Home » Take a walk on the wild side: 8 of the best hikes in Zion National Park

Take a walk on the wild side: 8 of the best hikes in Zion National Park

written by Cliona Elliott August 20, 2021
A hiker on a walking trail in Zion National Park

Hiking in Zion National Park gives a whole new meaning to walking on the wild side. 

Hiking is one of the best ways to see Zion National Park. People flock from all over the world to explore the park’s Flintstone-esque rock domes, soaring sandstone cliffs, networks of narrow slot canyons and gorgeous river gardens. Whether you’re a hiking aficionado with thousands of mileage under your boots, a newbie looking to add more stamps to your trail passport or someone who simply enjoys a good ol’ stroll, here are some of our favourite trails in Zion.

1. The Narrows 

Hikers enjoying the Narrows trail on an Intrepid Travel tour
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard 
  • Distance: 16 miles (can be shorter if you go from the bottom up)
  • Duration: 6-8 hours (day hike) or 10-13 hours (overnight hike)
  • Elevation: 334 feet 
  • Hike type: Out and back or point to point 
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes
  • Trailhead: Temple of Sinawava (stop #9) or Chamberlain’s Ranch (2.5 miles east of the east entrance)
  • Permit required: Yes (only if you are hiking top-down)

A hike doesn’t quite cut it. This is an adventure that will have you wading through shin-deep river passages and doing the odd bit of rock scrambling. You can either start at the Riverside Walk at the Temple of Sinawava and go from the bottom up, or from the Chamberlain Ranch from the top down if you want the full canyoneering experience. The latter takes much longer and involves camping overnight at the halfway point. Either way, you’ll be amazed as you gaze up at the massive sandstone cliffs towering over you.

CAMP AND HIKE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK

2. Weeping Rock

Weeping Rock in Zion National Park
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 0.4 miles 
  • Duration: 30 mins 
  • Elevation: 98 feet
  • Hike type: Round trip
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes
  • Trailhead: Weeping Rock (stop #7)
  • Permit required: No

This trail is so beautiful it makes people cry. Just kidding. This huge overhanging rock gets its name from the water that slowly trickles down and ‘weeps’ through the cliffs. Thanks to a constant stream of water, the walls are covered in moss and fern and are surrounded by lush vegetation. This is an easy, leisurely stroll, but just be careful as it can get a little slippery. It’s also the starting point for other trails including Observation Point, Hidden Canyon and the East Rim Trail. 

3. Emerald Pools

USA Zion National Park Lower Emerald Pool
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1.5 to 3 miles 
  • Duration: 2-4 hours 
  • Elevation: 400 feet (to Upper Emerald Pools)
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: The Lower Pool is accessible to wheelchairs with assistance 
  • Trailhead: Zion Lodge (stop #5) or The Grotto (stop #6)
  • Permit required: No

Imagine how good it would be to find a lush oasis on a hot summer’s day in Zion. Well, now’s your chance! Surrounded by refreshing water streams, leafy hanging gardens and 300-foot cliffs, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic lunch. The Emerald Pools Trail takes you to the falls of lower Emerald Pools with the option to continue to the middle or upper pools. You can also loop onto the Kayenta Trail if you fancy a bit more of an adventure.

4. Observation Point 

Hikers on the trail to Observation Point in Zion National Park
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Distance: 8 miles 
  • Duration: 4-6 hours 
  • Elevation: 2,000 feet 
  • Hike type: Out and back 
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Trailhead: Weeping Rock (stop #7) or East Mesa Trailhead 
  • Permit required: No

Observation Point is one of Zion’s most challenging hikes, and you need a full day to do it. This isn’t one of those trails that teases you and leaves you hanging until the very end for amazing views. You’ll go through a series of steep switchbacks at the beginning of the journey that offer jaw-dropping views of Zion Canyon. Every drop of sweat is worth it when you reach Observation Point, with even more impressive views that sweep across the park.

5. Angel’s Landing 

Zion National Park Angels Landing
  • Difficulty: Hard 
  • Distance: 5 miles 
  • Duration: 3-6 hours 
  • Elevation: 1,500 feet 
  • Hike type: Out and back 
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Trailhead: The Grotto (stop #6)
  • Permit required: Yes (but only for the final section of the trail)

Angel’s Landing is one of Zion’s most famous trails. You’ll climb a series of steep switchbacks that take you through the cool, sheltered Refrigerator Canyon, Walter’s Wiggles and Scout’s Lookout – you can turn back here if you don’t fancy the next (and most testing) section of the hike. Now the bit you’ve been waiting for: the half-mile walk across the narrow cliff spine. There are chains bolted down to support you, but seeing the sheer drop will definitely get your heart pumping. Once you get past that bit, give yourself a huge pat on the back and take a moment to soak up the incredible 360 vistas of the canyon.

6. Canyon Overlook

A view from the Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Duration: 30 mins – 1 hour 
  • Elevation: 100 feet
  • Hike type: Out and back 
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Trailhead: East entrance of Mount Carmel Tunnel (below the East Temple Saddle)
  • Permit required: No

This family-friendly trail is another favourite. It’s also the most photographed part of Zion, and for good reason. They say the early bird catches the worm, so we highly recommend setting your alarm early to watch the sunrise over the canyon – it’s incredible. Keep your eyes peeled for East Temple Towers standing at 2,000 feet directly above the overlook, and also the West Temple, Tower of Virgins, Beehives and Streaked Wall. 

7. Pa’rus Trail

The Pa'rus Trail in Zion National Park
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 3.5 miles 
  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Elevation: Mostly flat 
  • Hike type: Out and back
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes
  • Trailhead: Zion Visitor Center/South Campground (stop #1), Zion Museum (stop #2) and Canyon Junction (stop #3)
  • Permit required: No

This paved, pet-friendly trail is named after a Paiute word meaning “bubbling, tumbling water”, and you’ll soon see why. The trail follows a gorgeous section of the Virgin River and it’s quite simply a lovely place for a stroll, cycle or picnic. You may occasionally share the path with a mule deer who might be grazing or chilling out by the water.

8. The Subway 

The Subway trail in Zion National Park
  • Difficulty: Difficult 
  • Distance: 9.5 miles 
  • Duration: 7-9 hours 
  • Elevation: 1,000 feet descent / 400 feet ascent 
  • Hike type: Round trip
  • Wheelchair accessible: No
  • Trailhead: Left Fork
  • Permit required: Yes 

Up for a real challenge? You won’t be able to jump on a train here, but you will be able to down-climb, rappel and swim through cold water passages. This is one of Zion’s most stunning slot canyons with multiple waterfalls and unique rock formations. For those who aren’t experienced or ready for a full day of canyoneering, there’s also the option to do the shorter, less strenuous bottom-up hike. 

Tips for hiking in Zion National Park

When hiking in Zion, always:

  • Set off as early as possible 
  • Give yourself plenty of time to return and set a no-negotiation time to turn back 
  • Tell someone your plans and the time you expect to return
  • Bring plenty of water and high-energy snacks 
  • Wear a pair of sturdy hiking boots/shoes and bring warm and cold layers 
  • Leave no trace

Lace up your hiking boots and join Intrepid on a Zion National Park tour.

Feeling inspired?

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Mingukie77 December 23, 2021 - 5:20 pm

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