10 Best Hiking Trails In Zion National Park – Hiking in Zion Canyon

Zion canyon is fast becoming one of America’s most visited National Parks. This once-hidden gem is filled with stunning natural vistas, bright canyons filled with stunning vivid color, and amazing, and really unique, hikes. Couple this with the fact it is just a few hours drive from Las Vegas and part of Utah’s amazing Big 5 National Parks, the Secret is well and truly out, visitor numbers are soaring and it really is not hard to see why!

10 Best Hiking Trails In Zion National Park

The number one thing to do in the park is Day Hiking and there are some seriously unique and interesting options that really captivate the adventurer in all of us. Hike a deadly Knife Edge Canyon, wade upstream through a narrow slot canyon, or climb to one of the highest points in the park! On top of the adventurous Hikes, there are a number of more sedate but equally beautiful hikes that include stunning views, weeping rocks or emerald pool, and waterfalls. There is something for everyone as we explore the 10 Best Hiking Trails In Zion National Park.

1 – Angels Landing

  • Length – 5.4 Miles (8.7km) Round Trip
  • Duration – 4-5 Hours (Longer if very busy!)
  • Map – Google Maps
  • Difficulty – Extreme!
  • Effort – Strenuous
  • Elevation – + 1500ft
  • Notes – Incredible Hike along a sandstone knife-edge pinnacle with 1000ft drops either side!

One of two Headline Hikes in Zion Canyon Angels landing is a hike quite unlike any other in the States and one only really achievable for fit, bold, dexterous, athletic people with good balance and a healthy tolerance for heights!

Angels Landing gets a lot of press, and some of it overstates the difficulty and scariness of the Hike, but a quick watch of the video above will have you in no doubt this is a sketchy hike. The drops are very real, very long, and quite unprotected, your feet really are inches away from plunging heights on slippy sand-covered rocks where any mistake could lead to a very rapid decent!

We have written a full article about how scary it really is and who should and shouldn’t attempt it. But the headline is this hike will live in your memory forever! The effort required, the fears you overcame, and the frankly, out-of-this-world visuals, when you reach the landing make this the most rewarding hikes we can think of anywhere!

Description

Disembark the Shuttle at stop #6 the grotto. Head across the bridge and turn right. The Large rocky outcrop looming above you is Angels landing and your destination. Follow the trail, well marked, up to the start of the rock face. The first climb zig-zags up the steep rock face of the canyon wall along the West Rim Trail. Eventually, you reach the entrance to Refrigerator canyon, Here you get excellent views down the trial and the Canyon. From here things flatten out for a few hundred feet as you pass through the cool and wooded side canyon.

At the end of Refrigerator Canyon, you find walters wiggles. A stone zig-zag pathway, staircaseing you up a near-vertical cliff face! At the top of the Wiggles, you get a breakpoint. Scouts Lookout offers mindblowing views up the canyon. Here the fun and games stop and the serious scrambling commences. A nervous hiker can make it this far on sheer stamina (you need quite a bit mind) but here on in things get sketchy.

The Path now follows a narrow, knife-edge pinnacle, and the sides quickly fall away leaving perilous drops either sides. On the most exposed section, there are chains to hang onto, but god balance and a strong upper body are needed. At times the trail is less than a foot wide with horrendous drops on both sides!

As you near the end of the ridge a final climb takes you to the top of the landing with most stunning views imaginable both up and down the canyon. Rest and relax while watching the chipmunks play, before starting the perilous journey back!

STRAVA

4 – Scouts Lookout

  • Length – 3.6 Miles (5.8km) Round Trip
  • Duration – 2-3 Hours
  • Map – Google Maps
  • Difficulty – Easy!
  • Effort – Strenuous
  • Elevation – + 1000ft
  • Notes – First Part of the West Rim Trail as far as the start of Angels Landing. Well made path but some serious elevation, and stunning views.
Scouts Lookout Zion

If the Sound of Angels landing is appealing but it just seems a bit too much then Scouts Landing is the perfect fall back. As you Hike the Angels Landing Trail, you reach Scouts Landing as you top out of the Canyon. The trail up this far is Strenuous but it is sound underfoot and easy-going, apart from the Elevation. There are no drops or narrow paths just good well made trail.

Many only make it this far as right after the Lookout the Angels Landing Trail gets going. But the Scouts Lookout offers stunning views and a large flat area where you can rest and recuperate and contemplate the trial ahead. It is the perfect point to wait for other members of your group who do want to push on, or a place to retreat to if you try the early sections of angels and just decide, no!

3 – The Narrows

  • Length – 9.5 Miles (15km) Round Trip
  • Duration – 2-8 Hours
  • Map – Google Maps
  • Difficulty – Extreme!
  • Effort – Strenuous
  • Elevation – + 300ft
  • Notes – Riverwalk, through a narrow slot canyon, cold water you will get wet!
Zion narrows national park

The Second Headline Hike, and again this one is pretty unique, in that there is No real Trail instead you are ankle-knee-midthigh(sometimes waist!) deep in the Virgin River! There are two ways to hike the Canyon Bottoms-up and top-down, we only focus on the bottoms up as the top-down requires a permit and is a very serious endeavor

This amazing experience takes you deep into the Zion canyon system where the river has carved an incredibly deep and narrow slot canyon into the plateau at times the canyon is only a few meters wide, with the river wall to wall. It’s enclosed claustrophobic and utterly breathtaking.

Any attempt at path building is washed away each Spring as the river levels swell as the snow melts in the high mountains so the only way to pass through the canyons is to jump right in. As this is meltwater, or at best fresh rainfall from high up on the plateau it is permanently cold and often near freezing! As you hike up through the canyon expect varying depths and a loose bottom. Progress is slow and the effort of wading is high.

The reward is something else though, the canyon really is out of this world as the sheer Rock walls tower above you. Unlike most canyons, the nature of this Slot canyon really shows nature’s power at it’s finest as it has cut a deep narrow cut straight int the landscape. It really has to be experienced to understand!

Description

The Hike Starts at the Las DropOff of the Shuttle bus, #9 Temple of Sinawava, and starts off following the Riverside Walk for the first mile or so. This is an easy, flat, well-maintained path.

After this, the trial runs out and you literally walk up the river bed. This is one of the easiest trails to follow in the world as you are guided either side by steep sheer rock faces, there is nowhere to go, but up the river. At times you are walking on the sand and gravel banks exposed when the river is low but for the large part, there is no choice but to be wading in the river. Depth varies quite a bit, but most of the time you are only ankle deep.

However, as the River Meanders you are forced to cross deeper part to access the shallower opposite side. Expect to be waist deep at times and even swimming becomes a sensible option at times! As this is a real river bed, underfoot ranges from gravel and silt to large boulder, all of which is concealed from view so you are feeling your way up the river bed. A good degree of balance is needed.

At Orderville Gulch there is a fork, Exploration of the side canyon is prohibited without a Permit so continue to follow the Virgin River. As the river winds u the gorge you will eventually come to Big Spring, Here the canyon opens out, trees begin to emerge and the water literally springs straight from the canyon walls. It is very beautiful and marked the end of the journey.

From here you can carry on and through-hike the canyon, however, this requires a backcountry permit, and a very aggressive attitude and pace (to hike it in one day) or camping gear to overnight. So for most this is the turn-around, simply hie back down the river until you pick up the Riverside Walk, Temple of Sinawava, and the Shuttle bus.

Considerations

This hike can take upward of 8 hours to hike the full 5 miles out and back! Factor on top of this the shuttle bus our to the riverside walk, getting to the park, parking and getting back out, and you are in for a 12-hour hike all told! That is far longer than many people want to commit to a hike especially if your time in the canyon is brief, however, the nature of the narrows means you just don’t need to hike it all! At a brisk pace you can hit the Temple of Sinawava in less than 30 mins, hike up the river as far as you choose, and simply head back, The Canyon closes in very early on in the hike and some of the best parts are early on, hiking upstream for an hour really gives you a great feel for what the narrows is all about.

The water is COLD. And we mean it, often this is pure Melt-water and only a few degrees above freezing! This will sting, then burn, and finally, render your feet numb useless lumps of meat. They will take HOURS to thaw out fully and hiking on these lumps is little fun. But don’t be put off the best plan is wet shoes. Neoprene booties that let the water in and allow your feet to warm it up. See below for a list of companies in Springdale offering gear rentals. Expect to pay around $25 for a basic Sock, Shoe, and Pole combo, more if you need dry pants too!

Even during the summer when the water can reach a balmy 65°f/18°c prolonged exposure can lead to very cold and numb toes!

Prepare to be disappointed. This Hike is closely monitored by the Park Service and is closed more often than just about any hike we know! The Virgin Rivers flow rate is particularly volatile and when it is over 150 cubic feet per second The Narrows closes. This may be disappointing, but hiking it at this type of flow rate is likely to lead to you getting nowhere, and maybe heading downstream a lot rather than up!

The river s also prone to flash flooding, as you can imagine, an enclosed canyon with no escape routes and a flood barreling down from a distant thunderstorm, does not make for a happy ending if the river is full of hikers! Again the Park service will take matters into their own hands and close the River if thunderstorms are present!

4 – Riverside Walk

  • Length – 2.2 Miles (3.5 km) – Round Trip
  • Duration – 1 Hour
  • Map – Google Maps
  • Difficulty – Flat
  • Effort – Easy
  • Elevation – + Negligible
  • Notes – Mini Narrows, without getting your feet wet! Flat path following the Virgin River.

One of the most rewarding hikes in the Park in regard to effort. There are no hills, no rough trials, no rivers to wade, just a gentle riverside hike, alongside the Virgin River, up to the start of the Narrows. The canyon here is Narrow, and majestic, not quite the same level of enclosure that you get on in the narrows but still a good amount to give you are feel for things.

It really is stunningly beautiful and a very easy hike. If some of your crew are wanting to hike the narrows but you feel not up to it you can at least accompany them this far!

5 – Canyon Overlook

Zion Canyon Overlook
  • Length – 1-1.5 Miles (1.6-2.4 km) – Round Trip
  • Duration – <1 Hour
  • Map – Google Maps
  • Difficulty – Rough Trail
  • Effort – Moderate
  • Elevation – + 150ft
  • Notes – Steep Rocky Steps, Narrow wooden bridges, and an uneven rocky trial make this easy trail a bit more demanding than it might first appear.

The Canyon Overlook trail is a mere half a mile from the trailhead and offers one of the most staggering views in the park. A hearty reward for a pretty short hike. The trail is not too well maintained though and can be very rough underfoot. The path is Narrow, muddy rocky, and sometimes nothing more than large boulder hopping.

Athletic types with good balance will have no issue, but people a little less assured underfoot can find it challenging. The trail starts off with a steep climb up some rock steps, then follows the cliffside, with a deep slot canyon below. for the most part, there is little exposure to the drop (fear of heights, not a problem) but a few narrow boardwalks take over where the trail is impassable and these can be a little unnerving.

Once at the look-out you are presented with a stunning view down Zion Canyon with the Highway climbing up the left-hand side and into the cliff face. It’s a wonderful view, with a huge exposed drop, protected by railings, that is one of the easiest overlooks to access anywhere in the Park.

Due to the short hiking duration, limited exertion, and massive pay-off, this really is one not to miss. The view is not quite Angels Landing or Obersravation point, but it really is not far off and 90% of the elevation is done in your car!

Parking – Parking is a bit of an issue here. The trail is not serviced by the Shuttle buses so you need to drive up the Mount Carmel Xion Highway ad park in either the tiny Trail Head Carpark or in on of the many pull-outs that line the road. At peak times it’s hard to find a space. Make sure you only park in designated pull-outs and are fully off the road. The Rangers will not hesitate to ticket and even tow illegally parked vehicles!

Trial Closure – Unfortunately the next 3 Trails are all closed due to a huge Rockfall in 2019 and remain closed until the area can be made safe. These are some of the best trails in the Park and its big loss, hopefully the NPS will have the situation in hand soon!

6 – Observation Point via East Rim Trail – Closed

  • Length – 8 Miles (13 km) – Round Trip
  • Duration – 5-6 Hours
  • Map – Google Maps
  • Difficulty – Technical
  • Effort – Strenuous
  • Elevation – + 2200ft
  • Notes – Stunning views from an exposed and rough trail that climbs up the side of the main canyon.
Observation Point view

One of our favorite trails in the Park, the Observation Park Trail is a real highlight. It lacks the X-factor of the Narrows and Angels Landing, but really it is every bit as stunning and rewarding. This lack of prestige actually plays into the Trial’s hands as you can find a little bit of solitude, something that is pretty hard to come by in this ever population national park. While it is not a quiet trail, compared with Angels Landing and The Narrows it is far quieter, and far less crowded. Although when the Narrows is shut a lot of diverted footfall heads this way.

Observation Point is not quite as wonderful as Angels landing in terms of Vista, Sure it is far higher in elevation giving you an even more impressive vantage point, but Angels Landing gives that 360 feel, almost like you are flying through the canyon, Observation Point is just very high and only really gives a good view down the canyon, however it is still one of the best viewpoints and has pretty much any other locale licked!

The Trail is mighty impressive in itself as it winds straight up the cliff face, then though a very narrow canyon and out into the mesa top, giving a very different perspective on the Landscape. The Trail is ok, however, it is natural and can be loose and rough underfoot. Compared to Angels landing it’s a great trail, but it is not smooth and man-made.

A lot of people choose this trail over Angels Landing due to their fear of height and exposure. While people with these sorts of fears are right to avoid Angels, Observation Point is not always a great choice. There are still plenty of exposed drops and the trail often sits right at the precipice with a great deal of exposure! It’s certainly less scary and extreme than Angels Landing but it’s still a mightly exposed trail!

Description

The Trailhead is a Stop #7 Weeping Rock, but the Trailheads a different way then the Weeping Rock Trail (you are following the East Mesa Trial), although at only 0.5 miles most people head to the rock as well as hiking the Observation Point trail too…See Below.

The Trail does not mess around for long and you are straight into some serious elevation right from the off. The Trail zig-zags right up the steep rock walls of the canyon and elevation is covered very quickly, expect hard lung-busting, leg-burning effort right from the off. The good news is, most of the elevation and hard work are ticked off at the beginning when you are freshest, and the return on tired legs is all downhill!

Around Halfway up the first climb there is a side trail, see below for the Hidden Canyon, a worthy detour if you have time but not as impressive as the main hike. The Trail is exposed in places but as you are huffing and puffing up it you tend not to notice. After around 1.2-3 miles you reach Echo Canyon. Most of the climbing is behind you (but far from all) and you are most of the way out of the main canyon, remember to take a look back at this point!

Echo Canyon is an old Slot canyon that has no lost its river and is no longer developing, it is a stunning feature and very different to what you may have hiked before. As you exit the other side the nature changes again and you are now outside the main valley hiking amongst the younger rocks, the whites of the younger stones come through, and the greenery increases.

The Final-push starts as you Zig Zag up the final rock faces to exit the canyon and stand atop the Mesa. Here you will get stunning views of the east mesa landscape and glimpses of the main canyon in the distance. You then hike along the east rim and here is where you may find some high exposure part of the trail. You are really high up here and some of the drops down are pretty frightening.

As you follow the trail around you eventually head inland a bit and away from the edge, before heading out to the Observation Point.

Observation Point Zion
Observation Point Zion NPS by Tydence Davis on CC2.0

The view is stunning, and the elevation is mindblowing, Angels Landing is that small cliff in the bottom of the image, which gives you a great perspective of just how much higher you are. The views are better and more varied as you climb too. Overall it is a far better hike, but it just doesn’t have that wow factor. But if you want stunning views, incredible and varied hiking and the chance of actually getting a trail to yourself. Observation Point is perfect.

Coming down can be scarier than the route up as you are facing towards the drops and have the feeling over gravity pushing you down the hill. Keep your center of gravity low and be ready to drop to your bum, should your feet fail you.

7- Weeping Rock Trail – Closed

  • Length – 0.5 Miles (1.5 km) – Round Trip
  • Duration – 30 Mins
  • Map – Google Maps
  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Effort – High
  • Elevation – + 100ft
  • Notes – Man-made paved trial, easy hiking, but quite steep, but very short.
zion weeping rock

Great for Families or as a diversion, the problem with the trail, is it just so short. You will be up and down before you know it and as such it’s hardly a hike, more just a quick stroll to a lookout spot.

The trail is paved the whole way, there are some steps but again these are concrete and level. There is no real difficulty for anyone except the fact the trail does head uphill quite steeply. But even unfit people should manage it with a little rest. The weeping rock is pretty cool as water drips in front of the “windowed” viewpoint out over the canyon. It is just high enough to get you over the treetops for a nice view of the canyon.

The water running down the otherwise dry canyon wall can nourish vegetation and turn the wall green, or in winter the spray can for icicles on the rocks and handrails of the walkway. It is very pretty and unique. But once again, it’s not enough of a hike to justify a trip to the Park, this needs to be an addition to other parts of the park.

8 – Hidden Canyon Trail – Closed

  • Length – 2.5-4 Miles (4-6.5 km+) – Round Trip
  • Duration – 2-4 Hours (30 – 60 mins added on to Observation Point)
  • Map – Google Maps
  • Difficulty – Advanced
  • Effort – Strenuous
  • Elevation – + 850ft
  • Notes – Fairly short, but extreme, hike up a cliff face to find a lost Slot Canyon. Excellent addition to Observation Point Trail.
Hidden Canyon trail zion national park
Hidden Canyon by Blue_is on CC2.0

The Hidden Canyon trail is an interesting detour off the Observation Point/East Mesa Trail. Around halfway up the first claim of The East Mesa Trail is a right fork, this leads you straight up a zig-zagging path that ascends a near-vertical cliff face!

The trail is fairly exposed and there are some severe drops, once up into the next valley things take an extreme turn, this is not quite Angels Landing Scary, but not too far behind! Extreme drops are inches away as the path clings to and is sometimes carved right out of the cliff face! it can be pretty hairy at times!

After traveling this wall of “not quite” Death you find the hidden canyon, a narrow slot canyon bathed in sunlight, with a real lost world feel, it’s lovely but not really enough to risk the hike around the wall! only attempt this if the danger of the hike is the appeal, not the destination which is a bit disappointing, the hike itself is pretty cool though. And while we list this as 2.5 Mile round trip, that is from the trailhead, most people hike this as an extension to the Observation Point Trail and it’s only an extra half mile added onto the overall length of the Observation point trail, although it’s a good lump of extra effort to get up the cliff face! Hike it at the beginning as most people will skip it on the way back as their legs are tired!

We also list the milage as variable as it all depends how far down into the canyon you hike, most people turn around early on but there is a lot of canyon to explore!

9 – Watchman Trail

  • Length – 3.5 Miles (5.5 km ) – Round Trip
  • Duration – 1.5 – 2 Hours
  • Map – Google Maps
  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Effort – Hard
  • Elevation – + 850ft
  • Notes – Trailhead at the Visitor Center!
Watchman Trial Zion NP
Zion from Watchman by James St John on CC2.0

This is one of the few trails that does not require you to board a shuttle bus and head into the park, which is great, but really you are going to want to see the main valley at some point! Of course, this makes this trail perfect for overnighters who maybe just want t quick trail after dinner, or early morning before you leave, while the main course of the park is served up another day!

The Trail is pretty special and in many places would be headline hike, here it’s just ok. The Lookout Point is pretty different to most points in the park and actually overlooks the town of Springdale, the visitor center and looks out over the open valley to the south of the park, the view is more verdant and lush than the main canyon and it is quite beautiful, especially as it is backed by the stunning ridgeline of the Sentinal, the Alter of sacrifice, West Temple, and Mt Kinesava. Along with great views of the Watchman.

This is a great spot to watch the sunset as the colors of the canyon really pop!

10 – Emerald Pool Trail / Kayenta Trail

  • Length – 3 Miles+ (5 km+) – Round Trip
  • Duration – 1-2 Hours
  • Map – Google Maps
  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Effort – Moderate
  • Elevation – +150ft
  • Notes – easy hike, but a disappointing destination.
Small Upper Emerald Pool

How enticing is the title Emerald Pool Trail? The image of cool, deep lagoons, bright green, with maybe a waterfall, just begging to welcome hot tired hikers to real and cool off at the end of their toils in the mountains.

The reality is somewhat disappointing. These are little more than muddy puddles and while bathing is banned, you wouldn’t really want to anyway! While there is a waterfall at the lower Emerald pool, it still does not make this a great destination.

The Trail starts out at Stop#6 – The Grotto – and you take a left over the bridge, in the opposite direction of Angels Landing, most people bear right! The trail is well made and easy underfoot. There is a little climbing and things get a little hairier as the trail changes from the Kayenta Trail to the Upper Emerald pool Trail, however, apart from a few rock steps it is pretty easy going.

The other option is the Lower Emerald Pool Trail, this leaves from #5 – Zion Lodge and is a short 1-mile hike up to the lower pools. These two trails are linked and you can hike up one and back the other for a nice loop*

*NPS currently lists this link-trial as closed due to trail building, so bear that in mind!

Have Your Say

Let us know your favorite Trial in Zion National Park? Have you braved Angels Landing? Hike the Virgin River through the Narrows or stood on top of the canyon at observation point? Or maybe you took in the more sedate and easy-going hikes? Let us know your thoughts on any of Zion’s amazing hikes! And if you have any questions just fire away below!

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