Zion National Park, Utah: 6 Hikes From the Valley Floor and the East Rim Road - SkyAboveUs - Outdoors
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Zion National Park, Utah: 6 Hikes From the Valley Floor and the East Rim Road

Throgmorton enjoys travel, hiking, and road-trips, especially in US Southwest.

South entrance, Zion National Park, Utah

South entrance, Zion National Park, Utah

Contemplating the improbable trail up Angels Landing.

Contemplating the improbable trail up Angels Landing.

1. Pa'rus Trail

This a a great introductory hike of the canyon floor of Zion because it starts at the entrance of Zion National Park at the Visitor Center and is moderate with little elevation gain. It follows the Virgin River upstream and parallels the well traveled road taking in great views of the sandstone sentinels such as the Watchman (6545') and the Towers of the Virgin. It ends at Canyon Junction with views of the unfinished arch along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. Start at the South Campground just inside the park's boundaries and follow the trail upstream along the river. It's likely you'll see deer casually browsing and unafraid of humans. Avoid approaching them. Midway is the Zion Human History Museum, a good place to rest, get water, and browse the displays and gift shop. It is also Shuttle Stop #2 if you need a ride up or down canyon. Continue along the trail to Canyon Junction (Shuttle Stop #3) for a great view of the rock formations. Here the views open up and the road splits with the thoroughfare going up the canyon wall to the park's East Rim. The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is where the Park Shuttle continues. Be advised that this route has restricted POV access.

View from the Pa'rus Trail.

View from the Pa'rus Trail.

The Watchman from the Pa'rus Trail

The Watchman from the Pa'rus Trail

Mount Kinesava from the Pa'rus Trail

Mount Kinesava from the Pa'rus Trail

Zion National Park: 6 Valley Floor Hikes & East Rim

Hike nameVertical gainRound trip distance

1. Pa'rus Trail

1,488 vertical feet

3.5 miles

2. Emerald Pools Riverside Walk/The Narrows

100 vertical feet (Lower Pool); 400 vertical feet (Upper Pool)

1.2 miles (Lower Pool); 3 miles (Upper Pool)

3. Angels Landing

1,488 vertical vertical feet

5.4 miles

4. Weeping Rock

100 vertical feet

0.4 miles

5. Riverside, Gateway to the Narrows

60 vertical feet

2.2 miles

6. Two Pines Arch

400 vertical feet

0.8 mile

 

 

 

Zion National Park Map

Refrigerator Canyon from the West Rim Trail

Refrigerator Canyon from the West Rim Trail

2. Emerald Pools

The Emerald Pools, accessed from Shuttle stops 5 or 6, present an option of easy to moderate walking to the Lower Emerald Pools, or moderate to strenuous to the Middle and or Upper Emerald Pools. The faster access to either is from Zion Lodge, shuttle stop #5. Cross the road and the footbridge and turn right following the well-signed and beaten path as it hugs the canyon wall. Zion Lodge to the Lower Emerald Pool is 1.2 miles roundtrip with a mild elevation gain about 100 feet. Hiking to the Upper Emerald Pool is not advisable with kids as it travels a steeper and more exposed path and adds another mile roundtrip to the hike. The Pools are a beautiful oasis where spring water spills out of the rock overhang and forms pools below. Observe the warnings and stay on the path.

Overhang, Lower Emerald Pool

Overhang, Lower Emerald Pool

Approaching the Lower Emerald Pool

Approaching the Lower Emerald Pool

Spring-fed waterfall, Lower Emerald Pool

Spring-fed waterfall, Lower Emerald Pool

Shuttle stop #5.

Shuttle stop #5.

Another view of the overhang, Lower Emerald Pool.

Another view of the overhang, Lower Emerald Pool.

Zion National Park quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. 1. In what year was Zion National Park established?
    • 1916
    • 1919
    • 1986
    • 1924
  2. 2. Zion is the _______ most visited park in the United States.
    • first
    • second
    • third
    • fourth
  3. 3. What formation has the highest elevation in Zion National Park?
    • Angels Landing
    • The Great White Throne
    • Checkerboard Mesa
    • Horse Ranch Mountain
  4. 4. What is the predominant rock type in Zion National Park?
    • granite
    • limestone
    • sandstone
    • shale

Answer Key

  1. 1919
  2. fourth
  3. Horse Ranch Mountain
  4. sandstone
View from the West Rim Trail of Refrigerator Canyon

View from the West Rim Trail of Refrigerator Canyon

West Rim Trail, Refrigerator Canyon

West Rim Trail, Refrigerator Canyon

The start of the West Rim Trail with Angels Landing in background

The start of the West Rim Trail with Angels Landing in background

3. Angels Landing

This is the holy grail of hiking in Zion National Park in particular, and arguably along with Yosemite's Half Dome, the holy grail of hikes in the National Parks of the United States in general. As anyone will tell you, it's not for the faint-of-heart, or novice, as the trail to the summit of this outstanding sandstone fin takes you along sheer drops of 1,000 feet. Making matters worse is the outstanding popularity of this hike and the accompanying crush of people along the trail. The views from the top, or en route, are well worth the effort regardless if you make it to the summit or not. This hike is about 5.4 miles round trip and gains just about 1,500 vertical feet. The hike begins at Shuttle Stop #6 (The Grotto) by crossing the footbridge across the Virgin River. It then picks up the West Rim Trail, (turn right after crossing the bridge) and leads directly towards an impossible canyon wall. Climbing steeply along a wide and well-constructed path, the tail switches back and leads you into the beautiful and well-shaded Refrigerator Canyon. After about a third of a mile you will reach the base of the 22 switchbacks known as Walters Wiggles which climb to the top of Scouts Lookout. Steep it is, but this well maintained section takes you just under the summit leaving the last half-mile to negotiate the dizzying overlooks (Via ferrata) above the Virgin River below. This is where many will opt out and enjoy the views, which are good enough. Unfortunately, many inexperienced people will decide to join the crowds of thrill and selfie-seekers to the summit. Be advised that the crowds are more of a hazard on this hike than the drop-offs. Often, skittish hikers will continue toward the summit, frozen-with-fear, creating human-made chokeholds along a narrow trail where one footstep could be the difference between life and death. Plan to hike early to beat the crowds and heat. Avoid hiking when conditions are wet and slippery. The summit elevation is 5,790 feet above sea level.

View from the summit of Angels Landing

View from the summit of Angels Landing

Looking down at Scout Lookout and the Virgin River

Looking down at Scout Lookout and the Virgin River

Ferrata (chain-linked) trail leading to the summit of Angels Landing

Ferrata (chain-linked) trail leading to the summit of Angels Landing

From the knife edged summit ridge

From the knife edged summit ridge

Big Bend from the trail to the summit

Big Bend from the trail to the summit

The Virgin River one-thousand feet below the trail

The Virgin River one-thousand feet below the trail

The warning before the last half mile to Angels Landing

The warning before the last half mile to Angels Landing

4. Weeping Rock

Only one-third of mile from the Shuttle stop (#7) of the same name, Weeping Rock is reached by a steep but short trail from the roadside. The name of the rock takes its name from the water that seeps through the rock and spills over an overhang, much like Emerald Pools. The views are good and highlight the surrounding walls of sandstone. This is an easy hike and good for kids as well, but be sure to keep them close as some of the drops off the trail are quite abrupt. In the meantime enjoy the incredible views of the vertical Zion Canyon walls and the cool moist shade of the overhang. For the ambitious hiker, the trail continues into Hidden Canyon or connects to the East Rim Trail. Both hikes are strenuous.

Moss-covered sandstone, Weeping Rock

Moss-covered sandstone, Weeping Rock

Shuttle Stop #7, Weeping Rock

Shuttle Stop #7, Weeping Rock

Start of the trail to Weeping Rock

Start of the trail to Weeping Rock

The overhang at Weeping Rock

The overhang at Weeping Rock

5. Riverside Walk/The Narrows

Take the Zion Shuttle to the last stop, #9 and start your walk along the level and paved trail that leads to the entrance of the sheer-walled gorge called the Narrows. There is minimal elevation gain to this point and a great walk if you have kids with plenty of shade. If you are prepared for the vigors of the Narrows, beyond this, you will have to wade in waist-deep water as you make your way up through this spectacular gorge. Many stop at the end of the paved path and if this is your option, the hike is an easy 2.2 miles roundtrip. Be advised that the Narrows can be treacherous in rainy weather with flashfloods so be sure to check the forecast. Not advisable with kids.

The beginning of the Riverside Trail

The beginning of the Riverside Trail

The sheer walls of the Narrows

The sheer walls of the Narrows

The Riverside Trail.

The Riverside Trail.

The entrance to the Narrows.

The entrance to the Narrows.

Looking down at Scout Lookout from Angels Landing.

Looking down at Scout Lookout from Angels Landing.

6. Two Pine Arch

This is a great off-trail hike (0.4 miles one way) accessed from the East Rim Road (Zion-Mt. Carmel Hwy, SR-9). Parking can be tight so plan ahead. This hike begins in a wash and gains elevation quickly after crossing a number of benches in a dry stream bed. However, with your goal in full view, navigation is relatively easy and takes you to the base of this wonderful and lesser known arch named for the two pine trees which grow on either side of its base. The views of East Temple are unparalleled especially in earning morning and late afternoon light. To get there park on the north side of the highway, if possible, just east of the long tunnel. There is a small wash just east of Pine Creek. Head up that wash and look for the arch. Don't walk up Pine Creek, which is the wrong drainage! Once you spot the arch, make your way to its base and voila! you've made it. Go back down using the road, which should be visible most of the way, as your point of navigation.

base of Two Pines Arch

base of Two Pines Arch

East Temple from the approach to Two Pines Arch

East Temple from the approach to Two Pines Arch

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.