National Parks Tips

What to Not Miss in Zion National Park

When you visit Zion National Park there are an endless supply of hikes to do and things to see, however here are 7 things you cannot miss in Zion National Park. These 7 hikes will allow you to see the main features and attractions that Zion has to offer. If you can’t do these all in one trip, its well worth it to come back to the park to do all of these hikes. We have been back to Zion multiple times and each time is just as amazing as the previous visit!

Zion National Park Overview

hiker taking photos at zion national park

The first National Park in Utah, Zion National park is located in Springdale, Utah. Zion National park’s main feature is Zion Canyon which feature a mix of red and tan which stretch on for miles and miles. As soon as you enter the park you’ll be greeted with majestic red walls which were carved over many years by the Virgin River. This national park has a wide range of hikes to see, from the top of the canyon looking down or wading in the rivers as you work your way through the lower canyons. Zion National park is home to the world famous Narrows or the infamous Angel’s Landing. Each step you take on your hikes will have awe inspiring views and unforgettable geological features.

Know Before You Go for Zion National Park

This park runs on a shuttle system and certain trailheads are only accessible via the shuttle system. If you’re planning on hiking the narrows keep in mind the water levels and if the canyon is accessible when you visit. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds the park is the most busy during March all the way through October. Since Zion National Park is world famous it attracts millions of visitors per year, so expect long lines and full parking lots. If you’re visiting in the summer, Zion National Park can get as hot as 100 degrees and temperatures in the canyon can get very low at night. Monsoon season occurs during July to September and can bring the danger of sudden thunderstorms and flash floods.

Observation Point Trail

Hiker at Observation Point overlooking canyon
Distance: 7.1
Elevation: 2,788
Difficulty: Strenuous
Estimated Time: 5 to 6 Hours
Trailhead: Park at the Weeping Rock parking lot(shuttle stop #7) or take the Zion Shuttle Bus, walk across the bridge, and then head to the East Rim Trail. Be sure to NOT take the Weeping Rock Trail!

Trail Description:
Get breathtaking views of the canyon of Zion National park in one of the top hikes of Zion. This trail features beautiful red rock formations mixed with sprinkles of green trees. Each turn and switch back you make your way up will lead to majestic views of the canyon walls. With a 2,788 foot elevation gain, this trail is rated as strenuous and will be challenging on your legs. Despite the challenge, the end views are well worth it as you get panoramic views of the top of the canyons and into the valley down below.

Keep in Mind:
Plan for an entire day for this hike as this is no slouch! Hiking during summer time will have minimal shade and will be very hot, so be sure to bring sun cover and enough water. If you’re hiking in the winter, call the rangers to check for snow coverage and be sure to bring micro-spikes or crampons to help get traction on the icier parts of the trail.

Angels Landing

hikers on angel's landing trail
Distance: 5.00 Miles
Elevation: 1,630 Feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Estimated Time: 3-4 hours
Trailhead: Grotto Trailhead via the Shuttle (In the offseason you can take your car straight to the parking lot)
Trail Description:
The world infamous Angel’s landing will take your breath away literally. This short hike will bring a lifetime of memories as you scale the edges of the red rocks of Angel’s landing. The start of the hike begins on a normal trail and you’ll end up on the endless zigzag of switchbacks before the trail opens back up to reveal the notorious chains and rocky edge.

Keep in Mind:
Due to the pandemic, as of July 2020, the cables are still down and you should not attempt this trail. If you’re hiking in the summer then expect heavy traffic and many people on the trail, this making it even more dangerous. We highly suggest you hike this very early when there are less people on trail and temperatures are much cooler. The summer heat can also make the metal cables very hot to grab. If you’re going in the entire time, snow does fall on this trail and can make a dangerous hike even more unstable.

The Subway

water pool at the subway canyon in zion
Distance: 9.1 Miles (Out & Back)
Elevation: 1,305 Feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Estimated Time: 8-10 hours
Trailhead: Wildcat Trailhead (Kolob Reservoir Road)
Trail Description:
Before you start, you need a permit from admin for Zion National Park located at the Visitor Center. This hike is semi-technical hike and canyoneering adventure. This hike requires hiking, a bit of swimming, some wading in the water, scrambling on slippery rocks, and climbing down to complete the hike. This hike can be broken into four parts, Left Fork Trail 0.5 mile flat hike requiring you to descend deeply into the canyon, 3.5 miles along the river, and the last stretch that requires you to climb to the Subway. The adventure is worth the journey as Subway offers unforgettable views of the slot canyons of Zion National Park.

Keep in mind:
This hike is very dangerous, requires swimming, wading, climbing and scrambling. Again you must get permits to hike this hike. Prepare for a long and strenuous hike as you make your way through the slot canyons.

Emerald Pools Trail (Lower Pools to Upper Pools)

canyon wall at upper emerald pools
Distance: 3.0 Miles
Elevation: 646 Feet
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 1-2 hours
Trailhead: Zion Lodge (Shuttle Stop #5). Leave the shuttle and the Emerald Pools Trailhead will be on your right across the street.

Trail Description:
A short paved hike to see the lower pools, middle pools and upper emerald pools of Zion. This trail has something for everyone, from the vibrant greenery at the lodge, a gorgeous bridge and creek view, the unforgettable vistas of Zion National Park, and even an emerald water fall. The lower pool has a small waterfall that provides a refreshing mist. Once you reach the upper pool you are greeted with amazing views and able to see the water fall from up above.

Keep in mind:
There are numerous steep sections with exposure so watch your step. There is also some water run off so some parts of the trail may be slippery. The best time to do this hike is in the Spring while the water sources are at their peak. If you’re hiking late in the summer than the pools and falls may just be a small trickle. This trail has very little coverage from the sun, so try to hike earlier in the day as you will be exposed to the sun for most of the hike.

The Narrows Riverside Walk

the narrows in zion national park
1.9 Miles
Elevation: 193 Feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Estimated Time: 1-2 hours
Trailhead: Temple of Sinawava (Shuttle Stop #7)
Trail Description:
world famous and iconic trek within Zion National Park. This is an absolute must hike for any visitor new to Zion National Park. This trail starts off paved, but you have the option of hiking along and inside the river. During this hike you’ll be entranced by the epic red and orange slot canyon walls of Zion National Park. As you make your way step by step through the shallow Virgin River, you’ll be able to see a life time worth of geological beauty as each carved layer of the canyon walls reveals itself around each bend. This is an unforgettable journey.

Keep in mind:
You will get your feet wet! If you have water shoes, you should definitely bring them for this hike. Since this is a hike into the slot canyons while wading in the river, check for water levels and flash floods with the local rangers before making an attempt. There are also potential toxic Cyanobacteria algae that can bloom in the water during certain months. Since this trail is world famous expect a lot of other hikers, so try to hike earlier as the crowds will be much thinner. For this hike we suggest bringing hiking poles to help navigate your way through the river and to help you get good footing.

The Watchmen Trail

Distance: 3.1 Miles Roundtrip
Elevation: 646 Feet
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 2 hours
Trailhead: Tucked between the Visitor Center and the South Campground

Trail Description:
Often overlooked by new visitors to Zion National Park, the Watchmen trail features dazzling views of the Springdale area and features the Watchman Spire. Visitors often opt for the more popular Narrows or Angel’s landing, however this trail allows you to focus on the Zion landscape with the green desert shrubs mixed in with the pink and red canyon walls. With moderate inclines as you work your way up, the trail levels off just at the loop as you make your way along the top.

Keep in mind:
This trail has no shade, so try to hike it earlier in the day as it will be much cooler. The trail starts off a bit step, but levels off, so don’t let the beginning discourage you!

Zion Canyon Overlook Trail

women hiker with open arms facing zion canyon overlook
Distance: 1.0 mile
Elevation: 442 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Trailhead: Canyon Overlook Trailhead Parking Lot (off Route-9 east of the Mount Carmel Tunnel)
Trail Description:
A short one mile hike with a slight elevation gain of 442 feet, Zion Canyon Overlook features a fantastic view of the main Zion Canyon. As you make your way up the trail, you’ll also be able to get a glimpse of the Pine Creek slot canyon. This well marked and well maintained trail is a must for first time visitors to Zion National Park.

Keep in mind:

The parking lot for this hike is very small and fills up incredibly quickly during the busy summer months. You can also park further down the road, but you’ll have to walk a bit back to reach the actual trailhead. There is very little shade on this trail, so wear a lot of sun protection and try to hike earlier in the day.

What else you should know about Zion National Park

What are the best hikes at Zion National Park?

The best hikes in Zion National park will take you into the world famous slot canyons and along one of the most nerve wracking edges. The three best hikes of Zion National park are the Narrows, Angel’s Landing, and The Subway. These three hikes are definitely for the more adventurous as you’ll be required to climb, rappel, go into neck deep water, or swim.

What is the most dangerous hike in Zion?

The most infamous hike in Zion National Park is also the most dangerous. Angel’s landing features vertigo inducing rock edges as you use the cables to shift your way up the rocky edges. The start of the hike is a mild walk up some switchbacks, but as things start to open up you’ll see the beginning of the cables. Since 2017, there have been three unfortunate deaths on this trail.

What can you not miss in Zion National Park?

If you’re visiting Zion National Park for the first time and want to see can’t miss places, then you should definitely check out The Narrows, Angel’s Landing, and the Emerald Pools. These three hikes will give you the best highlights of what Zion National Park has to offer from majestic red slot canyons that tower over you, to heart stopping rocky edges on Angel’s Landing, and the beautiful Emerald Pools.

How many people have died on Angels Landing?

Since 2017, there have been three unfortunate deaths on Angel’s Landing. This trail, while short, has complete exposure at the end of the trail where hikers are a few hundred feet up while needing to scale the side of rocky edges.

What is the best way to see Zion National Park?

The best way to see Zion National Park is utilizing the park’s shuttle system and hiking the numerous hikes that the park has to offer. This park has an amazing array of hikes featuring many magnificent views and experiences. Be sure to check out the slot canyons, the panoramic views of the red walls of Zion, and much more!

More Helpful Resources