What are the top 3 Zion hikes?
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is my favorite national park. The beauty never ceases to amaze me and there’s so much to do! Hiking, generally, represents the majority of what people do when they visit Zion (if they’re not just sight-seeing from the shuttle bus). So, let’s jump into the top 3 Zion.
But first, a story.
Our first trip to Zion occurred during an 8,600 mile road trip around the US. Yes, a family of four, in an SUV, for 8,600 miles. It was an adventure!
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Part of that adventure included planning the trip as we went. On July 4, 2012, we literally sat in our hotel room in San Antonio, Texas trying to figure out where we would spend the next night. Roswell, New Mexico? Santa Fe? We finally settled on Tucson, Arizona. The same thing happened on our way to Yellowstone. We had a tent site reserved, but it was supposed to rain the whole time (it didn’t), so we wanted a real shelter. The night before our arrival, we were able to book a cabin in Grand Teton National Park. Ah, serendipity. For those not familiar, this should have been impossible in July.
Back to Zion, as a result of our “plan as we go” adventure, we only planned one day for Zion National Park. BIG MISTAKE!
One day is NOT enough for Zion. As a result, we only got in a quick hike and a ride on the shuttle bus, plus a quick stop at a pull-out near the East entrance.
Our next trip to Zion lasted almost a week. We could have done more, but we got in our favorite Zion hikes in the process.
Top Zion Hikes: Angel’s Landing
Angel’s Landing stands as probably the most popular of all the Zion hikes. The trail zig-zags up the canyon walls to a beautiful summit with a spectacular view of the canyon. Roundtrip, you will travel almost 6 miles and gain about 1,500 feet of elevation.
We chose to hike only to Scout Lookout, just as you get to chains and narrow trails of Angel’s Landing. The last half mile or so can be dangerous, especially if you have snow or water present. Plus, with younger kids, it was a risk we just didn’t want to take. Safety, first!
Maybe one day, we’ll get to the top, but for now, we have no regrets. It was a great hike!
Travel Tip: Get up and going early! This tip applies to all summer Zion hikes. We arrived at the Zion headquarters building at about 7AM. There were 4 people waiting to get on the canyon shuttle bus. When we got back after our hike, it was a 4 hour wait to get on the bus!
Top Zion Hikes: The Narrows
Also very popular with visitors to Zion, The Narrows follows the Virgin River, up stream. To get to the start, you hike the Riverside Walk (a paved walkway) to the start of The Narrows hike.
The Narrows features thousand foot canyon walls that are only about 20′ apart with the Virgin River carving a channel for hikers. Due to this narrow river channel, hikers do need to be aware of the potential for flash floods and pay attention to the weather and flash flood risk status.
Many hikers also prefer to get some specialized gear for this hike. Special neoprene boots and a solid wood hiking stick make up the standard “kit” for this hike. You can rent them from many shops in the area.
We just used our own hiking sticks and water shoes. As an “after-action brief,” we decided we would have hiked further up the canyon if we’d had the special equipment. The primary reason for this was that the water moves fast (the sandals I wore were not ideal for the current) and it can be cold in the canyon, even in July.
The hike can be as long or as short as you like. We opted for a fairly short hike. The Narrows provides you with a good “choose your own adventure” style of hike. Rather than a loop hike, just like other Zion hikes, it’s an out and back and you choose how far “out” you’d like to travel.
Top Zion Hikes: Emerald Pools
The Emerald Pools was the short hike we did on our first trip to Zion National Park. Another one that you can choose your distance, when we went, it was closed off after a certain distance (about 3 miles in).
The hike takes you up into the canyon without a lot of elevation change to the Emerald Pools — a series of pools along the hike that have an emerald appearance due to the algae in the water.
We did this hike, again, on our second trip and of all the hikes we’ve done at Zion, this one offered the most wildlife sightings. Deer, turkey, and even a tarantula!
It’s a great hike for kids and you can even cool off in the Virgin River when you’re done.
Top Zion Hikes: The Subway
I know I said the top 3 Zion hikes, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention The Subway. The Subway exists in the “backcountry” of Zion and as such, requires a backcountry permit, as well as (usually) specialized gear and skills.
This one is definitely on my bucket list, but requires a bit more planning that we’ve done our two trips to Zion. You need to plan ahead enough to get the permits and possibly a guide with the gear and skills to get you to The Subway.
Regardless of which of the Zion hikes you choose, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a spectacular park with unmatched beauty, everywhere you look.
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