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The Best Hiking Trails in Zion National Park

A summary of the greatest hikes in the park, and what makes each of them special!

Zion Canyon viewed from Angel's Landing in Zion National Park

Zion National Park is one of the most astounding places I have ever visited. Miles of gorgeous cliff faces, a wandering road and river, and far more trails than anyone could ever hope to hike in a single vacation. I stayed in Springdale (the town right outside the park’s gates) for four nights, and here are the hikes I’d recommend. I’ve listed them here from my least to most favorite, but even the low-listed ones are absolutely well worth experiencing. You can’t go wrong in this stunning canyon, but if you’ve only got a day or two, use this list as your guide!


#7 - Court of the Patriarchs


The only reason this trail is rated lowest is that it barely counts as a “trail.” It’s an extremely short walk up to an overlook that gives you a lovely view of the Court of the Patriarchs: a set of three large cliff faces just across the road from the trail. You can visit it in ten minutes, and it’s definitely worth the time.


It was snowing when I visited this overlook, and the Patriarchs are rather majestic in the fog if I do say so myself.


The Court of the Patriarchs in the fog in Zion National Park


Zion Canyon viewed from the Upper Emerald Pools in Zion National Park

#6 - Upper Emerald Pools


Of all the proper trails I hiked, this one was my least favorite. It’s an out-and-back extension from the Middle and Lower Emerald Pools trails. (More on those two below!) Personally, I found this trail to be claustrophobic and less picturesque than the others. The destination is a pool at the base of the waterfall you’ve been climbing toward since the trailhead, but I found it a little underwhelming in comparison with the lower pools. It was crowded on the rocks around the pool, with everyone jockeying for their selfie spot, and all I got was wet from the spray. Plus, my photos from halfway down the trail were actually far better for views of the falls.


The best part of this hike was the views down the canyon in the other direction. It’s still a lovely trail, but if you’re looking to save your time or energy, this is a climb you can skip, or only complete partway.



#5 - Weeping Rock


Weeping Rock is another short trail, and the viewpoint it leads you to is utterly magical. A short but steep climb ends at a paved platform half underneath the overhanging cliff. Even in the summer, this rock overhang drips water as water filters down through the sandstone. In wet weather, a massive waterfall tumbles down over the edge. And as always, the view down the canyon is stunning all on its own.


I visited Zion in an uncommonly wet spring, so the waterfall might not be quite as epically large during your visit to Weeping Rock, but it’s a hell of a view no matter the season.

Zion Canyon and the Weeping Rock waterfall in Zion National Park

#4 - Watchman Trail


This hike gets passed over quite a bit because a lot of people don’t realize it’s there. Departing just steps from the visitors’ center, the Watchman Trail winds up the side of the cliffs and then levels out on its way to an overlook. From the overlook, you can see into the mouth of the park’s canyons and get a bird’s eye view of Springdale. The views of the singular Watchman peak are incredible from here as well. It’s a little less striking than some of the other trails deep inside the canyon, but it’s still a gorgeous view. I highly recommend it when you’re looking for a shorter excursion, since you don’t have to take the shuttle to reach it. I hiked it on the day I arrived in the park and only had a few hours before sundown, and it fit the bill perfectly.



#3 - Lower and Middle Emerald Pools


The Lower and Middle Pools trails are probably the most popular trails in Zion. They see a Lot of foot traffic, and with good reason. These trails wind their way over the river and up the cliffs on the west side of the canyon. The climbs are all quite gradual, making for a comfortable hike with excellent views. The route is dotted with gorgeous rock formations and, of course, the Emerald Pools. I had the pleasure of visiting Zion in an extremely wet spring, so the waterfalls were in peak form. They may not be as high or strong on your visit, but they’re still a sight to see!



The Middle Pools mark the end of the Lower Pools trail, and from there you can either take the out-and-back out to the Upper Pools, or you can cross the water and take the Middle Pools Trail back down to the trailhead. I highly recommend this alternate route down, rather than retracing your steps down the Lower Pools trail. The Middle Pools trail will be much less packed, and there will be stunning views of the canyon as you walk. Depending on the water levels during your visit, you may have to make a water crossing to get to the Middle Pools loop. But if I could do this in a record-breaking wet spring, you can definitely make the crossing safely! Just bring those waterproof boots!



#2 - Scouts Lookout and Angel’s Landing


Ok friends. This hike. Truthfully the only reason this hike is listed second from the top is because it’s not for everyone. If you’ve got this hike in you consider it my #1 recommendation in Zion.


This hike is actually composed of two trails, the Scout’s Landing Trail and Angel’s Landing. Angel’s Landing is probably the most famous hike in the park, and requires a permit. It’s also incredibly strenuous. You’re climbing up the side of these narrow rock faces with only the built-in chains and your own strength keeping you attached to the side of the mountain. But my friends, this hike was one of the more incredible experiences I’ve had in my life. And the views from the top, not to mention the accomplishment of getting there at all, are life-altering.


If you don’t have Angel’s Landing in you, or if you don’t score a permit, the hike to Scout’s Landing on its own is a beautiful climb with incredible views of the canyon. And you’ll still get to climb the famous Walter’s Wiggles! There’s a reason these trails are the most famous, and they’re worth the climb no matter how far up them you want to go.


If you want to learn how to score that elusive Angel's Landing permit, check out This Post!


For a complete Angel's Landing Survival Guide, read This Post!



The #1 Hiking Trail in Zion National Park - Riverside Walk


The top spot in the park goes to the Riverside Walk for its combination of beauty, uniqueness, and accessibility. Leaving from the very last shuttle stop, the Riverside walk takes you into the narrowest parts of the canyon. The famous Narrows (which I wasn’t able to hike on this trip due to high water) actually begin at the endpoint of the Riverside Walk.


The Riverside Walk trail stays near the canyon floor, and most of it is paved. The few rises and falls are gradual. And the sights are stunning. A completely different perspective from all the climbs listed previously, this trail takes you deep into the trenches, exposing you to the sheer size of the canyon walls in a new and spectacular way. All these things combined means that the Riverside Walk is a magical hike regardless of your fitness level, and a can’t miss trail for your visit to Zion.



And that’s the summary as it stands now. I can’t claim that this list is comprehensive. There are many trails I missed, due to weather, closures, and time constraints. Zion has far more beauty than can be experienced in a single visit, and I’m already planning my return. I hope to spend the rest of my life returning and hiking the trails in Zion National Park!


Which trail most piques your interest??


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Love and Shenanigans,


Andi


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