Four easy hikes in Zion National Park
Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is filled with world-famous hikes like Angel’s Landing, The Subway, and The Narrows. But to hike all of these legendary trails, one needs more than a single day. For those of us who are on a time-crunch, or are just passing through the area, there are many short, quality hikes within the park. The following are four easy trails you can do in one day, where you can take in a ton of spectacular scenery, and still make it back to camp in time for dinner.
1. Riverside Walk at the Temple of Sinawava
The Riverside Walk Trail is at the top of Zion Canyon and begins at the Temple of Sinawava, the last stop of the Zion National Park shuttle. The trail is only two miles round-trip, paved, and has very little elevation gain. As the name inplies, the trail follows the course of the Virgin River as it cascades down to the lower reaches of Zion Canyon. The hot desert below fades away as the path sneaks into the upper canyon walls that shade the greenery; an oasis among the sandstone. Hanging gardens and desert swamps fill the spaces between concrete and water, where the rare Zion Snail, a creature not found anywhere else on the planet, resides.
The trail ends at the riverbank, where going any further means entering The Narrows, a hike that literally means walking in the river through a cut surrounded by monoliths of stone. If you choose to go further, always check the weather forecast and be sure flash floods are not a concern that day.
2. Weeping Rock
Talk about easy! Weeping Rock is only a half-mile round trip on a paved trail. Yes, it’s very short, but can be steep for some people. Regardless, the destination is one that should not be missed as Weeping Rock really does leak water all year long. How does this happen in a desert? Water percolates through the thousands of feet of sandstone above, a journey that takes hundreds, even thousands of years. Contemplate this as the water drips on you.
As a consequence, expect to get a bit wet if you even go near Weeping Rock. The shower is worth it for the view, the hanging gardens, and the photographic opportunites on this easy Zion trail. To begin your hike to Weeping Rock, get off the Zion National Park shuttle at the Weeping Rock stop.
3. Emerald Pools
The Emerald Pools are some of the most popular natural features in Zion National Park, and for good reason. Each pool is a clear-watered oasis evelated high on cliff sides and terraces that hang above Zion Canyon. As for the easy part, the lower and middle pools are very short hikes from the Zion National Park Lodge. Reaching the first pool is only a half-mile walk, and the middle pool is a one mile jaunt. Each of these lower pools are destinations in their own right, but to really be wowed, the trek to the upper pool is worth the climb.
Although access to the upper Emerald Pool will mean hiking three miles round trip, and to get there the trail becomes steep and rocky, the lower pools pale in comparison. A huge, thin waterfall gracefully pours from a cut in the cliffs, collecting in a gorgeous body of water nestled in an alcove protected by trees and greenery. If you’re in the right shape to get there, the Upper Emerald Pool will not disappoint.
4. Watchman Trail
The Watchman Trail is one of many hikes that is usually too hot to attempt in the summer, but has perfect temperatures in the spring or fall. When visiting Zion, a walk up the Watchman Trail is great because it features outstanding views of the Virgin River and the towering cliffs that surround it all.
The Watchman Trail begins at the Visitor Center, which makes it easy to get to, and is frequently the first hike many people do when they arrive at the park. It’s also a great hike to take in the morning or evening for those camping in the South or Watchman Campgrounds.
The Watchman Trail is located at the Zion National Park Visitor Center. It is 2 miles round-trip for a total elevation gain of 368 feet. The park recommends allowing 2 hours to complete the hike.
For more information on these and other hikes in Zion National Park, visit the Zion page on the National Park Service website.