11 Best Hikes in Zion National Park

By: NorbertThompson

Zion National Park is home to some amazing hikes. Its soaring red rock cliffs and famous rock formations make it a stunning place. We loved Zion’s many trails, from the breathtaking Narrows to Angels Landing to the adrenaline-inducing Canyon Overlook.

We wanted to share with you our top hikes in Zion National Park for those who are planning a trip.

The Best Hikes in Zion National Park

Zion, located in Utah near the small town of Springdale, is home to some of the highest sandstone rock cliffs anywhere in the world. Over the Virgin River valley floor and Zion Canyon, the red-and-white cliffs rise above the Virgin. In the Kolob Canyon section, the park’s northwest section is carved by finger canyons and red Navajo sandstone. Zion’s hiking trails are a mix of moderate, easy and difficult. This diversity draws millions of tourists each year.

The following are some of the top hikes in Zion National Park, which will be open during Summer 2021:

  • Scout Watch
  • Riverside Walk
  • Pa’rus Trail
  • Both the Upper and Lower Emerald pools
  • Canyon Overlook
  • Trails through Kolob Canyon
  • Angels Landing
  • Stay in Zion National Park

You have two options when it comes to staying in Zion National Park. One is to stay within the park.

Zion National Park

Camping: The park has two camping areas, South Campground and Watchman Campground. Both campsites can be found near the South entrance’s visitors center. The Watchman sites can be reserved on a rolling basis for 6 months, while the South Campground is available on a rolling basis for 14 days.

Zion Lodge is a historic lodge located deep in the park. It offers a mixture of hotel rooms and cabins. The Lodge is a traditional option that allows you to really immerse yourself into the park. We have stayed there. It is a popular lodge so make sure to check your dates in advance. It’s a beautiful location and we highly recommend it.

Springdale

Visitors to Zion usually stay in Springdale, which is a small community near the south entrance of the park. There are not many accommodations in the park. Springdale Shuttle connects Springdale with the Zion Visitors Centre, and the Zion Shuttle. It is easy to stay close to Zion. There are also more options for food in the town.

Cable Mountain Lodge offers a great selection of rooms for families, delicious food, and an outdoor pool that is watched over by the Zion Watchman. You can reach all trails in minutes by getting on the park shuttle bus from the location. Our Zion favourite.

Flanigan’s Inn – Located just 10 minutes from Zion’s entrance, Flanigan’s Inn offers a reasonable option with clean rooms, a pool, and a hot tub.

Canyon Overlook Trail

The Canyon Overlook trail takes hikers to a height of 1,000 feet above Zion Canyon. It offers one of the most stunning views in Zion National Park. It is located on top of the Great Arch, a rock-cut arch that runs along the Zion–Mt Carmel highway.

  • Hike length: 1 mile round trip
  • Hike time: 1 hour
  • Elevation gain: 163 feet

The National Parks Service has rated the hike as moderate. It was a moderately easy trail, but we found the steep drops (many are fenced) as well as the uneven trail surface to be quite challenging.

Shuttle Stop: Canyon Overlook will not be on the shuttle route. You can reach the trail head by car via the Zion Mount Carmel Scenic Highway. It is difficult to park and can take some time to find a spot during peak times.

The trail is a short 1 mile long and begins with a climb up stone steps. This takes care of most elevation gain. The trail then becomes narrower and follows a narrow path that overlooks the Pink Creek Narrows slot Canyon. The trail eventually leads to Canyon Overlook Viewpoint, where you can enjoy spectacular views of Zion Canyon and some famous rock formations.

Canyon Overlook Trail is one of our favorite hikes in Zion because of its incredible view.

Scout Lookout and Angels Landing

Angels Landing is breathtaking, difficult, dangerous, and utterly captivating. Angels Landing, along with the Narrows is Zion’s most famous hike and attracts thousands of hikers each day.

Angels Landing is dangerous and not recommended for all. The trail can be divided into two sections: the more difficult section up to Scout Lookout, and the final ascent to Angels Landing. Most hikers will only have to experience one part of the trail.

Length of Hike: Scout Lookout covers approximately 4 miles round trip, while Angels Landing extends for another 0.5 miles.

Elevation Gain Scout Landing is approximately 1,000 feet higher than Angels Landing. The final stretch of Scout Landing adds an additional 500 feet.

Time to hike: approximately 1 hour to Scout Lookout and 1/1.5 hours back to Angel Landing, depending on the crowds.

Hike difficulty: Angels Landing has been classified as strenuous and is therefore considered a difficult hike by the National Parks Service. Due to the high elevation gain, I found the Scout Lookout section difficult.

The Grotto is the Shuttle Stop

Scout Watch

The first section of Angels Landing’s hike is covered by the trail to Scout Lookout. It is a popular hike because of the amazing views of Zion Canyon and Walter’s Wiggles.

The West Rim Trail is the first section of the hike. It starts out relatively flat, but then it climbs up the hillside via many switchbacks. The trail ends at Refrigerator Canyon, a shaded canyon that offers a great opportunity to take a deep breath. Although the final section of the trail, Walter’s Wiggles is strenuous, the spectacular views from the top are worth it!

While Dave was attempting to get to Angels Landing, I continued on the West Rim along with the children.

Angels Landing

It is an easy hike from Scout Lookout across the saddle to Hogsback. Hogsback, the narrow section of steep and narrow with chains that drops massively on either side, is commonly referred to by the spine.

The final section of the trail, known as the Landing, is where hikers can enjoy breathtaking views of Angels Landing after conquering the Hogsback.

Observation Point

Observation Point has one of the best views in Zion National Park. It is located at the top of Mount Baldy, which rises to 6,508 feet. From here you can see the entire Zion Canyon. Observation Point showcases Zion’s best attractions, including Angels Landing as well as the Three Patriarchs.

  • Hike Distance: 8 Miles Round Trip
  • Elevation Gain: 2,100 Feet
  • Walking Time: 4-6 hours, depending on your fitness
  • Hike difficulty: The Observation Point Trail is strenuous.
  • Shuttle Stop: Weeping rock

Observation Point shares its Trail Head with Weeping Rock. This is another stunning Zion landmark. It follows the East Rim Trail up and out of Canyon before turning to the Observation point trail after Echo Canyon.

Through a series switchbacks, the trail quickly ascends over the canyon. The trail flattens around Echo Canyon, which is approximately 1,000 feet above canyon floor. This is the most stunning part of the trail. Continue climbing up the mountainside until you reach the majestic White Cliff formations. The final stretch of hike to Observation Point is easy in elevation.

The view from Observation point is breathtaking, even though the elevation gain will probably already have taken your breath away! It is amazing to see the entire Angels Landing trail.

Riverside Walk

Riverside Walk is a leisurely hiking trail that showcases the stunning Zion scenery along with the Virgin River. This trail takes you to the famous Zion Narrows hiking trail, which is easily accessible and suitable for families.

  • Hike Distance: 2 Miles Round Trip
  • Time to hike: 2 hours return
  • Hike difficulty: This hike has been rated easy by the National Parks Service.
  • Shuttle stop at Temple of Sinawava

Wheelchair accessibility: Riverside Walk, along with the Pa’rus trail is listed as being wheelchair-accessible in Zion. Accessible for the first 0.4 miles are all of the trails. There are sections that exceed a 20% gradient and narrow the trail to only 3 feet. You may also encounter sand blowing on some sections of the trail.

Riverside Walk takes you up the canyon past tall, weeping walls and lush vegetation. There is also the occasional waterfall. We spent time looking for deer in the trees along the dirt trail that runs parallel to the paved path. The trail also has a few points where it is possible to reach the river from.

Continue on the trail until you reach the beginning of the Zion Narrows. You can hike up the river to this point, as it is flat and wide. Then you can return to the Temple of Sinawava using the same trail that you started.

The Narrows

The Narrows, along with Angels Landing is one of the most famous Zion hikes. It starts at the Riverside Walk Trail and runs along the Virgin River to narrow slot canyon. The hike is mainly walked by hikers who trek through the water.

Hike length: Up to 9.4 miles out and back depending on how far you hike

The length of the hike will determine how long it takes to hike. The return trip to Big Spring or Wall Street takes around 10 to 11 hours. Wall Street is approximately 2 to 3 hours from the start.

Hike difficulty: The National Parks Service has classified the hike as strenuous.

Shuttle stop at Temple of Sinawava

Mystery Falls, Orderville Canyon, and Wall Street are the highlights of the Narrows. Wall Street is famous for its narrow passageways and majestic canyon walls. Big Springs is the point at which hikers reach the bottom of the hike. This is where they turn around to return to the Riverside Walk.

The Narrows are an out-and-back hike, so plan ahead. Mystery Falls is 1.5 miles away from the shuttle stop. Wall Street is 2.5 mi. Big Springs is 4.7 mile out and back.

As flash floods can be a danger on the Narrows Trail, it is important to check with rangers.

Pa’rus Trail

The Pa’rus Trail is a flat, easy-to-follow paved path that runs from Canyon Junction to the South Campground. It runs along the Virgin River, passing under bridges and through wide meadows full of wildflowers.

Hike length: 5 miles round trip, but can be cut shorter by starting at one of the shuttle stops 2 and 3

  • Time taken to hike: 1 to 2 hours
  • Hike difficulty: This hike has been rated easy by the National Parks Service.
  • Shuttle Stop: The trail begins at the Zion Canyon Visitor Centre. However, it can be cut by taking the shuttle to Stop 2 and 3.
  • Wheelchair accessibility: The Pa’rus Trail is listed alongside Riverside Walk as one of two trails that are wheelchair-accessible in Zion. Although the path is mostly made of concrete, there is a section on asphalt near the Visitors Centre that can be cracked. The trail has a steep 14% and 18% slope in two short sections, each measuring around 100 feet.

It is easy and flat with spectacular views from the vantage point at the Zion Canyon’s floor. It features some of Zion’s most iconic landmarks, including the Watchman or the Towers of the Virgin.

The Subway (Permit Only)

This is the Bottom Up Subway Hike, accessible from the Left Fork trailhead at the Kolob Terrace Road.

The Subway is a slot canyon that features waterfalls, dinosaur tracks, and the iconic subway-shaped tunnel.

  • Hike Distance: 9 miles round trip
  • Time taken to hike: 6-10 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,300 Feet (400 feet descent to canyon’s bottom, followed by 600 feet elevation gain through canyon.
  • Hiking difficulty: The Subway is strenuous.
  • Shuttle Stop: Non on the Zion shuttle route. The trail starts at the Left Fork trailhead, on the Kolob Terrace Road.

Permits: Subway permits are available by advance reservation and lottery. Advance lottery applications must submitted three months in advance. Individuals can submit one entry per month for three dates. A non refundable $5 fee applies. The winners are notified by the 5th day of the next month, e.g. April hikes may be applied for in January lottery. Winners will be notified by Feb 5th. All permits that are not used will be assigned via the calendar reservation software. If you are unsuccessful and still desire a place, then try the last-minute drawing one week before your hike date. Lastly, apply for a walk in permit the day before your hike. Permits can be picked up at The Visitors Center one day before your hike. Permits are $15 for 2 hikers, $20 if you have 7 or more hikers, and $25 if you have 12 hikers.

The subway trail from Bottom Up begins at a easy half-mile level and descends 400 feet to the bottom. In recent years, the trail has been developed and alternates between the stream water, the path and the navigating boulders.

The trail becomes interesting after about 2 miles, with waterfalls cascading across red travertine terraces, two more waterfalls, and a narrow crack at the rock that funnels the stream. The iconic spot at the canyon’s narrowest point, the lower subway, will be reached shortly thereafter. This is the turning point on the trail. Hikers then retrace their steps through the canyon.

As flash floods pose a serious threat to the Subway Trail, it is important that you check in with rangers.

Upper Emerald Pools

The three-tiered Emerald Pools consist of the Lower, Middle, and Upper Pools. They are linked by a series of trails.

  • Hike length: 2 miles round trip
  • Hike difficulty: The National Parks Service rates the hike as moderate.

The Grotto is the Shuttle Stop

You will start the trail by climbing up a small hill overlooking the river, before you reach the Emerald Pool area via the small canyon. You will see small waterfalls and weeping rocks emerging from the rocks as the landscape changes. The Middle Pool is the nearest and most picturesque. It is then a 150-foot climb to the Upper Pool, which is at the base of a huge cliff. On the return hike, you can see the Lower Pool before returning to the Grotto via the Kayenta Trail.

9 | Timber Creek Overlook (Kolob Canyons)

  • Hike Distance: 1 mile round trip
  • Time taken to hike: 1 hour
  • Hike difficulty: The National Parks Service rates the hike as moderate.

Shuttle Stop: The Zion shuttle does not service the Kolob Canyons area of the park. The trailhead parking is located at the West end, at the end Kolob Canyons Road.

The trail follows a small ridge and is fairly flat. There are stunning views of the valley as well as the mountain ridge.

Weeping Rock Trail

  • The Weeping Rock, despite being the park’s shortest trail, is an icon of Zion.
  • Hike Length: 4 miles
  • Time taken to hike: 1 hour
  • Hiking difficulty: Easy
  • Shuttle Stop: Weeping rock (shuttle stop also closed).

Easy trail leads to an alcove-shaped rock with hanging gardens. Below the rock is a small stream that captures the water.

11 | West Rim Trail

The West Rim Trail is a Zion classic. It descends from Lava Point down to the Grotto, showcasing some Zion’s most stunning scenery. The trail covers 16.2 miles and can be done as either a day hike or a 2 day hike. You may also spend a night at a trail camp. Camping requires a permit.

Distance of the hike: 17.2 miles from Lava Point (closest road access to trial head), or 15.8 miles if you start from the West Rim trail head.

Average hike time is 9 hours, but it can be extended to up to 16 depending upon your pace

The trial descends 3,156 ft. The trail also has an elevation gain of approximately 1,500 feet.

Hike difficulty: Easy

The Grotto is the shuttle stop. You will need transportation to get back to your vehicle as this is a point-to-point hike. You can arrange transportation to either end of the trail if you’re travelling with a group. You can also rent a shuttle that will drop you off at Lava Point and pick you up at Grotto. The majority of visitors choose Zion Adventure Company.

From Lava Point, the views are spectacular. It is approximately 1.2 miles to West Rim Trail head. The trail crosses Horse Pasture Plateau before dropping into and out of Potato Hollow. The West Rim follows the west rim and descends to Angels Landing, and the Grotto. Cabin Spring is the best place to see the West Rim in all its glory.

After reaching Scout Lookout, hikers share the trail with Scout Lookout’s crowds.