Zion has become the third most visited national park in the United States with even more annual visitors than Yellowstone and Yosemite! So what is so special about Zion? Wind and water have carved their way through the red stone for millions of years to create some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. Visitors find themselves in a desert oasis surrounded by towering sandstone cliffs. With its variety of hiking options, there is something in Zion for everyone! Wondering how to make the most of your time in Zion? Here are our top 10 day hikes!
1. The Narrows (bottom-up)
Time: 4-8 hours
Length: 4-10 miles
Description: The Narrows is one of the most iconic features of Zion National Park. This majestic slot canyon is the section of the Virgin River upstream from the main Zion Canyon. With walls soaring thousands of feet high and only thirty feet apart in some portions, the canyon provides hikers a completely unique adventure. Experiencing the Narrows requires hikers to wade in the river as it meanders through the deep corridor of Navajo sandstone. Renting specialized equipment for hiking in the water is highly recommended for the slippery terrain of the Narrows.
Tip: Permits are not required for the bottom-up Narrows hike. For those looking for even more adventure, the hike can be done as a 16 mile hike from top-down which does require a permit and shuttle.
2. Observation Point
Time: 4-6 hours
Length: 8 miles (round-trip)
Description: Observation Point provides hikers with one of the most breathtaking views that Zion has to offer. Beginning at Weeping Rock, hikers wind their way up many switchbacks, gaining 2,100 ft of elevation. The trail makes its way through a sculpted section of slot canyon before opening up to sweeping views of the east section of the park. From the top of the mesa, it’s just a short, flat hike out to the point.
Tip: This is our crew’s favorite hikes to recommend! With a fraction of the people and no exposed chain section, Observation Point is a great alternative to the ever famous Angel’s Landing!
3. Hidden Canyon
Time: 3-6 hours
Length: about 3 miles (round trip)
Description: Hidden Canyon is a spur trail off the Observation Point trail beginning at the Weeping Rock shuttle stop. From the junction, continue up the switchbacks to a saddle. Some caution should be used due to a brief section of exposure. Walk carefully and utilize the carved steps and chain railings. The maintained park trail soon comes to an end and further travel requires some scrambling over minor obstacles. An arch is encountered on the right side of the canyon about a mile in. Enjoy the cool shade and green vegetation of the canyon before turning back.
Tip: It is possible to climb and scramble further up canyon but caution is advised! It is often much more difficult to come down than it is to go up! This hike can be a great addition to hiking Observation Point if you have some extra time and energy!
4. Canyon Overlook
Time: 30 min-1 hour
Length: 1 mile (round trip)
Description: Canyon Overlook is a short hike that is well worth exploring! The trailhead is located right off Hwy 9 in the east section of the park. After a brief section of steep stairs the trail remains relatively flat, leading to an incredible view of Zion Canyon and the West Temple. This is a great family hike; however caution should be used since there are areas with some cliff exposure.
Tip: If you’ll be driving through the east entrance this is a great stop along the way! It also makes for a great evening drive and walk after a day of adventuring. It’s our favorite spot to enjoy sunset!
5. Angel’s Landing
Time: 3-6 hours
Length: 5 miles (round trip)
Description: Angel’s Landing is one of the most famous hikes in the park! The adventure begins at the Grotto shuttle stop. After crossing a footbridge over the river, the trail makes its way up 1500 ft of elevation gain in only 2.5 miles. The trail is steep but is mostly paved during the first 2 miles. The final .5 mile is encountered after a brief flat area known as Scout’s Lookout. This section of the hike is what makes it famous! Chain handrails are strung along the steep, rocky spine leading to the top of Angel’s Landing. This section is puts hikers just feet from the sheer cliff faces and may be intimidating for those with a fear of heights. From the top of Angel’s Landing you’ll enjoy an incredible panoramic view of Zion Canyon well worth the strenuous hike!
Tip: Get an early start to avoid the crowds. Much of the chain section allows only for one-way travel and can create traffic jams on busy days. For those with a fear of heights, Scout Lookout can be a great destination with plenty of spots to sit and enjoy the view. You may also consider doing Observation Point instead to avoid the exposed chain section.
6. Emerald Pools
Time: 2-4 hours
Length: 1-2.5 miles round trip
Description: The Emerald Pools is a classic Zion hike that begins right across from the Lodge. This relatively easy trail is a great option for families or those with limited time in the park. The paved trail to the Lower Pool is 1 mile with very little elevation gain. Hikers may enjoy view and turn back or continue on the path under the lush alcove to the Middle and Upper Pools.
Tip: Get an early start or come prepared to share this amazing corner of Zion with plenty of other hikers. The relatively easy terrain and amazing scenery make this a popular destination year-round.
7. Taylor Creek (Double Arch Alcove)
Time: 3-5 hours
Length: 5 miles (round trip)
Description: The Taylor Creek Trail is a fairly easy hike located in the Kolob Canyon section of Zion. Kolob Canyon is located right off I-15 just south of Cedar City. The trail begins at a small parking area with a signed trailhead. Follow the well-established trail through the forested canyon floor below towering sandstone cliffs. The double arch alcove is a deeply undercut area of sandstone with springs seeping from the walls. This marks the end of the hike and is a great spot to eat lunch and enjoy the scenery.
Tip: This section of the park is much less visited than the main canyon and is well worth the stop! On busy days in Zion this can be a great place to find more solitude than the classic Zion day hikes.
8. West Rim Trail
Time: 9-12 hours
Length: 16 miles (one-way)
Description: The West Rim is a long stretch of hike with some of the most stunning and remote views of the park. The trail can be done as a day hike or backpack and can be accessed either from the Grotto in Zion Canyon or Lava Point off Kolob Terrace Road. The most popular way to do this trail as a day hike is to begin at Lava Point and hike the 16 miles (mainly flat or downhill) to the Grotto. Doing this option requires a shuttle or car spot at Lava Point. The first portion of the trail is on the high, forested plateau above the canyons. After several miles the views become increasingly more scenic leading up to the final dramatic drop into the canyon. The West Rim meets with the popular Angel’s Landing trail at the final 2 miles of the hike. If time and energy permit, the .5 mile side trip to the top of Angel’s Landing is an option.
Tip: The West Rim is the most popular backpacking trail in the park and makes an incredible day of hiking! This is a great way to escape the crowds on the main Zion trails. The remote wilderness setting of this hike makes it appropriate for experienced hikers that are looking for a long day on the trail.
9. Riverside Walk
Time: 1-2 hours
Length: 2 miles round trip
Description: The Riverside Walk is a paved, wheelchair accessible trail that follows the Virgin River from the final shuttle stop at the Temple of Sinawava. The path is mostly flat with only a minor hills. Multiple springs and lush areas of vegetation line the trail as the canyon walls become more and more narrow. Those hiking the Narrows will continue past the end of the trail by wading into the river. This is a great hike for families and provides a small taste of the scenery that lies ahead in the Narrows.
Tip: Multiple marked river access areas line the Riverside Walk. On hot summer days these are great places to stop and cool off in the river.
10. The Watchman
Time: 1-2 hours
Length: 3 miles round trip
Description: The Watchman is a fairly easy trail that begins at the Visitor Center and concludes at a great view spot on the bench above. The trail is named due to the excellent view it provides of the Watchman, the prominent peak near the mouth of Zion Canyon.
Tip: This trail is fully exposed to the sun and is best enjoyed during the early morning hours while this side of the cliffs are still shaded. Though admittedly not the most spectacular trail in the park, the Watchman is a great hike for those short on time as it requires not shuttle ride. It is less crowded than other Zion hikes making it a good option on busy days in the park.