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 Intrepid Travel August 20, 2021
A hiker on a walking trail in Zion National Park

From staggering Flintstone-esque rock domes to soul-stirring views of the lush Zion Canyon, 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. We’re all a-boot it. People flock from all corners of the US – and the world – to explore the intricate labyrinth of slot canyons, desert oases, soaring sandstone cliffs and bucket list trails. One minute you’ll be walking through a dry and dusty desert and the next you’ll be surrounded by gorgeous green vegetation and river gardens.

Why do we love hiking in Zion? Because there are trails for everyone – whether you’re a hiking aficionado with thousands of trail mileage under your boots, a newbie looking to add more stamps to your hiking passport, or someone who simply enjoys a good ol’ stroll.  These boots were made for hikin’ after all. 

Here are some of the best hikes in Zion National Park (in no particular order):

  1. The Narrows 
  2. Weeping Rock
  3. Emerald Pools
  4. Observation Point
  5. Angel’s Landing 
  6. Canyon Overlook 
  7. Pa’rus Trail
  8. The Subway 

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 ankle-deep (sometimes waist-deep) river passages, jumping in sandstone swimming pools and doing the odd bit of rock scrambling. This is Zion’s most popular slot canyon hike. You can either start at the Riverside Walk at the Temple of Sinawava and go from the bottom up, or from the Chamberlain Ranch and go from the top down if you want the full canyoneering experience. The latter takes much longer and involves camping halfway. Either way, you’ll be having far too much fun and looking up at the 1,00 feet sandstone cliffs towering over you to remember that you’re on a ‘hike’. 

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. Well, not about the beautiful part. Weeping Rock is a large overhanging rock that “weeps” with water that slowly trickles down through the cliffs. Thanks to this constant stream of water, the walls are covered in moss and fern and are surrounded by lush gardens. 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

Waterfalls at Lower Emerald Pools in Zion National Park
  • 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 gorgeous it would be to find a lush oasis on a hot summer’s day in Zion. The Emerald Pools Trail takes you to the falls of Lower Emerald Pools with the option to continue to Middle Emerald Pools or Upper Emerald pools. You can also loop onto the Kayenta Trail if you fancy a bit more of an adventure. You’ll be surrounded by refreshing water streams, leafy hanging gardens and 300-foot cliffs – don’t forget to bring a picnic for a wonderful alfresco lunch.

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 more challenging and you’ll 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 relatively early on that offer jaw-dropping views of the Zion Canyon below. The summit is the cherry on an already delicious cake with panoramic views that stretch even farther.

5. Angel’s Landing 

The iconic Angel's Landing trail in Zion National Park
  • 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 0.5 mile section of the trail)

It doesn’t get more iconic than Angel’s Landing. You’ll climb a series of steep switchbacks that take you through the cool and 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 the adrenaline rush is bound to get your heart pumping a few beats faster. Once you get past that bit, give yourself a huge pat on the back and take a moment to soak up the incredible 360 views of the canyon below you. 

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 all-time favorite. It’s also the most photographed part of Zion, and for good reason. They say the early bird catches the worm, and 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 2,000 feet directly above the overlook (not hard to miss this one really) 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 trail is named after a Paiute word meaning “bubbling, tumbling water”, and you’ll soon see why. This pet-friendly trail follows a gorgeous section of the Virgin River and it’s quite simply a lovely place for a stroll, cycle or picnic. You’ll be surrounded by wildflowers and the occasional mule deer who might be grazing or chilling out by the water. The trail is paved the whole way and is wheelchair accessible. 

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 

Did you know Zion has its very own subway? But you won’t be able to jump on a train here. Instead, you’ll be down climbing, rappelling and doing the occasional cold swim through natural pools and water passages. This is one of Zion’s most stunning slot canyons and you’ll see waterfalls, cascades and unique rock carvings. For those who aren’t experienced (or prepared) for a full day of canyoneering, you also have the option to do the less strenuous bottom-up hike. 

Tips for hiking in Zion National Park

It’s important to be a responsible traveler when hiking in Zion (or anywhere else for that matter). 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 

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to hiking in Zion, and one trip will only make you hungry for more. It’s not all about hiking, though. There are loads of other fun things to do including cycling, rock climbing, river tubing, canyoneering and so much more.

EXPLORE THESE HIKING TRAILS FOR YOURSELF ON A ZION NATIONAL PARK TOUR.

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