A Hiker’s Guide to Zion National Park

June 2, 2016Travel Ideas

With the weather warming up and nature in full bloom, there’s no better time to take a hike — as if there is ever a bad time. Zion National Park, Utah’s first national park, features over 90 miles of trails and 124,400 acres of designated wilderness, making this a hiker’s dream destination.

This is your guide to hiking in Zion, from easy day hikes to boot-busting backpacking trips.

Day hikes

Several Zion National Park hiking trails are perfect for short hikes that range from just an hour or two to a full day. With some of the most striking scenery in the Southwest – Zion boasts every landscape from arid deserts and rugged peaks to thick forests and lush valleys – it's hard to go wrong. Look for a trail that matches the level of difficulty you're prepared for:

River and canyons in Zion National Park
  • Lower Emerald Pool Trail (easy): Starting at the Zion Lodge, this 1.2-mile trail leads through gentle terrain to the beautiful Emerald Pool and waterfalls. It typically takes an hour or less to complete the hike, but connections are available to the more challenging Kayenta and Upper Emerald Pool trails. 
  • Watchman Trail (moderate): This two-hour, 2.7-mile hike departs from a trailhead at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, with moderate drop-offs and expansive views of lower Zion Canyon and Towers of the Virgin. 
  • Observation Point via East Rim Trail (strenuous): The trailhead for this 8-mile route is located at Weeping Rock, then climb through Echo Canyon to a viewpoint of Zion Canyon. Expect tricky footing and challenging descents, and allow yourself at least six hours to complete the hike.

More than a dozen other day hikes are available at Zion National Park. Use this handy guide to find more trails and trailhead locations!

Backpacking trips

Overnight hiking in the backcountry of Zion National Park should not be taken lightly. It requires stamina, skill, and preparedness. No facilities are available in the backcountry, so you will have to carry everything you need for the duration of your hike, including food and water. For any of these backpacking trails, expect stunning views but also difficult terrain and unpredictable weather:

 

  • West Rim Trail (14.2 miles): From the West Rim trailhead near Lava Point, this trail makes a challenging ascent along a series of canyon rims, climbing steeply before its eventual descent that results in a total elevation change of 3,400 feet. Alternate routes are available for a potential loop hike.
  • La Verkin Creek Trail (14.4 miles): After departing the trailhead at Lee Pass, the La Verkin Creek Trail passes through open canyons along Timber Creek with excellent cliff views and access to Kalob Arch, one of the largest free-standing arches in the world. 
  • The Narrows (16 miles): Perhaps the most challenging Zion National Park hike, this route meanders through a network of spectacular canyons carved by the Virgin River. The scenery is outstanding, but expect to get wet. More than half of the trail involves wading, walking, and sometimes swimming in the stream.

Hiking in Zion offers unparalleled sights for every national park lover. Just remember that all excursion into the park, even short hikes, require advanced planning so be sure to research your desired trek and check in on current conditions at the park’s visitor center or online.

Want some additional inspiration for other national park hikes? Get your free copy of our owner’s guide, “Happy Trails”– filled with 25 unforgettable hikes for all ages and ability levels – and get out and find your park! 


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