Over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I packed the car full of hiking and camping gear and headed west to Utah. We had been to Salt Lake City and the surrounding area before, but had never driven through south Utah. Heading west on I-70, I had already forgotten how scenic the drive can be out of Colorado. The terrain seems to change about every 50 miles from the Rocky Mountains to desert mesas and more. We drove 9 hours from Denver, CO to St. George, UT, a small town just outside Zion National Park .
It was hardly on my radar compared to some of the more popular parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite. We spent two full days hiking in this magnificent park, and I have to tell you…we actually played the Jurassic Park theme song as we drove in. If you make it to Zion, I highly recommend doing this. You’ll start seeing brontosaurus and triceratops roaming through this magnificent terrain that has been around since the Triassic period.
Discover natural beauty with these hikes in Zion National Park. While there are plenty of hikes to choose from, there are a few in particular that I recommend for visits to this spectacular park.
Moderate / Strenuous
This is truly one of the coolest hikes I’ve ever done. The hike is through the Virgin River, which requires balance and concentration. Other than balance and concentration, this hike isn’t particularly strenuous if you don’t do the whole thing. The entire hike through the narrows is about 9.4 miles long and takes about 8 hours. However, you can hike in as far as you like and turn around at any point.
We spent about 4 hours in The Narrows, hiking approximately 3 miles in, 3 miles out. The name of this trail comes from the fact that the Virgin River carves through this canyon, causing some parts of the canyon to be narrow.
Angel’s landing is a 5.4 mile hike with long drop-offs that takes approximately 4 hours to complete. This is certainly not a hike for young children or anyone fearful of heights. The last section is a route along a steep, narrow ridge to the summit, equipped with helpful chains. This strenuous and steep hike has an elevation gain of 1,488 ft and concludes with rewarding views of the national park that can only be obtained from this high point. This rock formation gets its name from a Methodist preacher named Frederick Fisher who thought that it was so tall, only angels could land at the top.
Lower Emerald Pool Trail
This trail is a Zion classic with a paved trail leading to the Lower Emerald Pool and waterfalls. If you only have a few hours to spend and are looking for a non-strenuous stroll, this is your hike. Keep in mind that you may run into crowds in the summer months, so be prepared to share your experience with other park visitors. You can also wake up early to enjoy without the crowds.
The path to the Lower Pools is 1.2 miles long and has lush vegetation and a tall alcove, providing a perfect oasis escape amidst the desert. If you’re feeling great at this point, consider hiking onward as the hike connects to the Kayenta and Upper Emerald Pool Trails. You’ll likely see a drop-off in visitors if you adventure onward.
Things You Should Know
- Zion National Park offers a free shuttle service, stopping at the park’s most popular spots. The ride alone is extremely scenic and you’ll learn about some of the park’s features on the way.
- Heat exhaustion is a real thing. If you visit during the summer months, make sure to pack plenty of water.
- There are plenty of hiking opportunities ranging from handicap accessible routes to those reserved for the wild and adventurous, like Angel’s Landing.
Author: Jessie Dalton has traveled around Southeast Asia, Europe and the US. She is a contributing member at Guidester, a US-Italian dual citizen, and has an innate thirst for knowledge. Originally from the ‘Show Me’ state, today Jessie lives in Denver, CO. She balances growing the business with a rich home life with husband and adventure partner Dan, an overall passion for travel and local culture, and the drive to continue to encourage others to exchange routine for a rich, engaging experience.