Zion National Park’s towering canyons are filled with abundant hiking options, but there are select few hikes you can’t miss when you visit. From shady riverbanks to high overlooks, these four trails travel through the best scenery and viewpoints in Zion. Check out our list of the four “can’t miss hikes” in Zion National Park.
Explore the Virgin River on this exciting hike through the Zion Narrows. You’ll want to wear shoes that work well in water and can grip the smooth river stones, and a walking stick or trekking poles are recommended. You can rent shoes designed for hiking in water at Zion Adventure Company, located outside the park in Springdale. The hike begins at the end of Zion Canyon, where the valley narrows dramatically into a “slot canyon.” If you’ve never experienced a slot canyon before, it is a path carved by water through solid rock, often only wide enough for the waterway itself. From the Zion shuttle stop at the trailhead, enjoy a flat 1-mile walk along the river until the trail drops into the river itself. You’ll stay in ankle-to-waist deep water for the majority of your hike up canyon from there, with the chance to swim in deep pools and warm up on sandy banks lined with grapevine and ferns. The water in the Narrows is cold, making it most fun in the summer months. Before you go, be aware of flash floods that can occur, especially from the months of July – September.
Mileage: 3-8 miles roundtrip (depending on turnaround point) // Elevation gain: 200-600 ft
Zion’s “Emerald Pools” is named for the unexpected beauty of moss and algae that grows beneath the water. The trail climbs on a gentle grade to three individual ponds. You’ll hike through a shady micro-climate formed in a corner of Zion’s massive red walls. On the way you pass Douglas Firs and vine maples more often seen in alpine climates than in the desert. The first pool you will reach is the largest and attracts the most sightseers. For those willing to climb higher, the second two pools rarely see many visitors. At the top, take a rest and enjoy the tranquility of the third pool beneath red cliffs towering over a 1,000 feet above. For extra mileage, take the adjoining Kayenta Trail along the Virgin River to the next shuttle stop or to the Angel’s Landing Trail.
Mileage: 2.5 miles roundtrip (to all three pools) // Elevation Gain: 900 ft.
One of the most notorious hikes in the Southwest, hiking the Angel’s Landing Trail is the penultimate challenge at Zion National Park. There’s no way it could be left off a list of “can’t miss hikes in Zion.” The trail begins at the Grotto shuttle stop, and immediately gains elevation for sweeping views of the valley. You’ll experience a cool break traveling through “Refrigerator Canyon” and take a rest at the spectacular Scout’s Lookout before tackling the summit. From Scout’s Lookout it is a ½ mile long journey out on a sandstone spine soaring 1500 feet above the valley floor at the Angel’s Landing summit. The trail’s precipitous exposure is protected by chains and steps driven into the rock, but once at the summit there are incredible 360 degree views of the valley. This trail can get very crowded, so it’s best to go at the earliest shuttle pickup possible. For more information about avoiding crowds in Zion National Park, read this blog. WARNING: this trail is not recommended for young children or anyone with a fear of heights.
Mileage: 5.5 miles roundtrip // Elevation Gain: 1500 ft
For a challenging climb with spectacular views, hike Observation Point. The hike to Observation Point is one of the longer trails in Zion National Park. Beginning in a cool forest overhung with tall trees and dripping springs, you’ll journey up lengthy switchbacks to ever-bigger and better vistas. Journeying out of the main valley, you’ll look down into the depths of a popular canyoneering route called Echo Canyon. You will then hike along the canyon walls to multiple overlooks of Zion canyon and the eastern backcountry. If the whole hike to Observation Point isn’t in the cards for you today, never fear – the trail’s huge variety of scenery makes any turnaround point a memorable one.
Mileage: 8 miles roundtrip // Elevation Gain: 2200 ft