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Hidden Canyon and Emerald Pools

posted Nov 8, 2017, 4:56 PM by Justin P   [ updated Nov 8, 2017, 4:56 PM ]

Sunday morning, we woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel and checked out.  Driving east on I15, 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.   Soon we reached Utah and got off the highway to head towards Springdale. Although it was past peak season, Springdale was still very crowded.  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.  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, but also crowded so we didn't stay long.  Next, we headed on the East Rim Trail towards Hidden Canyon.  The trail was moderately steep, but with switchbacks, it wasn't too bad.  And there was plenty of beautiful fall color along the trail.  I was surprised to see so much color here.  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 left 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.  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 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 and headed back.  Heading down canyon on the shuttle, 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.  Much of the waterfall was a just a drop here and there, though there was one nice ribbon of water.  Past here, the trail climbed up to the intersection with Kayenta Trail and Upper Emerald Pools Trail.  We took the latter and continued up to the upper pools.  The water level was low, but there was some water in the pool.  The sheer cliffs all around were just beautiful and the pool was reflecting the fall foliage.  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 Middle Emerald Pools, but was closed due to a rock slide.  So we headed back to the trailhead.  Crossing the Virgin River, we watched a family of mule deer wade across the river.  Taking the shuttle back to the visitor center, we drove back to Springdale and checked into the La Quinta Inn.  We had a nice 2nd floor room was beautiful views of Zion Canyon from our room.  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.