Scenic Hikes in Zion National Park
Hiking in Zion National Park is just the best. Our canyon is unique not simply because of its fascinating geology, with the towering cliffs which were sand dunes in their day (165 million years ago) – but also because of the hydrology, the water that pours out of those cliffs, creating a verdant riparian habitat along the river.
For being in the desert, we have a tremendous amount of green. It’s almost electric with the new leaves in the spring, provides wonderful shade in the summer heat, and offers vibrant colors in the fall.
We have several hikes to choose from. Some follow the river and others climb the walls and arrive at viewpoints you may be lucky enough to share with a condor or two.
One of the hikes will take us up to Scout’s Lookout, at the foot of the famous Angel’s Landing trail.
On Scout’s Lookout we stand a pretty good chance of seeing a California Condor, a species which nearly died out in the early 1970’s. The population is recovering through a massive captive breeding effort and ongoing testing and treatment for lead poisoning, one of their greatest threats.
Here in Zion we’re delighted to have been the home of the 1000th chick born in the course of that program. 1k, as he is fondly called, is the first wild hatched, successfully fledged chick in Zion’s history.
I rarely guide the Angel’s Landing Trail, simply because of the crowding. Intrepid souls are welcome to tackle it – just plan to start really early to have a better experience, with fewer people on the chains. In my opinion this is the trail most impacted by our high levels of visitation, and that fact needs to be factored in with great respect. The Park is in the process of developing a metering system which will help make it a more reasonable choice.
The Emerald Pools trail is another favorite, moving through our woodland habitat where we see lots of birds, and then moving under the waterfalls that pour out of the cliffs, where the Navajo Sandstone meets the Kayenta Layer. The lower pools are a light to moderate hike, which can be extended into something more athletic by heading up to the middle and upper pools.
The Watchman trail is a beaut. Close to the Visitor Center and easily within walking distance of town (with no need for a park shuttle), this trail is a good one for those who want to get out early and exert themselves to get the day going with a bit of extra cardio.
It leads to a beautiful overlook about 500 feet above town, gives you a chance to get a good look up into the canyon, then leads you on a loop along some rim rock and through the Juniper/Pinyon Pine complex before heading back down.
In the spring this trail has some of the greatest wildflower diversity of any trail in the park.
Then there is the beautiful Parus’ trail, which meanders for two miles along the river from the Visitor Center to Canyon Junction, where the scenic drive starts up the main Zion Canyon. The Parus’ is wheelchair accessible, has no real hills or inclines, crosses the river several times with beautifully designed bridges that add to the delight – it’s just a great trail.
If you’re at all worried about being too challenged by hiking in Zion, this is a wonderful trail to begin with, to get a full sensory experience of the Canyon.