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Hidden Canyon and Emerald Pools

posted Nov 8, 2017, 4:56 PM by Justin P   [ updated Dec 3, 2017, 1:32 PM ]
Sunday morning, we woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel and checked out.  Driving east on I-15, we passed through Arizona in the Virgin River Canyon.  It was a very scenic section of highway and I thought about how this was the major river through Zion that we would be visiting soon.   When we reached Utah, we got off the interstate to head towards Springdale.  Although it was past peak season, Springdale was still very crowded and the construction zone made things even slower.  After paying admission to Zion National Park, we parked at the visitor center and took the shuttle into the canyon. I was stunned by how beautiful Zion is.  The canyon walls are incredibly steep and high.  The shuttle provided a nice opportunity for us to enjoy the canyon without having to pay attention to the road and learn a little about the park.  We got off at shuttle stop #7 for Weeping Rock.  First, we headed up to the Weeping Rock on the short paved trail.  The fall color along here was just beautiful.


Weeping Rock is an unusual "waterfall" in that it's formed by water penetrating the upper levels of rock.  As it hits an impermeable layer, the water weeps out of the rock face and tumbles over a small cave.


It was very scenic even in low water, but from pictures I've seen, it looks a lot more like a waterfall.  The view of Zion Canyon from here was very nice as well.


When we were finished, we headed back and got on the East Rim Trail towards Hidden Canyon.  The trail was moderately steep, but with switchbacks, it wasn't too bad.  We could see Weeping Rock down below.


And there was plenty of beautiful fall color along the trail.


I was surprised to see so much color here in Zion as it's essentially a desert.  But the reds and yellows of the leaves were just beautiful.


As we got higher, we had nice views of Angels Landing and the horseshoe in the Virgin River.


In about a mile we came to a split and went right to get on Hidden Canyon Trail.  The trail continued switchbacking up to a nice viewpoint.


We stopped and had a snack here.  A couple chipmunks were scurrying around our feet, hoping for a snack.


People had clearly fed them before, but they weren't getting anything from us.  They are mighty cute though.


Past here, the trail became more rocky with steep drop offs.  Soon we came to the first chain section.  Unlike Angels Landing, there was only a drop off on one side, with a steep wall on the other.  Nonetheless, I held tightly on to the chain hiking up.  We had to pass around a woman who froze up with acrophobia and couldn't move.  There was another chain section and then we came to the end of the maintained portion of the trail.  The stream that forms Hidden Canyon comes out here and tumbles down the cliff in what must be a waterfall in periods of high water.  But today, there was no water at all.  The rocks had some great potholes though.


From here, we headed into Hidden Canyon.


The trail is not maintained and had several parts with some fun scrambling over huge boulders.  The fall color in here was just great.


And about half way though, we found a cool arch in the canyon.


At the end of the canyon is a sign indicating the end so we turned around here and started headed back.


Leaving the canyon, we enjoyed the views hiking the other way.  High above, we could see Observation Point that East Rim Trail leads to, but we weren't heading there.


Back at East Rim Trail, we turned left to head back down.


It was easier heading down, but I still stopped for pictures of the fall color.


And the views of Zion Canyon with all the yellow foliage was beautiful.


Back at the bottom, we got on the down-canyon shuttle and since it was still pretty early so we got off at stop #5 for Zion Lodge.  For construction, the park was closing the access to Emerald Pools from here tomorrow, so it was a good time to get that hike in.  We crossed the river on the pedestrian bridge and went right to get on Lower Emerald Pools Trail.  The trail follows Virgin River upstream a short ways then curves left to follow a tributary upstream.  It was just a short ways to the Lower Emerald Pools.  Water falls down over an overhead ledge into the pools forming a wide veil of waterfall.


Unfortunately, it hadn't rained in over a month and the water level was really low.  In high waterfall, there are two waterfalls here, one from each of the Middle Emerald Pools.  Today, one was just a couple drops and the other was just a small ribbon of falling water.


Although very crowded, it was a really scenic spot as the trail went behind both waterfalls.


Even in low water, the overall scene was just spectacular.


The trail then climbed up to the northern Middle Emerald Pool, which is fed by a tributary from Behunin Canyon.  We could see over the top of the small waterfall looking out into Zion Canyon.


Continuing on, we passed the intersection with Kayenta Trail and Upper Emerald Pools Trail.  We took the latter and continued up to the upper pool.


The water level was low, but there was some water in the pool, which is fed by a tributary of Heaps Canyon.  In high water, there's a really tall waterfall here, but it wasn't even a trickle today.  Nevertheless, the sheer cliffs all around were just beautiful and the pool was reflecting the fall foliage.


In low water, we were able to get around the pool to view it from different angles.


After a snack break we started heading back down.  A side trail led to a nice overlook above the lower pools.


The trail continued to the southern Middle Emerald Pool, but was closed due to a rock slide.  We followed the tributary towards Behunin Canyon towards a small cascade.  Even in low water, it was scenic reflecting into the calm pool.


From here, we headed back towards the trailhead.  Crossing the Virgin River, we watched a family of mule deer wade across the river.


There was a little fawn, who was scared of the swift currents and having a little trouble.


Eventually the little guy made it across and we took the shuttle back to the visitor center.  From there, we drove back to Springdale and checked into the La Quinta Inn.  We had a nice 2nd floor room with beautiful views of Zion Canyon.


After unpacking, we headed to Zion Pizza and Noodle for dinner.  It cooled off in the evening, but was still warm enough to enjoy the outdoor hot tub before retiring for the evening.