views of the Great West Canyon below. This hike is a leg burner on the way up, but what goes up must come down. So, enjoy the easy cruise home.
Hiking in Zion is something that even the staunchest armchair champion will want to accomplish while visiting. There are hikes for children, senior citizens, adventure seekers and adrenaline junkies. Pick one or pick a few, but you won’t be disappointed with any hike you choose in Zion National Park.