Hiking Zion National Park
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
Red rocks and blue skies, here's how I spent a week hiking through Zion National Park.
Similar to my Iceland trip, this trip to Zion was totally spontaneous. I was only familiar with Zion because of the occasional hiking post I would scroll past on my Instagram feed. Heck, I wasn't even sure what state Zion was located in, I had to Google it and learn it was in.. Utah?? What the heck is fun to do in Utah...? Well, believe it or not, it's home to FIVE national parks. Which is crazy to think that compared to Illinois (my home state), has zero national parks.
For our trip we decided to get a hotel outside of the national park because the hotel rates were more expensive the closer you get to the actual park. If you can afford it, there were some really amazing hotels and resorts right in the park with beautiful views of the mountains. You can also camp, they have multiple camping grounds on the park. We decided to save some money by staying in a town named Hurricane, it was about a 35 minute drive to the Zion National Park entrance. The drive can actually be even shorter because we woke up before the sunrise and there was no traffic getting into the park. It was actually a very peaceful and beautiful drive through the mountains watching the sunrise.
Please check the park website, here, before planning your trip for more information on entrance fees, trail closures, and shuttle hours. These things may have been impacted by recent COVID regulations.
Below is a brief outline of our trip!
* I recommend downloading the AllTrails app on your phone, here you can view trail maps and save them to your phone so when you don't have service within the park, you still have a map!*
Day 1 - Saturday 8/31:
Day 1 we wanted to start easy and get a feel for park, most of the hikes on day 1 were easy and less than a few miles.
Easy 1.2 mile walk, cool views of the valley!
Lower Emerald Pools
Another easy 1.4 mile trail with a small waterfall (more like a mist) lol
This is a longer trail you can take to Lower Emerald Pools, at 2.4 miles round trip, goes higher in elevation.
Since we did a handful of short and easy hikes on day 1, we had plenty of time to explore the surrounding cities for the sunset. We decided to drive into the mountains to Kolob Reservoir, it was about an hour drive from our hotel in Hurricane. When we arrived it was a beautiful lake set in the mountains, there were people in kayaks and paddle boards. Worth the drive for the picturesque sunset. You can look into renting any of these, here.
Day 2 - Sunday 9/1:
We saved harder hikes for this day!
Total of 5 miles; The biggest piece of advice here is that you need to be the FIRST people in the park to beat any lines for this trail. People start lining up for the buss (which is the mandatory means of transportation in the park, no cars allowed) before the park even opens. In order to catch the first bus you need to be there in line an hour before. The reason for this is that the trail is only allowed to have a certain number of people at a time for safety concerns. The first half of the trail takes you up what's called Walter's Wiggles, a set of 21 steep switchbacks. Once you hike the first half of this trail, you get to what's called Scout's Overlook. From there, the actual Angels Landing trail starts, which is where this trail gets VERY narrow and dangerous (numerous people have tragically died while attempting this trail). This trail is extremely dangerous and over 10 people have tragically lost their lives trying to complete the trail. It's steep, slippery, and very narrow at some times. It's so important to go early in the morning because there are less people on the trail which makes it a little bit easier to navigate the very narrow parts of the trail. Communication is KEY when attempting the trail during busy hours, there is only room for one-way traffic at most parts of the trail.
Please check the park website, here, before planning your trip as I believe the chain section of Angels Landing is closed for social distancing precautions.
This is a short and easy family hike. We planned to do this easier hike after the very strenuous Angels Landing hike. Even though it is very easy, the views at the end are stunning with an overlook of the entire canyon. If you have a vehicle, drive east on Route 9 to go through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, when the tunnel ends you'll see the entrance to this trail. You might have trouble finding parking if you go on a busy day, so you might have to park a few minutes walk down the road.
Sand Hallow State Park
This state park was a great place to spend the day or just watch the sunset. It's so easy to get to, off the main highway 9 in Hurricane, Utah and was only a 10 minute drive from our hotel. This state park had opportunities to rent 4 wheelers, paddle boards, or kayaks. Check out their website, here, for rental info!
Day 3 - Monday 9/2:
Most hikers start for Observation Point at the Weeping Rock trailhead, but during our visit Weeping Rock was closed due to falling rocks that damaged the shuttle route. So instead, we had to drive to the East Mesa trailhead, drive to the East Entrance of Zion National Park and from the East Entrance drive east 2.4 miles on highway 9. Turn left at the signed "North Fork" junction. Drive 5.2 miles to signed "Zion Ponderosa Resort".
Day 4 - Tuesday 9/3:
WOW. I'm so grateful that this trail was open when we went to Zion. I had no idea about this trail until we arrived at Zion and people were giving us recommendations, and The Narrows kept being mentioned as a top priority. This trail is similar to Angels Landing that you should try to go early in the morning when there are less people in the Narrows. Also, this trail is a total of 10 miles round trip, so it takes the entire day! This trail is very difficult, you're completely in the water, sometimes waist high, the entire hike. You'll absolutely want to rent water hiking boots, a walking stick, and a waterproof backpack from the Zion Outfitters in the park. The stick helps you balance because you're walking on rocks in waist high water for 6 hours straight. Be sure to pack layers because even if the sun is out, you will be in the shade of the valley in cold water the entire time. Also, be sure the pack snacks because if you plan to hike all the way to Big Springs it will take at least 6 hours. The first few miles you will be hiking with a few other people around, but about 2 miles in you reach a point where you have to decide to get completely submerged in the water and swim, or turn back. Most people turn back, we did not! Once we got past this point, we had the trail almost completely to ourselves. We saw maybe 2 other pairs while hiking the remaining 2.5 miles to what's called "Big Springs". This is the end of the hiking trail unless you plan to camp and spend the night. You're greeted with a beautiful oasis like waterfall with crystal clear blue waters. This hike was extremely difficult, 6 hours of hiking, 3 of those going against the current, stumbling on rocks, in cold water, and at the end I was completely exhausted and my legs felt like jello but man it was SO worth the experience!!
**Scroll down for a trail map**