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
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
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
- Pets are not allowed on
any of the hiking trails except the Pa'rus Trail.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
afterwards. Can be hot in mid-day.
- 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
- 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.
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.