Zion National Park is located in Southwest Utah and is best known for its steep red cliffs. Named after the Hebrew word, “Zion,” which translates as “a place of peace and relaxation,” the park offers some of the most breathtaking canyon views in the entire United States. While you can see some of these amazing views from the Scenic Drive through the park, this is only a fraction of the beauty contained in this magical place. To really see the most spectacular sights the park has to offer, you’ll need to use the park’s shuttle system to venture deeper into the park and then get out and explore on foot.
1. Emerald Pools Trail – Easy to Moderately Strenuous
The Emerald Pools Trail is one of the most popular trails in Zion National Park because it offers beautiful views at every turn and is easily accessible for almost anyone. Starting from the Zion Lodge shuttle stop, this trail offers 3 options. You can take the easy, half mile hike to the Lower Pools (1.2 miles roundtrip), which passes underneath two waterfalls that come from the Middle Pool above. From there, you might choose to continue another half mile up the ridge for a series of spectacular viewpoints on your way to Middle Pool (2 miles roundtrip). If you’re not tired yet, keep going up the steep trail. Another half mile climb over steep rocks will take you to Upper Pools, where you will be rewarded with a spectacular emerald pool and more stunning views! This hike is 3 miles roundtrip, but worth every step!
2. The Narrows – Easy to strenuous
The Narrows is the most popular hike in Zion National Park for good reason – it’s simply amazing! This hike will have you wading through the blue waters of the Virgin River and through some narrow, slot canyons. The entire trail is 16 miles long, but you can head in and turn around whenever you’ve had enough. But make sure you leave plenty of time for this hike, especially in the summer when it’s crowded. Start your hike from the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop, which is a 45 minute ride from the beginning of the park. Then, plan to walk about a mile before even getting to the water. Once you hit the water, the fun really begins. A lot of the trail is alongside the river over sand and rocks, but there are areas where you will definitely have to cross the river so plan to be in at least ankle high water. Some spots may even be waist deep so dress appropriately and definitely take a walking stick!
Continue in about 3 miles and you’ll hit “Wall Street,” the narrowest part of the trail, where towering walls are 1500 tall and the river is merely 22 feet wide. It’s truly spectacular.
3. Angel’s Landing – Strenuous
Angel’s Landing is one of the most famous and thrilling hikes in the world. It is also one of the most dangerous. You have to walk on the edge of sheer cliffs with nothing to hold onto except a chain. Truth be told, I’m too much of a chicken when it comes to heights and decided I didn’t want to risk my life for a view – no matter how stunning it might be. So instead, I found this alternative hike. It is much easier, much safer and offers views almost as beautiful.
3. Angel’s Landing – Strenuous
3. Canyon Overlook Trail – Easy
This easy, one mile hike will take you to one of the best vantage points in the park! The trailhead is near the East entrance just before the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. After a short but steep hike up from the street, you’ll pass through a large natural cave and over several stone stairways before being rewarded with an extraordinary view of Zion Canyon below.
All told, I spent a full two days exploring the masterpiece that is Zion National Park. I could have spent a full two weeks! I did the scenic drive through the park (twice) and stopped at all the photo stops. I took the shuttles in and did the hikes I mentioned above. It definitely lived up to its namesake of being both relaxing and peaceful. I’d add breathtaking and inspiring as well! Everything that I had heard about Zion was true and it was even more magnificent in person than any photo. I would not recommend visiting Utah without making time for a stop in this National Park. And I would not leave Zion without doing these three fabulous hikes!
Did you know? In Zion National Park there is an area called Weeping Rock. The water that can be seen oozing from the rock surfaces has taken more than 1,000 years to travel through the stone from its source in a natural, underground spring.