The Best Hikes in Zion National Park

The Best Hikes in Zion National Park

The Best Hikes in Zion National Park

Whether it’s your first visit or your tenth, Zion National Park never disappoints with its breathtaking vistas and stunning trails. The best hikes in Zion take you through towering cliffs, deep canyons of red rock, and the winding banks of the Virgin River. With so many different features to see, it can be hard to pick which trails to explore. 

Depending on who you talk to, the best hikes in Zion National Park could mean the most scenic or the most family-friendly. Others may be searching for the most challenging hikes. Whatever kind of hike you’re looking for, read on to learn about the best hikes in Zion so you can plan your visit.

Best Hikes in Zion

Located in southern Utah, 314 miles from Salt Lake City, Zion National Park draws in crowds of people from all over the world. From day hikes and scenic drives to camping and canyoneering, Zion offers a one-of-a-kind view with towering sandstone cliffs painted in hues of red, orange, and cream. The centerpiece of the park is Zion Canyon, carved over millennia by the winding Virgin River. Its steep walls reach heights of up to 2000 feet.

Visitors are drawn to Zion by its stunning views and world-class hiking. Choosing from the best hikes in Zion can be difficult, especially if you only have a day or two to enjoy the park. But it’s important to plan your trip so you can see as much of the park as possible. 

Angel’s Landing

Distance: 5.4 miles round trip

Difficulty: Strenuous

Directions: Shuttle stop #6, the Grotto

Notes: As of 2022, you need a permit to hike Angel’s Landing. 

Angel’s Landing is the most famous and popular hike in Zion National Park. But this hike isn’t for the faint of heart. The trail has an elevation gain of 1488 feet, up steep switchbacks that are unrelenting. The hike usually takes about four hours and requires a decent amount of conditioning. 

Anyone can hike the first portion of the hike to Scout Lookup, but if you’d like to go the last half mile to Angel’s Landing, you’ll need a permit. That’s because this section is the most dangerous–you have to cling to chains while climbing up and down the narrow ledges of Angel’s Landing. Limiting the number of visitors to Angel’s Landing prevents congestion in this narrow area and keeps hikers safe. 

While Angel’s Landing may not be accessible to everyone, it’s definitely one of the best hikes in Zion. If you’re in good condition and not too afraid of heights, we recommend you attempt to get a permit to see the stunning views.  

Angel's Landing Zion Hike

The Narrows

Distance: 9.4 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous
Directions: Shuttle Stop # 9, Temple of Sinawava

Notes: The Narrows is closed during the spring due to high flow rates from melting snow.

Another one of the best hikes in Zion National Park is the Narrows. This hike goes through slot canyons up the North Fork of the Virgin River to deliver some of the most stunning views in the park. The trail starts out at the Riverside Walk, a paved path along the Virgin River. This part of the trail is easy and accessible to families. 

The “real” hike starts when you enter the river, walking through ankle to waist-deep water. Closed-toe shoes with ankle support are a must to traverse the rocky river trail. It’s also a good idea to wear lightweight clothes that will dry quickly. While the whole of the Narrows is 9.4 miles round-trip, you can turn around at any time you want. 

Zion Canyon Overlook

Distance: 1 mile

Difficulty: Moderate

Directions: The trailhead is on Highway 9, just east of the Zion Mt. Carmel tunnel

Notes: The Zion Canyon Overlook trail can only be accessed by private vehicle.

While the Zion Canyon Overlook may be a short hike at just a one-mile round trip, it earns its spot among the best hikes in Zion for the view of several of Zion’s famous landmarks. 

The trail takes you up switchbacks, steps, and slick rock to an overlook that gives you views of East Temple, Bridge Mountain, the West Temple, the Towers of the Virgin, and the Streaked Wall. While Zion Canyon Overlook is possible for families, you should be aware of the several long drop-offs and keep a close eye on children. 

Easy Hikes in Zion

Whether you’ve got young kids or just aren’t up for strenuous hiking, these easy hikes in Zion still give you a rewarding view of the national park. 

Emerald Pools

Distance: 1.2 to 2.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Directions: Shuttle stop #5, Zion Lodge, or shuttle stop #6, the Grotto

If you’re looking for easy hikes in Zion, Emerald Pools is a great option. It’s a family-friendly hike with a series of lush, green pools beneath stunning waterfalls. The trail runs along three tiers of pools and a series of connected trails, running from an easy paved trail to a slightly more challenging hike to the Upper Emerald Pool. 

Emerald Pools Zion National Park Hike

The Watchman

Distance: 3.3 miles

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Directions: The trail starts near the Visitor’s Center. Park in the parking lot and find the trail between the Visitor’s Center and the shuttle stop.

If you’re looking for easy hikes in Zion, the Watchman is a great option. It takes you along the Virgin River and up to the base of Watchman Mountain through red dirt trails and desert flora. The end features a loop that gives you a look over Zion and Springdale.

Pa’rus Trail

Distance: 3.6 miles

Difficulty: Easy and wheelchair accessible

Directions: The trail begins near the Visitor’s Center

Although the Pa’rus trail doesn’t take you up cliff sides like some of the other best hikes in Zion, it’s still worth the walk. Pa’rus is the only trail in Zion where dogs (leashed) and bikes are allowed. It’s also accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. The Pa’rus trail follows a paved path alongside the Virgin River up to Canyon Junction. Pa’rus trail is particularly stunning at sunrise/sunset, where the colorful sky acts as a gorgeous backdrop to the towers of red rock. 

Challenging Hikes in Zion

For those looking for a challenge, these best hikes in Zion National Park take some preparation and stamina to complete. 

The Subway

Distance: 10 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous

Directions: The Subway trail starts at the Left Fork trailhead on Kolob Terrace Road. This cannot be accessed with the Zion Shuttle.  

Notes: You’ll need a permit for the Subway. 

The Subway is a famous slot canyon hike with a unique route that involves scrambling over rocks, wading through water, and navigating the Left Fork of North Creek. Only about 80 permits a day are offered for this challenging hike, which means you won’t be fighting with crowds like in other parts of the park if you’re lucky enough to snag one. 

The Subway can be hiked in two different ways. The top-to-bottom approach requires some technical skills with canyoneering and should only be done by those with experience. However, the bottom-to-top approach, while strenuous, is accessible without any climbing. 

The Subway Zion Hike

West Rim Trail

Distance: 16.2 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous

Directions: The West Rim Trail begins at the Lava Point trailhead. This cannot be accessed with the Zion Shuttle, but you can hire a shuttle service to take you there. 

If you’re looking for a backpacking experience that takes you along the rim of Zion National Park, the West Rim is a challenging trail with breathtaking views of the whole park. This hike can be done in a single day, but many people choose to camp out overnight and complete the hike in two days. If you’re planning to camp, you’ll need to reserve one of the camping sights along the trail beforehand. You’ll also want to make sure you plan ahead by bringing plenty of water and starting your hike earlier in the day before it heats up. 

Things to Know Before You Go

Before you plan a trip to see the best hikes in Zion National Park, there are a few things you should know. First, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee to access Zion National Park. The park provides both weekly and annual options. A shuttle runs through the park from February to November. During this season, you cannot drive your personal vehicle past the parking lot. The shuttle is free and will take you to and from various stops along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. However, you may have to wait a while to catch a ride on the shuttle, especially when the crowds are heavy. 

The best time of year to visit Zion is in the spring or fall when temperatures are more mild. The summer months can be grueling with temperatures that can get up to 100 degrees F. If you plan to hike during the summer, make sure you start early in the day and bring lots of water. 

It’s also important to bring proper gear on your hiking trip. Good hiking shoes, water bottles, backpacks, and hiking poles can make a huge difference in your trip to Zion. If you’re planning to hike the Narrows or the Subway, you’ll want to look for lightweight clothes that dry quickly. 

Whatever you need for your trip to Zion, you can find it at General Army Navy Outdoor. We sell high-quality military surplus and outdoor equipment that won’t break the bank. Not sure what you need? Our professionals will help you find the perfect gear to be well-prepared for your trip.

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