Hiking in Zion can be just what you want it to be: an easy half-hour walk on a paved path or a grueling overnight trek over rocky terrain. Don’t worry—there are plenty of options in between the extremes. Hikers with a fear of heights should be careful when choosing trails; many include steep, dizzying dropoffs. Below are a variety of hiking suggestions.
The Weeping Rock Trail, among the park’s shortest trails, is a .4-mile round-trip walk from the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to a rock alcove with a spring and hanging gardens of ferns and wildflowers. Although paved, the trail is steep and not suitable for wheelchairs.
Another short hike is the Lower Emerald Pools Trail, an easy 1-hour walk. A 0.6-mile paved path from the Emerald Pools parking area through a forest of oak, maple, fir, and cottonwood leads to a waterfall, a hanging garden, and the Lower Emerald Pool, and is suitable for those in wheelchairs, with assistance. If you want to extend your trip to a moderately strenuous 2-hour hike, continue along the loop, a steeper, rocky trail (not appropriate for wheelchairs) continues past cactus, yucca, and juniper another .5 mile to Upper Emerald Pool, with another waterfall. A third pool, just above Lower Emerald Pool, offers impressive reflections of the cliffs. The pools are named for the green color of the water, which is caused by algae.
Hidden Canyon Trail, a 2.4-mile moderately strenuous round-trip hike that takes about 3 hours is worth pushing yourself—it’s one of the most scenic trails in Zion. From the Weeping Rock parking area, the trail climbs 850 feet through a narrow, water-carved canyon, with a small natural arch upstream from the mouth of the canyon. Hidden Canyon Trail includes long dropoffs and is not recommended for anyone with a fear of heights.
Another moderately strenuous but relatively short hike is the Watchman Trail, which starts near the transit/visitor center. This 2.7-mile round-trip hike gets surprisingly little use, possibly because it can be very hot in midday. Climbing to a plateau near the base of the formation called the Watchman, it offers splendid views of lower Zion Canyon, the Towers of the Virgin, and West Temple formations.
One of the most thrilling hikes in the whole national park system, a strenuous 4-hour, 5.4-mile round trip that’s definitely not for anyone with even a mild fear of heights, Angels Landing Trail runs through a series of 21 switchbacks built into a cleft in the wall; these are regarded as one of the engineering marvels of the park. The final hair-raising half-mile follows a narrow, knife-edge trail along a steep ridge, where footing can be slippery even under the best of circumstances. Support chains are set along parts of the trail. Plan your hike so you have time to stop at the summit for awhile and savor the spectacular views into Zion Canyon, with the Virgin River gently bending around three sides at the bottom of the canyon, the Great White Throne and Red Arch Mountain to the southeast, and the entrance to the Narrows beyond the Temple of Sinawava to the north. When you look down to see a hawk flying below, you realize you’re on top of Zion’s world.
Like Angel’s Landing, hiking the Narrows is one of the most iconic Zion experience. It’s not really hiking a trail at all—it’s river-walking, wading along the bottom of the Virgin River, through a stunning 1,000-foot-deep chasm that, at a mere 20 feet wide, definitely lives up to its name. Passing fancifully sculptured sandstone arches, hanging gardens, and waterfalls, this moderately strenuous 16-mile one-way hike can be completed in less than a day or in several days, depending on how quickly you want to go.
Warning: The Narrows is not an easy hike by any means; it’s subject to flash flooding and can be very treacherous. Park service officials remind hikers that they are responsible for their own safety and should always check on current water conditions and weather forecasts before heading out. This hike is not recommended when rain is forecast. Hikers should wear sturdy boots or shoes with good ankle support that they won’t mind getting wet, be prepared for cold temperatures with a sweater or jacket, and put everything in waterproof containers. You can rent necessary equipment from Zion Adventure Company (above). Experienced Narrows hikers also recommend that you take a walking stick to help steady your-self against the strong currents. Sticks are sometimes available near the end of the Riverside Walk, but you’re better off taking your own—hikers are prohibited from cutting tree branches to make walking sticks. Finally, because of the strong currents, park officials recommend that kids under 4[pr] 8[dp] tall not hike in the river. Permits are required for full-day and overnight hikes (check with rangers for details), but are not needed for easy, short day hikes, which you can access from just beyond the end of the Riverside Walk, a 2.2-mile round-trip trail that starts at the Temple of Sinawava parking area.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.