Top 8 Hikes in Zion National Park
Characterized by monumental red canyons with rocks in different shapes and sizes, Zion National Park is a hiking paradise. Slot canyons have cut narrow passages through distinctive terrain, inviting hikers to come and explore. Steep rock walls of red sandstone tower above forested mesas as trails meander up cliffs leading t0 incredible, jaw-dropping views. Simply said, Zion National Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s ultimate playground.
Outlined in this article are the must-do hikes when visiting the park, but first, let’s review the essentials to bring along with you when hitting the trails.
- Map: Your smartphone may not have cell reception at every trailhead. So print out a map of the area and know the important junctions on the trail.
- Water: The amount depends on the climate where you are hiking, but a good rule of thumb is 1 liter (32 ounces) for every two hours of activity.
- Snacks: Always bring a snack, just in case your hike goes longer than planned. Trail mix, granola bars, dried fruit. Keep it nutritious.
- Sun Protection: Apply a layer of sunscreen on your skin before heading out for a hike, even if it’s a cloudy day. Consider wearing a hat or sunglasses to minimize exposure to the sun. You can wear SPF protective clothing as well.
- Headlamp: Whether for an overnight or day hike, bringing along a headlamp is an essential safety must-have. These are small, lightweight devices that fit easily into any bag. You never know when you might need it, and if you do, you’ll be happy to have one.
- Rain gear: Ultralight rain jackets pack down small and can easily fit into your bag. Rainstorms can pop out of nowhere and it’s best to be dry when out in nature.
- First aid kit: Your first aid kit doesn’t need to be big. But make sure you have the basics: bandaids, alcohol wipes, waterproof matches, moleskin, burn treatment, and duct tape.
Okay, now that we have our hiking safety taken care of, here is our list of Zion National Park’s best trails.
Emerald Pools; easy
This is actually a network of several short loop trails near the Historic Zion Lodge that lead hikers to three different small pools and a few rolling waterfalls. Along the trail, hikers will gain a glimpse into the geology of the canyons and a variety of flora, especially around the pools. Though the pools look rewarding on a hot summer day, please be aware that swimming is prohibited to protect the natural ecosystem of these oases.
Zion Canyon Overlook Trail; easy to moderate
This short but scenic trail offers commanding vistas of the lower reaches of Zion Canyon. The trail itself is well maintained with handrails providing safety and assistance throughout much of the hike. It’s often considered as a great introductory hike to first-time visitors looking for a non-technical route along rocky ridges.
Taylor Creek Trail; easy to moderate
You are more likely to find solitude on this hiking trail as it is located in the Kolob Canyon region, which is less visited compared to the main Zion Canyon. This area is also at a higher elevation which provides cooler temperatures. This 6-mile, out and back trail takes hikers through orange walled canyons, tumbling waterfalls, and past historical cabins of two homesteads. The trail ends at the picturesque Double Arch Alcove.
Watchman Trail; moderate
Located in the main canyon, this fun little trail actually receives fewer hikers than other trails in the area, making it a perfect day trip for those seeking quietness in nature. Parts of the trail require strenuous climbs, but nothing too intense though there are some cliff drop-offs to be aware of. Hikers will view overhanging cliffs and stratified rock layers along the trail as they ascend across the stone walls up the base of Bridge Mountain. This trail is also a great sunset hike when the sun bounces off the tall canyon walls, creating a soft orange-red glow.
The Narrows; moderate to strenuous
Another Zion classic, this hike through The Narrows can be done in 2-3 hours or you can spend all day exploring this canyon cut by the North Fork of the Virgin River. Throughout the hike, water depth will range from ankle to waist deep, so dress accordingly. The trail runs beneath the thousand-foot walls of Navajo sandstone. The deeper into the canyon you go, the more magical and incredible the views will become. Before hiking this trail, be sure to check with park officials for current conditions as flash floods pose a serious danger.
Observation Point; moderate to strenuous
Offering commanding views and stunning vistas, with fewer crowds than other trails in Zion Canyon, this hike is a great option for those looking for a great workout. This 7-mile round-trip hike gains over 2,000 feet of elevation as it zig-zags up an amphitheater that has been carved by the river. As the trail reaches the top of the plateau it enters a rolling scrubland of pinyon and juniper trees before reaching the tip of the awe-inspiring view.
Hidden Canyon trail; strenuous to challenging
This trail may only be a little over a mile each way, but mostly uphill hiking through a slot canyon with sandy switchbacks and exposed sections provides quite the challenge. Once you reach the actual canyon, which is the official trail end, you can explore further but the path then requires some scrambling, and expect some uneven footing.
Angel’s Landing; strenuous to challenging
Perhaps the most famous trail in the park, this iconic trail is both exciting and intimidating. Gaining over 1,500-feet in 2.4 miles, your legs will definitely feel the burn. The final half-mile stretch is a knife-edge ridge with significant exposure to cliff drop-offs. There is a chain installed here to assist less-experienced mountaineers. Those reaching the summit are rewarded with an epic 360-degree view.
With miles of trails in Zion National Park, it is tough to identify the best of the best, but we are confident that these hikes will fulfill your expectations. The park receives most of its visitors during the peak season of the summer months when travelers are out exploring on road trips, though the park itself is open year-round. So grab your hiking shoes, pack up your backpack, and head out to explore one of the most beautiful National Parks in the United States.
Want to learn more about Zion National Park, read our article on Top Reasons to Put Zion National Park on your United States Bucket List.
For more great travel guides and all of our best content make sure you are signed up to our travel blog newsletter.