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Zion National Park

Zion National Park is a 229 square-mile park in Washington, Iron, and Kane Counties in Utah.  The park protects Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyons and over 120,000 acres, around 85% of the total area, are protected as Zion Wilderness.  Located at the junction of the Mohave Desert, Great Basin, and Colorado Plateau, the park exhibits unique geological features characterized by steep canyons and bright red Navajo Sandstone.  The closest town is Springdale located at the south entrance of the park.  For most of the year, driving private vehicles is prohibited in Zion Canyon.  Visitors can instead take a free shuttle that departs from the visitor center and stops at eight other places in the canyon.

Map:

Trails:

Angels Landing Trail:

Angels Landing Trail is a half-mile trail leading from Scout Lookout to the summit of Angels Landing.  Although short, it's an extremely steep hike along a narrow ridge with 1000-foot drop offs.  Those with a fear of heights should probably enjoy the view from Scout Landing.  If you don't mind heights, it's a really fun trail with fantastic views.  And the park service has fixed chains along the trail for the most treacherous parts.  The views along the trail are really great and when you make it to the top, it can't be beat.

Canyon Overlook Trail:

Canyon Overlook Trail is a half-mile trail leading to a fantastic overlook of lower Zion Canyon. The trailhead is just east of the tunnel in Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway.  From the visitor center, continue driving on UT-9 past Canyon Junction.  The road follows several switchbacks up the mountain and then goes through a mile-long tunnel.  The trailhead parking is on the right immediately after the tunnel.  If that parking lot is full or you missed it, there are additional parking areas if you continue down the road.  The trail follows the course of Pine Creek, high above its canyon and ends above the Great Arch (though there is no view of it from here).

East Rim Trail:

East Rim Trail is an 11-mile trail that leads from Zion Canyon at Weeping Rock to the east entrance of the park.  I've only hiked less than a mile of this trail to Hidden Canyon though.  The trailhead is at shuttle stop #7 - Weeping Rock. The paved trail picks up at the far end of the parking lot and goes straight, where Weeping Rock Trail turns left.  The trail climbs up the canyon wall along a number of switchbacks and Hidden Canyon Trail splits off in less than a mile.

Hidden Canyon Trail:

Hidden Canyon Trail is a challenging one-mile trail through its namesake canyon.  The trail begins along East Rim Trail, about 0.6 miles from the western trailhead at Weeping Rock.  It starts with some short, steep switchbacks leading up to a nice overlook.  Then the trail then wraps around the cliff face approaching the entrance to Hidden Canyon, with chains along the wall for hikers to hold on to.  Those with a fear of heights will not enjoy this part of the trail.  At the entrance to Hidden Canyon, the trail enters Zion Wilderness and is no longer maintained.  You can go about a half-mile through the canyon without a permit and there is a sign where you must turnaround.  About half-way through the canyon is a beautiful natural rock arch.

Kolob Arch Trail:

Kolob Arch Trail is about a half-mile long, leading from La Verkin Creek Trail to a viewing spot for its namesake arch.  As the trail starts more than 6 miles from the La Verkin Creek Trailhead, the total roundtrip distance is about 14 miles.  From the junction with La Verkin Creek Trail between backcountry campsites 9 and 10, this trail heads up a small canyon to a spot where three seasonal tributaries come together.  Look to the left (west) and up to see Kolob Arch.

La Verkin Creek Trail:

La Verkin Creek Trail is a 12-mile trail in the Kolob Canyons section in the northwestern corner of the park.  The trailhead is at Lee Pass on Kolob Canyons Road.  For the first three miles, the trail follows Timber Creek downstream.  Near the confluence with La Verkin Creek, the trail turns right and follows its namesake upstream.  In about 6.5 miles from the trailhead, there is an intersection with Kolob Arch Trail.  This is as far as I've hiked.  Shortly past this junction is the junction with Hops Valley Trail.  Past that, the trail continues for another four miles or so, continuing to follow La Verkin Creek Trail upstream.  There are a number of backcountry campsites along the trail.

Lower Emerald Pools Trail:

Lower Emerald Pools Trail is just over a mile round trip, leading from the Zion Lodge to the Lower Emerald Pool.  The trail starts from across the street from the Zion Lodge and crosses North Fork Virgin River on a pedestrian bridge.  Across the bridge, turn right as the trail parallels the river heading upstream.  The trail then turns left and follows a tributary up to the Lower Emerald Pool.  The Middle Emerald Pools are above the overhanging ledge and form waterfalls where they drop into the lower pool.  We visited during a dry spell so not much flow, but still a beautiful setting.  The trail continues around the pool and terminates at the junction with Kayenta and Upper Emerald Pools Trails.

Pa'rus Trail:

Pa'rus Trail is an easy 1.5-mile paved trail leading from the visitor center to Canyon Junction.  This is the only trail in the park open to leashed dogs and bicycles.  The trail starts at the visitor center near the shuttle stop (#1) follows North Fork Virgin River upstream, providing nice views of lower Zion Canyon.  The northern trailhead is at Canyon Junction, shuttle stop #3.


Along the river are several drops that appear to be cascades, but these are not natural features.  They are diversion dams; one is used to divert part of the river's flow to the town of Springdale as their water supply.

Riverside Walk:

Riverside Walk is a 1-mile paved trail leading to the Gateway to the Narrows.  The trail begins from shuttle stop #9 - Temple of Sinawava.  It follows North Fork Virgin River upstream for about a mile to where there pretty much is no more dry land for a trail.  This is the start of the Narrows hike and requires wading up the North Fork Virgin River.

Upper Emerald Pools Trail:

Upper Emerald Pools is less than a half-mile, leading from the Lower to the Upper Emerald Pool.  The trail begins at the end of Lower Emerald Pools Trail (shuttle stop #5 - Zion Lodge) at the three-way intersection with Kayenta Trail.  Upper Emerald Pools Trail leads past the Middle Emerald Pools and gradually climbs, following the tributary from Heaps Canyon.  The trail terminates at the Upper Emerald Pool.  In times of high water, there is a tall waterfall flowing down into the pool, but it was way too dry when we visited.

Weeping Rock Trail:

Weeping Rock Trail is a short, but steep trail leading to its namesake.  The trailhead is at shuttle stop #7 - Weeping Rock.  The paved trail picks up at the far end of the parking lot and makes an immediate left.  It's less than a quarter mile to the end at Weeping Rock.  Water seeps through permeable layers of rock and "weeps" out where it hits impermeable layers.

West Rim Trail:

West Rim Trail is a 15-mile trail leading from Zion Canyon at the Grotto to Lava Point.  I've only hiked the first mile and a half or so to Scout Lookout.  The east trailhead is shuttle stop #6 - the Grotto.  Cross the river on the footbridge and turn right, where left is Kayenta trail.  The trail follows North Fork Virgin River, gradually gaining elevation at first.  As you get closer to Angels Landing, the trail gets steeper an there are a number of switchbacks as the trail heads up into Refrigerator Canyon.  The trail levels off as it goes through the canyon before reaching Walters Wiggles.  Head up these extremely short and steep switchbacks to Scout Lookout.  Angels Landing Trail splits to the right.

Points of Interest:

Angels Landing:

Angels Landing is a 1500-foot tall rock formation in Zion Canyon, reaching 5790 feet above sea level.  Although steep and difficult, it is one of the most popular hikes in Zion.  It can be accessed from shuttle stop #6 - the Grotto.  Follow West Rim Trail up to Scout Landing and take Angels Landing Trail to the summit.  From here, you have amazing 360° views of Zion Canyon.

Canyon Overlook:

Canyon Overlook is a viewpoint on the Great Arch of Lower Zion Canyon.  To reach the overlook, continue on UT-9/Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway past the visitor center and Canyon Junction.  Immediately after passing through the tunnel, there is a parking lot on the left.  If it's full, there are additional parking areas further up the road.  The half-mile Canyon Overlook Trail leads to the overlook.

Emerald Pools Waterfall:

Emerald Pools Waterfall forms where the Middle Emerald Pools drop into the Lower Emerald Pool.  In high water, there's almost a continuous veil of water.  We visited during a dry period and there wasn't much water.  One side was just a drip and the other was flowing weakly.  It's still a really beautiful scene though and worth the easy hike.  The trailhead is at shuttle stop #5 - Zion Lodge.  Cross the street and follow Lower Emerald Pools Trail to the pools and waterfalls.

The Great Arch:

The Great Arch is a 400-foot high blind arch just south of East Temple.  The arch can be seen from UT-9/Zion Mt. Carmel Highway.  Past the visitor center and Canyon Junction, the road switchbacks up the mountain before entering the tunnel.  The Great Arch is visible pretty much anywhere on this road looking east.  Several pull-offs provide a place to stop and get a picture.

Hidden Canyon:

Hidden Canyon is a gorge between Great White Throne and Cable Mountain.  The canyon can be accessed from the East Rim and Hidden Canyon Trails starting at Weeping Rock.  East Rim Trail switchbacks up about a half-mile to Hidden Canyon, which continues on to the canyon.  The trail is no longer maintained once it enters the canyon, but you can hike/scramble about a half-mile through the canyon.  There are several spots where you'll need to climb boulders, logs and other obstacles.  A small arch is about half-way through the canyon.  There is a sign at the end where you must turnaround.  A permit and canyoneering gear are needed to go further.  It's a really fun hike if you enjoy rock scrambling in canyons.

Kolob Arch:

Kolob Arch is one of the highest freestanding natural rock arches in the world.  Located in the Kolob Canyons section of the park, the hike to the arch is more than 15 miles round trip.  From the Lee Pass Trailhead, follow La Verkin Creek Trail for about 6.5 miles to the intersection with Kolob Arch Trail.  The intersection is between backcountry campsites 9 and 10.  The hike is almost completely within the Zion Wilderness so no blazes, but there are signs at intersections and at campsites.  Follow Kolob Arch Trail about a half-mile to the end.  Kolob Arch can be seen to the left (west).  I think it's managed to stay intact for such a long time because its protected from the elements tucked away in that little canyon.

Mystery Canyon Falls:

Mystery Canyon Falls is a waterfall where Mystery Canyon enters the North Fork Virgin River Canyon in the Narrows.  As this waterfall is in the Narrows, you will have to wade in the river to see it.  See the Narrows description below for directions.

The Narrows:

The Narrows is a narrow section of the upper North Fork Virgin River.  To access the Narrows, you must walk in the river as there is no dry land between the steep cliffs.  We rented dry suit pants and neoprene socks from Zion Adventure Company to hike the Narrows.  It is possible to hike the entire Narrows as a long day hike or backpacking trip, but requires a permit and shuttle to Chamberlain Ranch.  To access the Narrows, take the shuttle stop the last stop #9 - Temple of Sinawava.  Follow Riverside Walk for about a mile to the Gateway to the Narrows.  You will have to get in the river at this point.  There are some lovely hanging gardens along the steep canyon walls.  Mystery Canyon Falls is about a half mile from the start.  In about 1.5 miles, you'll pass Orderville Canyon and the start of Wall Street - named for the sheer canyon walls heading straight up.  This is as far as we made it.

Pine Creek Falls:

Pine Creek Falls is a scenic 30-foot waterfall at the end of Pine Creek Canyon.  While navigating Pine Creek Canyon requires a permit and technical gear, Pine Creek Falls is easily accessible.  To visit the falls, head into the park from Springdale on UT-9 and continue past the visitor center.  At Canyon Junction, stay on UT-9 and pull off on the left at the first switchback.  From here, an obvious but unofficial trail follows the creek upstream to the falls.  Most of the hike is easy, but you'll need to wade or scramble past some deep pools in the gorge.  We visited during low water and it was pretty easy, but might be more difficult in high water.

Upper Emerald Pool:

Upper Emerald Pool is a beautiful oasis of greenish water formed by the tributary in Heaps Canyon. In times of high water, there is a tall, seasonal waterfall flowing into the pool, but it drys up completely when there's no rain.  The trailhead is at shuttle stop #5 - Zion Lodge.  Pick up Lower Emerald Pools across the street and follow past the lower pool.  Turn right to get on Upper Emerald Pools Trail and follow to the end at the pool.

Weeping Rock:

Weeping Rock is an area where water perpetually "weeps" out of the rock, creating a seasonal waterfall and a perpetual wet spot.  The trailhead is at shuttle stop #7 - Weeping Rock.  The paved trail picks up at the far end of the parking lot and makes an immediate left.  It's less than a quarter mile to the end at Weeping Rock.  Water seeps through permeable layers of rock and "weeps" out where it hits impermeable layers.  In normal times, it's not much of waterfall, but pretty cool nonetheless; it was barely a trickle when we've visited.  I've seen pictures right after a heavy rain and it's quite an impressive waterfall if you're lucky enough to visit at the right time.

Wildlife:

Mammals:

A number of mammals can be found in Zion National Park.  Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are commonly seen in the park, typically near the Virgin River to get water.

Another common mammal in the park is the Uinta chipmunk (Neotamias umbrinus).  They're not afraid of humans and may beg for food.  Human food is harmful to wildlife and feeding them is strictly prohibited.

We also saw a little mouse in the Narrows.

Reptiles:

A number of reptiles can be found in Zion.  I was hoping to see a rattlesnake, but we never did.  We did spot this little lizard near Canyon Overlook.  I think he's a common side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana).

Cacti:

As a desert environment, a number of cacti can be found in the park, especially in drier areas like Kolob Canyons.  Prickly pears are common.

We also found these purple prickly pears along La Verkin Creek Trail.

Blog Entries:

02-Nov-2017: Angels Landing

31-Oct-2017: The Narrows

30-Oct-2017: Kolob Arch

29-Oct-2017: Hidden Canyon and Emerald Pools

External Links:

National Park Service website: https://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm