The hiking trails at Zion National Park are some of the best hiking trails in the United States and worldwide. There are a variety of trails to choose from, and there is something for every level. And no matter which path you choose, you will have incredible views at every turn. There are so many great spots along the way to take in the awe-inspiring sandstone mountains, Zion Canyon, and the Virgin River. This post will help you decide which of the best hiking trails in Zion National Park you want to hike during your visit!
For an overview of Zion National Park, make sure also to check out my Zion National Park – Best Travel Guide (Plus 5 Great Tips!). This ultimate travel guide covers information such as the best time to go to Zion, how to get there, and how to get around Zion National Park.
One of the Best and Most Unique Hiking Trails – The Narrows
Description of The Narrows
Hiking the Narrows is a unique and unforgettable experience. The Narrows got its name because it is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon and the Virgin River’s North Fork. Hiking the Narrows is one reason why it is so unforgettable; you are walking in the Virgin River!
First, you start at the Riverside Walk, which is one mile from the Temple of Sinawava. The Riverside Walk is beautiful too! So, if hiking in a river doesn’t interest you, I still suggest only taking the Riverside Walk for a nice, quick hike.
Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to hike in the river. Hiking in a river?! I was worried that the water would be cold.
And this is a challenging hike and is rated strenuous. There are rocks in the river that you need to step over, and they can be slippery. I did see people slip and fall, and there are some areas where you need to take careful steps because you can’t know where you are walking.
But the beauty of this hiking trail is striking, and it is impressive to see the tall walls of the canyon. Also, depending on the time of year, the water temperature may be cold. In June, the water felt great because it was so hot outside. Some areas of the river came up to my waist, but it was just up to my knees in most places.
Most people hike only a portion of the Narrows to the section called Wall Street, then turn back around. You can go further, but some parts of the Narrows require a permit.
- Length of trail: Up to 9.4 miles
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Elevation Gain: 334 feet
Tips for Hiking the Narrows
- Bring closed-toed shoes, do not hike in sandals. You can injure your feet on the rocks.
- Also bring hiking poles, if you have them, to keep you steady.
- Waterproof hiking shoes and hiking poles can be rented from Zion Outfitter
- Get there early! This is a very popular hike, especially in the summer.
How to Get to The Narrows
You will need to take the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava, shuttle stop #9.
Angels Landing via the West Rim Trail
Description of Angels Landing via the West Rim Trail
Another of my favorite trails and one of the best hiking trails in Zion National Park is Angels Landing. The first part of the hike, the West Rim Trail, has great switchbacks that take you up the mountain, providing excellent opportunities to take in the beauty of Zion. Angels Landing is strenuous, so definitely bring water and snacks to keep you going.
Angels Landing is technically the last ½ mile of the trail and should only be taken if you are cautious and not afraid of heights. There are steep, long drop-offs and only one chain to hang onto! Yikes! People have died doing this part of the trail, but many are still brave as there was a long line to get to the top of Angels Landing. We decided not to do this last part of the trail, but it was still one of my favorite hikes without it!
The West Rim Trail has many great places along the way. The first portion of the trail is along the Virgin River. You will cross the bridge over the river, then hike along the river. The first two miles are called Refrigerator Canyon, and it is the most shaded part of the trail.
Next, the trail begins to increase in elevation. As you hike, you will come to the section named Walter’s Wiggles, which is due to the 21 switchbacks guiding you up the steep mountain. Take your time on this portion, not only to take breaks but there are so many great places to take photos. Walter’s Wiggles was one of my favorite sections of this trail.
Walter’s Wiggles will lead you to Scout’s Lookout, where you get incredible views of Zion Canyon. Scout’s Lookout is a great place to rest, have some snacks and water. And, if you plan to do the last part up to Angels Landing, this is where it starts. If not, you can turn around and go back from Scout’s Lookout.
- Length of trail: 5.4 miles
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
Tips for Hiking Angels Landing via the West Rim Trail
- Take your time hiking this trail and enjoy the beauty along the way! There are many great stops along the way to take pictures or just take in the view.
- If you plan to hike the chained section of Angels Landing, check the National Park System website to see if you need to make a reservation.
- Bring lots of water and snacks to keep you hydrated and fueled along the way.
How to Get to Angels Landing
Take the shuttle to shuttle stop #6, The Grotto.
Important News about Angels Landing!
As of August 2021, there is news that Zion National Park is moving to a reservation system to hike Angels Landing. Angels Landing has become a very popular hiking trail over the years. And due to the crowds and need to improve safety, Zion National Park is proposing a permit system to hike this portion of the trail. You will still be able to walk the West Rim Trail up to Scouts Lookout without a permit. For the latest information on this, check the Zion National Park website.
Canyon Overlook Trail
Description of Canyon Overlook Trail
Canyon Overlook Trail was another one of my favorite trails. The views of Zion Canyon are breathtaking, and it is a shorter hike which is perfect if you are looking for a quick trail. And this is one of the few trails that you can drive to instead of taking the shuttle. The scenic drive on the way to the trailhead is also great for taking pictures.
Even though this is a quick hike, there are so many amazing views. So, I recommend taking your time to enjoy it fully. We stopped at many points along the way to take in views of the Great Arch and enjoy the alcoves. Then you will reach the cliff which overlooks Zion Canyon.
- Length of trail: 1 mile
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 163 feet
Tips for Hiking the Canyon Overlook Trail
- Getting there in the morning is recommended to get the most beautiful views for photos!
- Also, arriving in the morning, you may be able to see some big horned sheep!
- Take your time even though this is a short hike, there are many amazing views.
How to Get to Canyon Overlook Trail
You cannot take the shuttle to this trail; you will need to drive. From the south entrance, go north to the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway. Turn right on to the highway and travel east, through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel to the trailhead. The trailhead is just on the other side of the tunnel. There is a tiny parking lot, but you may be able to find some places to park on the road if the lot is full.
Observation Point via East Mesa Trail
Description of Observation Point via East Mesa Trail
Observation Point has typically been accessed from the East Rim Trail at the Weeping Rock shuttle stop. However, the access from Weeping Rock is closed due to rockfall. But there is still a way to hike Observation Point, and that is via the East Mesa Trail.
This trail is the longest trail we did during our visit to Zion National Park. Especially adding on the extra hike from the parking down from the trailhead, this hike was about 8 miles round trip. However, the hike did not have too much elevation change, so it was manageable. There are many shaded areas of the trail too. But we definitely could feel the heat on the way back to the car, so I recommend starting this hike early if you are there in the summer months.
The trail starts in a ponderosa pine forest, which is nicely shaded. But, then, the trail is sandy in some areas, and it felt like there was going to be a beach just on the other side of the hill! That’s one of the great things about the trails in Zion National Park, the trails vary in terrain, so you get something different with every trail.
The view from Observation Point is impressive! You can see the Zion Canyon from 6508 feet elevation. And from this elevation, you are looking down onto Angels Landing.
- Length of trail: 6.7 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 695 feet
Tips for Hiking to Observation Point via East Mesa Trail
- If hiking in the summer, get there early to beat the heat
- Bring extra water and snacks because this is a longer hike
- Park before you get to the rocky, bumpy road, about ½ mile from the trailhead, if you do not have an SUV.
How to Get to the East Mesa Trail
The shuttle does not go to the East Mesa Trail, so you will need to drive. From the south entrance, you will take UT-9 East. You will turn left onto N Fork County Rd. Turn left in about half a mile. Continue onto Pine Angle Rd/Twin Knolls Rd. Then go straight for a half-mile. Continue onto Twill Knoll Rd for 0.3 miles. Turn right onto Beaver Rd in 1.2 miles. Turn right onto Rocky Rd in 0.1 miles. Rocky Rd turns left and becomes Fir Rd. Trailhead will be on the left.
It is important to note that getting to the trailhead should be fine for the last part of the road if you have an SUV. Otherwise, you could get stuck. There is parking just before this bumpy part of the road, so to be on the safe side, it is recommended to park there if you have a smaller car. We had rented a Ford Fiesta, so we decided to use the parking before getting to the trailhead to avoid any damages to the rental car. People have reported getting their cars stuck, especially if the road is wet and muddy.
Description of the Emerald Pools Trails
There are 3 Emerald Pools Trails: Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools. Lower Emerald is a paved trail and leads to the Lower Emerald Pool and waterfalls. And this trail leads to the Middle and Upper Emerald Pools Trails and Kayenta Trail if you want to take a longer hike.
Middle Emerald Pool Trail is unpaved and leads to a sandstone ledge. The Upper Emerald Pool Trail is a sandy and rocky trail.
- Length of trail: Lower Emerald Pool 1.2 miles, Middle Emerald Pool 2.2 miles, Upper Emerald Pool 1 mile
- Difficulty: Lower Emerald Pool – Easy, Middle and Upper Emerald Pool – Moderate
- Elevation Gain: Lower Emerald Pool – 69 feet, Middle Emerald Pool – 150 feet, Upper Emerald Pool – 200 feet
How to Get to the Emerald Pools
Take the shuttle to stop #5, Zion Lodge
Description of the Kayenta Trail
This trail is nicely shaded but can be heavily trafficked if visiting during the busy months. It features a waterfall and overlooks the Virgin River. It also connects with the Upper Emerald Pool Trail if you want to add on to this hike.
- Length of trail: 2 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 150 feet
How to Get to Kayenta Trail
Take the shuttle to stop #6, the Grotto.
Description of the Watchman Trail
The Watchman trail has moderate drop-offs and has views of the Temples and Towers, lower Zion Canyon, Watchman Peak, and the town of Springdale.
- Length of trail: 3.3 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 368 feet
How to Get to the Watchman Trail
This trail starts right at the Visitor Center.
What to Bring
Here are some ideas for what to bring for your hiking adventures in Zion National Park.
- Small bag or backpack
- Hiking boots or shoes
- Hiking poles
- Water and refillable water bottle
- Snacks such as trail mix, protein bars, and granola bars
Zion National Park has some of the best hiking trails in the United States and has many beautiful trails with different terrain, difficulty levels, and views! There is something for every skill level, and these include the 7 of the best hiking trails in this post. Knowing which trails you want to take before arriving at Zion can help you get the most out of your time at this inspiring place.
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