A Day Hiking In Zion National Park

Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

We Headed To Zion National Park

We had two days in Virgin, Utah and planned to go hiking in Zion National Park from this stop. It was a busy travel day when we first visited to Bryce National Park. And then did the long slow drive to our hotel through the Zion park grounds. We enjoyed a down day to relax before we hit the park.

When we visited Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and then drove through Bryce Canyon National Park we were at the top of the canyons and looked down. In Zion, most of the park was at the bottom of the canyons. So we got a very different perspective on the stunning peaks. Various hiking trails at the top of the peaks provided the view down into the canyons.

The altitude at the base of the Zion canyon was still around 4,000 feet (1,200m). Peaks towered over 8,700 feet (2,650 m). It was no wonder that we continued to see such bright blue clear skies.

We enjoyed our day hiking in Zion National Park. And got a short introduction to all this park has to offer. But we only saw enough to know we want to go back one day.

Entering Through Zion East

After we visited Bryce National Park, we headed south on state road 89. At Mt Carmel Junction, we turned east on Route 9 to get to Zion National Park. If we turned west, this led us to the Grand Canyon. But on an adventure at another time, we visited first the Grand Canyon North Rim and then explored the Grand Canyon South Rim.

When we planned this route, we did not really understand that our drive took us through the park to get to our stay in Virgin on the other side. We hit the park entrance and used our National Park Pass to continue on. But we wondered if people paid if they were only going straight through.

Entrance Sign.jpg

Driving The Switchbacks In Zion East

The drive in from the east entrance took us steadily down into the canyon via a continuous series of switchbacks. At times the road dropped off beside the car far down into the canyon.

East Entrance - Scenic Drive - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

East Entrance - Scenic Drive.jpg

Traffic slowed down when we reached the mile long Zion-Mt Carmel tunnel. There were size restrictions on the tunnel. And at times they needed to let traffic go only in one direction for bigger vehicles.

East Entrance - Mt Carmel Tunnel.jpg

East Entrance - Mt Carmel Tunnel.jpg

All along the route we got our first view of the amazing rock structures in Zion National Park. There were few spots to pull over to look at the rocks. And at this point, we were very late in the day. We did not expect our trip through Zion to be at an average speed of 15 mph! This was well below the slow speed limit posted.

East Entrance - Scenic Drive - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

East Entrance - Scenic Drive - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

Entering through the East entrance was a stunning way to first see Zion National Park. Even if was totally unplanned.

While the canyon was the most popular part of the park, there were also some great places to hike in Zion National Park on the east side. The Canyon Overlook Trail was a moderate path over rocky and uneven paths with steep drop-offs to the viewpoint at Pine Creek. There was also a strenuous hike along the East Rim Trail though Echo Canyon to the viewpoint over Zion Canyon. Neither of these were on our agenda for this visit hiking in Zion National Park.

A Day Off In Virgin, Utah

By the time we finally reached the hotel in Virgin, it was almost sunset. We quickly checked in and then headed out with a list of restaurant recommendations in the area.

On our 2 day stay in Virgin, we had no trouble finding great food every time we went looking. We ate twice at the Stage Coach Grill. It was a meat lovers paradise and a definite local favourite. We made sure to make reservations on our second visit.

Virgin Food Stage Coach Grille.jpg

Virgin Food Stage Coach Grille.jpg

The Fort Zion Trading Post was fashioned after an old wild west town outside and a saloon on the inside. We were sure that families would enjoy this spot.

 Virgin Food Stage Fort Zion.jpg

For lunch one day, we visited the River Rock Cafe. Fresh roasted coffee was the draw. But a pizza with a great view made us glad we stayed to eat in.

 Virgin Food Stage River Rock Roastery Pizza.jpg

The hotel was surrounded by stunning rock landscapes. It was not hard to take a day off and relax with this view. Especially when the view was over the pool. Or when the red rocks glowed at sunset.

Fairfield Virgin Pool.jpg

Fairfield Virgin Rock Sunset.jpg

We enjoyed a down day at the hotel and in the local area before we spent a day hiking in Zion National Park. It would have been an ideal relaxing day had this not been one of the worst hotels on our trip. Paper thin walls ensured we heard every sound made in the rooms on either side. Not a great spot for catching up on sleep.

Stopping At The Zion Visitor Centre

We headed out very early for our day hiking in Zion National Park. We knew that parking was scarce. But we managed to find a spot close to the Visitors Centre.

Just in case, we had a fallback plan. The Zion Shuttle picked up at various places in nearby Springdale. We figured we could always go back if necessary. If we had stayed in Springdale, we definitely would have used the shuttle and left the car behind.

We made a short stop at the Visitors Centre to get our bearings. The relief map gave us a good view of the path we planned to travel that day. There were 9 stops on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. No self-driving was allowed in the canyon, so we used the shuttle to move from stop to stop.

Visitor Centre Geology.jpg

The Zion map provided information about hiking in Zion National Park. For each stop, we considered the difficulty of the hike, the elevation change during the hike and the average duration of the hike to decide where we would explore on our day at Zion.

With our route planned, we headed to Stop 1 to pick up the shuttle. The peaks of Zion National Park called to us from the distance.

Stop 1 Rock Views - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

The Riverside Walk At The Temple Of Sinawava

We took the shuttle to the far end of the route at Stop 9 for the Temple of Sinawava for the easy Riverside Walk hike. The paved path followed the Virgin River at the bottom of a steep narrow canyon. It was still early in the day and the canyon was deep in shadows.

We started in a flat meadow area. As the path narrowed, we walked closer to the rock wall edges. There were fascinating rock formations along the path. And we even found a few Moonflowers.

Stop 9 Riverside Walk - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

Stop 9 Riverside Walk.jpg

Stop 9 Riverside Walk.jpg

Stop 9 Riverside Walk Mooflower - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

We often walked down at the water’s edge. The water levels were not high but we enjoyed the rushing water views. In places the water was a deep emerald green. Later in the day, we caught interesting reflections of the rocks above us.

Stop 9 Riverside Walk.jpg

Stop 9 Riverside Walk - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

Stop 9 Riverside Walk - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

Stop 9 Riverside Walk.jpg

We finished our Riverside Walk at the Narrows after about an hour. Hiking in Zion National Park can come in many forms. At this point, the trail went into the steep canyon and much of the hiking was in the water. We did not come prepared for walking in the water on this trip.

Stop 9 Riverside Walk - The Narrows - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

Stop 9 Riverside Walk - The Narrows.jpg

Views Along The Way Back

After a short stop we headed back along the Riverside Walk. The sun was higher in the sky and the beauty of the glowing rocks started to show up. All along we stopped to look up and admire the variety in the rock structures.

Stop 9 Riverside Walk - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

Stop 9 Riverside Walk - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

Stop 9 Riverside Walk - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

At one point, we found groups of people pointing. We soon found out why! A small group of mule deer wandered by the water.

Stop 9 Riverside Walk Mule Deer.jpg

Stop 9 Riverside Walk Mule Deer.jpg

We were glad that we headed right for the last shuttle stop to start our day hiking in Zion National Park. As we headed back out, the paths were much more crowded. And the temperature started to rise.

A Short Stop At The Big Bend

After our long walk along the river, we were not sure how many more stops we would make on the way back down. We got off the shuttle at Stop 8 for Big Bend. This was mostly a stop to take some pictures of the rocks that towered overhead.

 Stop 8 Big Bend.jpg

 Stop 8 Big Bend - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

Far above we saw Angels Landing. This was one of the most famous hikes at Zion National Park as it headed out on a narrow rock fin. With his zoom lens, David saw people walking on the edge. And even a few brave souls rappelling on the rocks.

 Stop 8 Angels Landing - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

 Stop 8 Angels Landing - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

We planned to stop next at Stop 7 at the Weeping Rock. It was a short but steep hike. But a major rock slide closed this trail. When you are hiking in Zion National Park and see the signs on the paths about falling rocks, take them seriously.

When we got to Stop 6 at the Grotto, we considered getting off here. There was an easy path from there to the Zion Lodge stop. But it was now past lunch time. So we left that hike for another visit.

The trail head for Angels Landing was at the Grotto. But we never considered heading that way. There was also another hike from the Grotto along the Kayenta Trail. This path was an unpaved climb with moderate drop-offs to the Emerald Pools. We decided we wanted the easier walk to the Emerald Pools at Stop 5.

Another Walk Along The Virgin River

We got off at Stop 5 at the Zion Lodge. There were several options for lunch. We ultimately grabbed some takeout rather than sitting in the restaurant. The rock views around us in all directions were stunning. We really wished we planned our trip earlier so that we could have stayed at Zion Lodge inside the park.

 Stop 5 Shuttle - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

 Stop 5 Rock Views.jpg

 Stop 5 Rock Views - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

 Stop 5 Rock Views - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

From here we could also take a horse ride along the Sand Bench Trail. This path led to a massive landslide under the Sentinel. It was a 5 hour trip so this was definitely left for another visit. But we certainly wanted to visit the Emerald Pools from this stop.

 Stop 5 Emerald Pools.jpg

A short walk took us to the bridge over the Virgin River and the path that ran alongside. From here we got yet another amazing panoramic view of the rocks of Zion National Park. The wide vistas were stunning. But when we looked up the rock face by the path, we found fascinating rock views as well.

 Stop 5 Emerald Pools Virgin River Walk - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

 Stop 5 Emerald Pools Virgin River Walk - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

 Stop 5 Emerald Pools Virgin River Walk - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

 Stop 5 Emerald Pools Virgin River Walk.jpg

We followed the path and soon heard the sound of rushing water.

Walk Under The Waterfall At The Emerald Pools

We got our first view of the Emerald Pools in the shadows. The pools were shallow and not quite the emerald colour we expected.

 Stop 5 Emerald Pools - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

A little further down the path, a waterfall fell down the rock face. As we saw in the morning, the water levels were low. But we still got wet as we scrambled along the wet path under the water stream. We were sure we would get soaked in high water flows. It reminded us very much of similar rock waterfalls we found on our visit to Watkins State Park in New York State.

 Stop 5 Emerald Pools Waterfall.jpg

 Stop 5 Emerald Pools Waterfall - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

The path ended shortly after the waterfall. A major rockslide took out sections of the path. There would be no visit to the Upper Emerald Pools on this trip.

 Stop 5 Emerald Pools Waterfall - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

 Stop 5 Emerald Pools Waterfall.jpg

We enjoyed being cooled down by the waterfall spray before we turned around and headed back. It was a refreshing stop hiking in Zion National Park.

A Shuttle Ride Through The Canyons Of Zion

After walking to the Emerald Ponds, we were done for the day. We got back on the shuttle and enjoyed the ride down through the canyons past Stops 4, 3 and 2. We were glued to the windows as we watched the rock faces that towered above us. There was such a variety of colours and textures.

Scenic Road Rock Views - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

Scenic Road Rock Views - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

Scenic Road Rock Views - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

There are no real hiking paths at Stops 4, 3 or 2. But it would have been great to stop and really take in the views. We got a great video of this ride down that will have to keep us until we head back for more hiking in Zion National Park.

Returning To The Visitors Centre

We left the shuttle when we returned to Stop 1 at the Visitors Centre. It was a great day hiking in Zion National Park. But we were done for the day. One day really was not enough to do more than give us a tease about this great park.

There were two hikes from Stop 1 that we did not do on this visit. The short but steep Archeology Trail can be walked from here. This path included views of prehistoric buildings and had several exhibits along the way. We also did not do the much longer Pa’Rus Trail. This paved trail goes along the Virgin River to Canyon Junction where the road headed up into the Zion Canyon. There was shuttle stop there to continue into the park.

The sun had already started to drop. The red rocks glowed. It was a beautiful view as we left Zion National Park for the day.

Sunset Rock Views - Hiking In Zion National Park.jpg

Exit Sign.jpg

A Fun Day Hiking In Zion National Park

We had an amazing day hiking in Zion National Park. We were happy we started at the far end of the shuttle line for the Riverside Walk. The hike to see the Emerald Pools provide yet more stunning views.

At every point in Zion National Park, the rock views from the bottom of the canyon awed us. We were sure that hikes to the top peaks would provide another amazing perspective.

One day in the park was certainly not enough time to see it all. But it was a great teaser to know we want to return for more. And a wonderful way to finish our tour of the Utah National Parks.

Our next stop was in Page and Lake Powell just across the border in Arizona. We knew there was more more fun waiting for us on our visit to Utah and Arizona on this amazing trip!

Did you go hiking in Zion National Park? What was your favourite part of this park?

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About TravelAtWill 575 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

48 Comments

  1. That place looks absolutely amazing. If I visited, I think I would need to stay for at least a week! The colours in those rocks as they change throughout the day is incredible, and I would definitely need to do the horse ride. I hope you do manage to return for a longer stay. Cheers

  2. I have always wanted to head to Zion National Park! I can’t imagine driving through with all of the switchbacks – a bit scary here and there, I’m sure. But I do love tunnels – they’re interesting to go through. Heading to the waterfall does sound refreshing, and the red rocks out west always look so beautiful. What a fab trip!!

    • Jennifer, We loved that we came into Zion from the East and saw a part that many people miss. There were so many great spots. And we really only got a taste test. Definitely need to go back for more. Linda

  3. Such a dramatic landscape. I lived in the States for years and put off visiting these state parks — they’d been there for years, and would always be there, so what’s the rush! But as soon as I left I bitterly regretted not making the most of these beautiful destinations. So on my first trip back, I went to the Grand Canyon, and was so happy I’d make the effort. What I loved the most about those reddish rocks was how the shape changed as the sunlight moved across the sky and landed on the landscape. So beautiful.

  4. The rock structures in the park are just amazing. A walk near the Emerald Pools would excite me quite a lot as water rushing out in an area with just rocks around would feel so refreshing.Even if the water is not emerald in color. And the mules wandering by the water must have been a great sight. I think you did quite a bit on a day trip. But I would love to stay back for one night in Zion Lodge inside the park to get a feel of how it would be during night time.

  5. There’s nothing I love more than pizza, except pizza with a great view. What stunning natural beauty in that part of America. I come from the east coast but live in Europe now so I really feel the need to explore my own country more. I wish I had European vacation time when I was living and working in the States haha.

  6. I’ve been meaning to visit Zion Park for several years, it reminds me quite a bit of my travels through Petra. What a unique place. I love your tip about visiting the trading post – its so cool that it was built like an old wild west town. That experience alone would be fantastic! Thanks for the post!

  7. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your post, Linda. It’s been a long time since we visited Zion and I’d love to go back and do some more hiking. Your post is very detailed, so I could follow your itinerary. I was thinking we could do the driving ourselves, but from what you are describing the road is kind dangerous as it drops off down into the canyon in some places. Should we attempt this drive?

    • Anda, You should do the drive through the East side of the park. The shuttle does not go to that part. But for the rest of the stops, you need to park and take the shuttle. It was a great way to move between spots. I hope you get to visit. There was so much more to explore than we saw. Linda

  8. What an amazing hiking spot. So scenic. I would definitely take the shuttle as the option to go from spot to spot. How fortunate those that are close to the state, it would make a fantastic road trip.

    • Renee, We sure wish we could easily get back to Utah to spend more time at the National Parks. Such great spots to explore in these times of wanting wide open spaces. Linda

  9. Your blogs on the different national parks you have visited are really interesting. I am amazed at the grand look of the Zion National Park from the East entrance. You had a good time enjoying the pizza with view from River Rocks cafe. I also enjoyed reading about the trails you took by the river at the Temple of Sinawava and also under the waterfalls to the Emerald Pool.

  10. In the United States, I have only been to NYC so far, but your post about Zion National Park was an eye-opener for me regarding how much natural beauty there is in the US. The walk along Virgin River looks particularly scenic. I would love to go back for a hike there and enjoy these wonderful landscapes.

  11. Such beautiful landscapes. I definitely have Zion National Park on my bucket list and would love to do some walks/hikes when I visit. Would love to visit sooner than later now. I will plan once all this virus thing is over.

    • Raksha, So many people are discovering the beauty of the National Parks like Zion at this time. We would certainly not take it for granted. Hope you get to visit one day. Linda

  12. Everything about the zion national park is fascinating. WHat an amazing time you had hiking there. This is high on my bucket list. I would love to even drive around. The gorgeous rock formations, and the breathtaking views make it worth the visit and the hike. Thank you for the virtual tour.

  13. I have always wanted to visit Zion National Park along with a few others. These rock structures are absolutely beautiful, definitely would need a longer time here to take in all that beauty. I liked that pizza stop, nothing like having a pizza with a view and fresh coffee is a total win. Also I love walking close to the water because there is nothing more refreshing than the feel of water on a hot long hike.

  14. Everytime I stumble upon a post about Zion national park (or other national parks in the US)I always want to burst out in tears. I miss them so much! You did some hikes that we didnt get the chance to do, will save them for next time as they seems easy enough for our daughter. The riverside trail looks really nice! We actually hiked the Narrows deep into the waterfalls, and also the Angel landing. Zion National park is an amazing park like the rest of the NP in the US!

  15. The hike sounds like a lot of fun with those scenic landscapes around every corner. I like the idea of walking through those little pools . Bet the spray of water from the little falls would have re freshened you. Seems like a good day trip option when in that part of the world.

  16. I only had one day in Zion and walked the Narrows, but I would love to return and explore more. The Fort Zion Trading Post looks so cool too. I’m a huge fan of western themes!!

  17. I love how different all the areas are – I didn’t expect that! I am used to seeing just one or two photos of Zion, and it’s always the same thing (not that that’s not incredible and beautiful, of course). But this is a really great look at the diversity of the landscape. I’ve never been to this area of the country, but I would love to take my family on a trip through there at some point!

    • Dani, I am glad to have shown you some different areas in Zion. We too were amazed at how many different areas we found in the park. And we did not get to them all! Hope you get to take your family one day. Linda

  18. There is really nothing like the magnificent landscapes of the American South West! Zion is oen of the few national parks I´ve yet to visit in the region, but these photos are really moving it up to the top of my list ! Looks like a dream for hiking.

  19. Going to hike in Zion National Park looks worth to go for all those scenic views. Even your lunch at the River Rock Cafe looks a great stop over to get that freshly roasted coffee. Even having a pizza with a great view would be a nice way to have a food during this trip. To splurge in that pool with stunning views of red rock is also a great idea to spend a family break here. I would surely go for this hike when I visit US when everything gets well.

  20. Hiking would be top on my list. There are some amazing scenic views. The brown, reddish, green, hills are definitely adding so much to the landscape. A shuttle ride is a great idea. The riverside walk looks interesting too. Temple of Sinawava has made me curious. Pizza with a great view has made me hungry.

  21. Quite interesting about the route passing through Zion National Park! I’m kinda assuming that most of the citizens would hold the national park pass!!!
    The view of the landscape through the tunnel looks awesome. As an outside, getting stuck in the traffic jam near a tunnel in the middle of the national park is quite amusing for me! Haha…
    Pizza with such a view and actually stunning! The river walk along Temple of Sinawava is so picturesque. Always in love with those streams!!

    • Bhushavali, We did love our visit to Zion National Park. One day gave us a great taste test. And we were happy we used the other day to explore other things in the area. We certainly needed a down day. Linda

  22. Zion is certainly more than just Angel’s Landing. Thanks for offering a diverse list of hikes. I like to do Walters Wiggles for exercise and walk along the river to relax. Then I can go for the onion rings you pictured!

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