Zion National Park sits in the extreme southwest corner of Utah. Home of the infamous Zion Narrows, the park formed when heavy rains and raging rivers began digging a path through the earth. Red and orange lines draw themselves across the canyon walls, making almost any view in the park spectacular.
As one of the most popular national parks in the United States, Zion draws large crowds throughout the summer and far into the shoulder seasons. The best time to visit is in the Spring or Fall when temperatures and crowds are both moderate.
We recently took a 5 day trip to Utah to check out some of best hikes in Zion National Park.
In this guide:
- The Watchman Trail
- Upper Emerald Pools via the Kayenta Trail
- The Riverwalk Trail
- Angel’s Landing
- Northgate Peaks Trail
Day 1 – The Watchman Trail
We entered the park in the late afternoon on the first day. With the sun already sinking towards the canyon walls, we packed up for a fast-paced hike to catch the sunset.
The Watchman Trail starts at the visitors center parking lot, making it one of the easiest trails to access. The trail is 3 miles in total, with only 500 total feet of elevation gain. From the trail, you’ll get an excellent view of the canyon and park entrance below.
This short hike is perfect for a warm-up, or to wind down after a day of activity. Make sure to bring plenty of water, as there is no shade in the afternoons. If you are hiking late in the day like we did, be sure to bring headlamps.
Click below to see our trail and pictures from the hike:
Day 2 – Upper Emerald Pools via the Kayenta Trail
In addition to being a less crowded route to the popular Emerald Pools, the Kayenta Trail also boasts better views of the canyon on the hike up.
This hike varies in length from 2 to 3 miles round trip, depending on whether you stop at the lower pools or continue to the upper pools.
The beginning of the trail offers little to no shade, but you’ll find plenty once you reach the Lower Emerald Pools. You can follow the trail around the lower pools to where it connects to the official Emerald Pools trail. From here, you can follow the trail back down to the Zion Lodge, or continue on to the upper pools.
We rate this hike as easy and great for families. Bring snacks, plenty of water, a hat, and sunscreen.
To get there, park at the visitors center and take the bus to the Grotto (stop number 6), or to the lodge (stop number 5) for the official Emerald Pools hike entrance.
Click below to see or hike and pictures:
Day 3 – The Riverwalk Trail
The Riverwalk trail is rated as very easy, and follows a paved trail for 1 mile along the river. It ultimately leads to the entrance of the famous Zion Narrows, where hikers can walk through the water between towering canyon walls.
This hike is great for families with young children. There are plenty of rest stops along the way and it is fairly shaded for the whole hike.
Stop for a snack at the entrance to the narrows, and keep hiking down the river if the water isn’t too cold.
To get there, take the shuttle to stop number 9. This is the last stop in the park.
Click below to see pictures from our hike:
Day 4 – Angel’s Landing
On day 4, we woke up before the sun and set out towards the park visitors center. Even in November, the visitors center parking can fill up fast. We grabbed the first shuttle bus of the day and we were some of the earliest people to hit the trail.
Angel’s Landing offers one of the best (if not the best) views in the park. It is a 5-mile roundtrip hike with about 1500 feet of elevation gain. The hike takes you up to the top of the canyon walls that line the park’s main drive, and then along a narrow trail with steep drop-offs on either side to reach the main overlook.
This trail is rated as moderate to difficult. The last 1/4 of a mile is not recommended for those with a fear of heights.
We completed the hike in 2.5 hours but we were moving fast and had luckily beaten the crowds. To be safe, budget around 5 hours to complete the hike.
Bring snacks and a jacket as the wind at the top can be chilling depending on the time of year.
To get there, park at the visitors center and take the shuttle to stop number 6. An early morning start is best for beating the crowds.
Click below to view our track and pictures from the hike:
Day 5 – Northgate Peaks Trail
On our last day, we ventured outside the normal visiting area of the park and headed to the Kolob Terrace area. The drive through this section of the park is beautiful and offers sweeping views of the varying terrain.
The Northgate Peaks Trail is a 4-mile out and back hike that is fairly flat with lots of shade. It’s rated easy to moderate and is great for families.
At the end of the trail, stop for a snack and enjoy the view! This overlook here is less dramatic than other views in the park but provides a quiet and tranquil place to relax and enjoy the sights.
To get there, take Kolob Terrace Road 15.5 miles north from I-9 and park at the Wildcat Canyon Trail parking area.
Click below to see our hike and pictures: