We did a quickie visit to Zion on our first Big Trip in 2016. On our second Big Trip, we had more time to explore and really get to know Zion. It’s a magical place, and because of that, it’s crowded. Just know that going in and you’ll be fine! (We had to pep-talk ourselves, but maybe that’s just us.) Here are all the hikes we did in Zion; I wrote about things to do outside the park in this post.
We did this 5.4-mile hike in 2016, the only hike we had time for on that trip. It was a unique hike: crazy switchbacks, steep climbs, support chains… and crowds! Some have called it the scariest hike in America. It’s one of (the?) most popular hikes in Zion, so we caught the earliest shuttle we could and ran ahead of all the other hikers… which was great in that we didn’t have to wait at any of the climbs, but the lighting wasn’t great for photos from the top.
We loved this 8-mile hike: a long zigzaggy climb from the canyon to the rim, where the trail wrapped around to a wide view back up the canyon. It was crowded, sure, but after the first couple miles the crowds thinned considerably, and a picnic at the overlook was delightful.
The trail for the Narrows hike is the Virgin river itself. We rented neoprene socks, canyoneering boots, and dry pants from Zion Outfitter (and took a free walking stick, which was super useful in the river) and hiked up from the Temple of Sinawava a few miles, through Wall Street and a bit up Orderville Canyon. It was a ton of fun, and again, the crowds thinned after the first mile of the hike. If you start from the bottom, as we did, you can make the hike as long or as short as you want. More intrepid adventurers get a 2-hour shuttle up to the top of the canyon and hike down the river, but after daylight saving ends there’s not enough time to finish the trek in daylight.
Lower Emerald Pools
This is an easy, busy two-mile stroll to a gossamer waterfall. The pool itself wasn’t emerald when I was there, but rather kind of drab. It’s quite lovely to stand behind the waterfall and view the lush greenery beyond. The Middle and Upper Emerald Pool trails were closed at the time of our visit.
This is the one dog-friendly trail in Zion! And I didn’t take Bugsy! I assumed it would be stupid since it’s a paved trail along a 2-mile segment of the bottom of the canyon, but on a whim I got off the shuttle early and walked the Pa’rus back to the park exit. I loved it. The views (mostly behind me, of the upper canyon) were gorgeous and dramatic, and being on the canyon floor gave me the opportunity to see some wildlife and the fiesty little river.
The Watchman Trail
The Watchman Trail is a three-mile hike up to a view of the lower canyon and the Watchman peak. It wasn’t a super exciting hike or a super scenic vista, but it was pleasant and pretty enough.
Kolob Terrace Trailheads
A few Zion trailheads are located outside the Zion entrance gate, up Kolob Terrace Road. It’s a spectacular drive, which conveniently begins very close the Zion River Resort campground. The map we picked up at Zion Outfitter had the most delightful factoid on a Kolob Terrace hike description: Smell a Ponderosa pine. Do you small vanilla or butterscotch? I can’t tell you how many Ponderosa pines I’ve smelled since reading that, and I’m 75% in the butterscotch camp.
West Rim Trail
We hiked in 2 miles on the West Rim Trail, a gloriously flat jaunt through the forest, without any big views. It was gorgeous and peaceful and now hiking the entire 18-mile West Rim Trail is on our wish list.
Northgate Peaks Trail
This was a fun little hike! It’s a 4-mile hike through the quiet woods to a sweet view from a rocky crag. We shared it with just a couple other people–a vastly different experience from hiking trails in the main part of Zion.
West Rim Trail
The short jaunt we took on the West Rim trail made us want to do the whole 18-mile hike. It requires a shuttle, but the several outfitters in Springdale all offer rides to remote trailheads. The trail ends in the park near Angel’s Landing.
Like the Narrows, the Subway isn’t a trail hike, but rather a river walk. The Subway is more technical though; you need some rappelling experience, which we don’t really have. We want to look into what’s involved in gaining the necessary canyoneering knowledge to go on this adventure next time.