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Zion National Park
Part 6: Hiking Zion
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Introduction
• Part 2: Getting to Zion
• Part 3: Lodging & Dining
• Part 4: Zion Activities
• Part 5: Saving Money, Tips

 Zion Resources
• Zion Essentials
Zion Photos
Zion Maps
Zion Travel Planner
• Walking Zion
 If You Go to Zion
Zion National Park
Zion Lodge
• Zion Narrows
• The World Outdoors
• Zion Adventure Company

Zion National Park holds dozens of hikes for adventurers of any fitness level. You can hike to vistas high above the canyon, or into deep river canyons where sunlight never penetrates.

Take at least a gallon of water per person for an all-day hike, wear SPF 30 sunscreen and a hat, weary sturdy shoes, and be sure you are fit enough for the hike you are attempting. Remember that you are starting at high elevation. Thirst is the first symptom of dehydration, so drink before you feel thirsty.

General Hiking Information

You can find good hiking summaries in the Zion Map & Guide that you get when you enter the park. It lists distance, ascent and trail conditions. A few tips for hiking Zion:

  • Most trailheads in Zion Canyon near shuttle stops. Check the shuttle schedule and plan your hike so you don't miss the last shuttle out.
  • The Virgin River is one of the last mostly-free-flowing river systems on the Colorado Plateau. Flash floods are not uncommon, and may originate from storms miles away. Enter narrow canyons at your own risk, and ask a ranger before going.
  • Cell phones generally don't work on any hike north or east of Zion Lodge, beyond the tunnel, on Kolob Terrace Road, or in the Kolob Canyons.
  • You need a permit for all overnight hikes, all hikes through the Narrows, and any canyon hike requiring technical equipment. Permits are available at the Visitor Center the day before your hike. Backcountry permits for hiking the Subway (Left Fork) are issued by lottery three months in advance. You can apply for the lottery online.
  • Pets are not allowed on any of the hiking trails except the Pa'rus Trail.

Easy Hikes

  • Riverside Walk - A fairly flat, 2-mile path that follows the river, starting from Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop. Takes about 1.5 hours round trip, or take the shuttle in and hike out.
  • Pa'rus Trail - Follows river from the Visitor Center to Zion Canyon junction, 3.5 miles. This is the only trail in Zion that dogs and bicycles can go on. It's quite nice in evening, and little-used most of the time.
  • Lower Emerald Pools - While the pools aren't as emerald-colored as they used to be due to human pollution, this 1.2 mile hike with a mere 69-foot elevation gain is a nice hike that takes about an hour round trip. The paved trail starts from the Zion Lodge shuttle stop.
  • Grotto Trail - A short 0.5-mile walk from the Grotto picnic area to Zion Lodge. Few people walk on it, and it's close enough to the cliffs that you may find wildlife along the way.

Moderate Hikes

  • Middle Emerald Pools Trail - A two-mile hike with 150-foot elevation gain that takes about two hours round trip. Beware of steep cliffs and dropoffs. The Upper Pools Trail continues 0.3 miles from the Middle Pools, climbing 200 feet. The trail starts from the Zion Lodge shuttle stop.
  • Watchman Trail - A two-mile, two-hour hike with a 368-foot elevation gain, best undertaken early or late in the day to avoid the heat. The trail ends at a point with a view of Springdale and Lower Zion and Oak Creek Canyons. This is a good full moon night hike (bring a headlamp and warm clothing). The trail starts from the Visitor Center.
  • Hidden Canyon Trail - A steep, 2.2-mile climb with 850-foot elevation gain that takes about 3 hours. Steep dropoffs may be a problem for those who fear heights. The trail starts at the Weeping Rock shuttle stop and ends at mouth of a hanging canyon.
  • Canyon Overlook - At the east end of the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel, this one-mile, one-hour hike climbs 163 feet and ends at one of the few places you can look down on Zion Canyon. It starts quite steep steep with steps cut in the stone and chain railings, but gets easier afterwards. Can be hot in mid-day.

Strenuous Hikes

  • Angels Landing Trail - One of Zion's two hiking "jewels" climbs 1,488 feet to a 5,790-foot summit high above the canyon. Paved switchbacks take you to to Walter's Wiggles (a series of 21 cut stone switchbacks that lead from Refrigerator Canyon to Scout Lookout), then you encounter a very steep trail with chains. The last 0.5 mile follows a steep, narrow ridge (1,500 feet straight down on either side), and this trail is definitely not for those who fear heights. The total distance is five miles and the hike takes at least four hours,  The trail starts at the Grotto shuttle stop.
  • Observation Point - On the east rim, this 8-mile, 5 hour trail climbs 2,148 feet through Echo Canyon, with excellent views of Zion Canyon, passing through four distinct environmental zones. Not for acrophobic. The trail begins at the Weeping Rock shuttle stop.

Virgin River Narrows

The park's other hiking "jewel," The Narrows is named for a two-mile section of the Virgin River where 2,000-foot-high cliffs soar barely 20 feet apart.

This splendid hike requires walking in the river for much of the trip. The river level varies by season, and the water runs from mid-calf to mid-thigh or higher, depending on your height and the time of year. Early summer may be best time to hike the Narrows, after the spring runoff and before the summer rainy season. Any time of year, the river is cold, so wear lots of layers, and wear quick-drying clothing. Walking poles and river shoes can help keep you from slipping and falling.

If you want to do this hike and don't have the equipment for it, the Zion Adventure Company rents everything you need, including poles, specially-designed river shoes, gear to keep cameras dry, and drysuits or wetsuits for cooler weather. They also keep track of the weather, river level, water temperature, and other pertinent information, and they can advise you about the hike..

Options for hiking The Narrows

  • Bottom Up - Hike in and out from the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop along the Riverside Walk. It's 4 to 6 miles from where you enter the river to the narrows. Allow 40 minutes to 1 hour per mile to hike upstream against the current.
  • Through Hikes - Enter upstream at Chamberlain Ranch. The hike is 16 miles from there to the Temple of Sinawava, and 17.5 miles to get to the shuttle stop. This hike requires a permit and a shuttle to the trailhead whether you're doing it in a single day or camping overnight. The park issues 80 individual through-hike passes and 12 overnight group passes each day, and you can pick them up the day before your hike. November through May, the roads to Chamberlain Ranch are too muddy to get to the trailhead, even with a four wheel drive vehicle.

Guided Hiking

Hiking with an outdoor outfitter like The World Outdoors can be a good way to explore Zion. Let your guides pick the trails and lead you, while you focus on the experience.


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Many thanks to The World Outdoors for their assistance in preparing this article

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