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20 Best Hikes In Zion National Park (2022 Hiking Tips)

20 Best Hikes In Zion National Park (2022 Hiking Tips)

Looking for the best hikes in Zion National Park? We’re going to show you a detailed list of the top 20 easy, family friendly and most popular hiking trails in Zion with tips and important permit information so you can begin planning your Zion hiking itinerary today.

Zion is a spectacular and rugged landscape loaded with breathtaking views. Each of Zion’s three regions offer different hiking experiences and numbers of hikers on trails.

The main Zion Canyon is busiest and where you will find most of the popular day hikes like Angels Landing and The Narrows, Kolob Terrace is home of The Subway and Kolob Canyons is a much quieter Zion hiking alternative.

Our comprehensive list of the 20 best hikes in Zion National Park covers just about every trail you can hike. But we’re also going to explain permits, Zion’s shuttle bus, useful hiking apps, wilderness trails and so much more.

Let’s hit the most amazing trails in Zion National Park!

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Table of Contents show

What Is The Best Hike In Zion?

The Narrows is arguably the most popular and iconic hike in Zion. But Angels Landing and The Subway certainly rival The Narrows for the title of most famous and best Zion adventure hike.

The best hike in Zion National Park is up for debate and every visitor will have a different opinion. Does best hike mean adventurous or family friendly to you?

We think all 3 are incredible hikes, but our personal favorite hikes in Zion are The Narrows and The Subway.

What if you prefer to escape the crowds when you hike? You might prefer one of the Kolob Canyon hikes where overcrowding isn’t a problem on trails.

In contrast, shorter hikes like Zion Canyon Overlook and Emerald Pools Trail give you the most bang for your buck in Zion.

For very little effort you will be rewarded with stunning views and waterfalls respectively.

The bottom line is that there are so many amazing trails in the Zion hiking arena and only you can determine which wins the award for best hike.

Which Zion Hikes Need Permits?

There are three popular Zion National Park hikes requiring permits, they are The Narrows, The Subway and as of April 2022, Angels Landing has been added to this list.

The Subway requires a permit whether hiking top down or bottom up, and The Narrows requires a permit if hiking top down. It is important to remember that day hiking The Narrows bottom up does not require a permit.

Angels Landing is the latest hike in Zion to require a permit.

This is a pilot permit system which means the National Park Service (NPS) will evaluate how effective it is at providing a better experience for hikers.

Hiking to Scout Lookout is open to all at any time, but in order to hike from Scout Lookout to Angels Landing on the notorious chain section you must win a permit through an advanced or a next day walk in lottery system.

Here are the NPS sites you need for obtaining permits:

Hiking through the Subway in Utah with deep shadows before sunlight illuminates the tunnel formation

Are There Any Easy Hikes For Beginners In Zion?

Zion National Park has more easy hikes for beginners and the entire family than you might expect. There’s a bit of a misconception with Zion that it is only suitable for experienced hikers looking for adventure and an adrenaline rush. But in fact, there are plenty of flat, fun and easy trails for all visitors to enjoy.

Some of the most popular easy trails in Zion include Pa’rus Trail, Timber Creek Overlook Trail and in particular Zion Canyon Overlook.

Many of the easier trails in Zion are interconnecting paths between more popular and challenging hikes. This means you can often get close to the more famous hikes without having to take them on.

How We Are Ordering The Best Hikes In Zion National Park

We considered splitting Zion up into its three regions, but the overwhelming majority of Zion’s top hikes are in the main canyon.

So in the end we decided the most logical way to help you choose which hikes to add to your Zion hiking list was to simply list by trail difficulty.

  • Our list of the best hikes in Zion are separated into easy, moderate and strenuous.
  • You will find the easier Zion hikes first, followed by moderately difficult hikes and finally the most strenuous trails in the park.
  • Within each difficulty category we will then split hikes between regions inside the park.
  • Regions include Main Canyon, East Entrance, Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyons.
  • At the end we will cover some of Zion’s quieter wilderness hikes, but not in as much detail because very few visitors will hike these trails.
  • Each hike we list will include trail information such as distance and elevation, plus trailhead locations and links to recent comments from hikers on AllTrails.

We always check to see what hikers are saying about trails in the weeks and days leading up to hiking any new trail. For instance we look for recent comments about bugs, parking, ice on trail etc.

There’s a wonderful collective community spirit among hikers!

Spectacular sunset over the Virgin River and Pa'rus Trail hike in Zion National Park with colorful clouds

Easy Hikes In Zion National Park

There are a handful of easy hikes in Zion National Park overflowing with stunning scenery and majestic viewpoints. These hikes are mainly short, flat or a combination of both and perfectly suited to the whole family.

If you’re an experienced hiker and only have one day in Zion, add one of these shorter hikes to your list along with one of the more popular trails.

Important: If you’re only interested in Zion’s famous adventure trails like Angels Landing and The Narrows, skip forward to strenuous hikes further down this list.

1. Kayenta Trail (Main Canyon)

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and back / Interconnecting
  • Elevation Gain: 150 ft
  • Trailhead: Grotto Trailhead – Shuttle stop #6
  • Recent CommentsAllTrails

Kayenta Trail is a great one to kick things off with because it is a classic interconnecting Zion hike leading to more challenging trails on either side, but is classed as easy if hiked by itself.

Starting at shuttle stop # 6 – or The Grotto – inside Zion’s main canyon, you will cross a bridge and immediately reach a fork in the path.

Right leads to Scout Lookout and Angels Landing via West Rim Trail, whereas left follows Kayenta Trail for 0.8 miles until it reaches a fork near Lower Emerald Pools.

A left turn at the fork would take you to Lower Emerald Pool, but the right would lead you up toward Middle Emerald Pool and Upper Emerald Pool.

Kayenta Trail itself is relatively flat, running parallel to the Virgin River and road dissecting Zion canyon. It is typically hiked by families as a nice easy stroll or as a connecting trail between more popular hikes in Zion.

Note: There are moderate drop offs on this trail to consider if hiking with younger children.

2. Pa’rus Trail (Main Canyon)

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Distance: 3.5 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 50 ft
  • Trailhead: Zion main canyon visitor center
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

Pa’rus Trail is one of the best easy hikes in Zion National Park. It begins and ends right at the main Zion canyon visitor center as a very flat out and back trail.

The beauty of hiking the Pa’rus Trail is being able to follow the Virgin River through the southern part of the main canyon with towering sandstone canyon walls flanking each side.

You get serious bang for your buck on this hike. It is the most accessible trail in Zion with paved surfaces throughout, suitable for wheelchairs and strollers.

It is also the only hike in Zion you can take your dog for a walk, but pets must be leashed at all times. Watch out for cyclists when hiking, this trail is open to all.

Pa’rus Trail ends where the road into Zion canyon begins. You can either turn around, jump on a shuttle bus into the canyon, take a shuttle back to the visitor center and your car or

Are you into photography?

Go onto the bridge and look back at Pa’rus Trail for an iconic Zion sunset and astrophotography location. Just don’t forget your camera!

Read our complete guide to hiking Zion Pa’rus Trail here.

3. Riverside Walk (Main Canyon)

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Distance: 2.2 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out and back
  • Elevation Gain: 60 ft
  • Trailhead: Temple of Sinawava – Shuttle stop #9
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

Riverside Walk is the shortened version of its full trail name – The Zion Narrows Riverside Walk. But please do not confuse this with hiking The Narrows.

Riverside Walk is a very easy and flat paved trail leading from the Temple of Sinawava to the staging area of The Narrows river slot canyon hike.

Maybe you don’t want to hike in the river but you want to see what all the fuss is about? The Narrows is Zion’s most popular hike after all.

Or perhaps you are visiting Zion with the whole family and only half the group is planning to hike in the river while the others wait at the staging area on the far side of Riverside Walk?

Anyone planning to hike The Narrows has to begin and end with Riverside Walk, adding 2.2 more miles to however far into the slot canyon you go.

Emerald Pools Trail waterfall flowing into Lower Pool on a bright day in Utah

4. The Grotto (Main Canyon)

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Distance: 1 mile roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 40 ft
  • Trailhead: Zion Lodge
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

The Grotto is another of those connecting hikes in Zion National Park.

Anyone staying at Zion Lodge can hike The Grotto Trail to Grotto Picnic Area, which serves as the start of multiple hikes including Emerald Pools and Angels Landing.

There’s not much to see on the hike as it runs parallel to the road, but it is the perfect loop connector for Emerald Pools Trail.

But if you’re just looking for a very short and easy walk to stretch your legs after breakfast, The Grotto is great for blowing the off the cobwebs.

It is just half a mile one way and almost perfectly flat from Zion Lodge to The Grotto Picnic Area. This is typically a busy path between Spring and Fall when Zion Lodge is fully booked.

5. Weeping Rock (Main Canyon)

  • Trail Difficulty: Very Easy
  • Trail Distance: 0.5 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 40 ft
  • Trailhead: Shuttle stop #7
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

Weeping Rock is a very short and easy Zion hike leading to a concave formation with waterfall plunging overhead, similar to that at Lower Emerald Pool.

Important – Weeping Rock Trailhead is closed indefinitely due to a landslide falling from above. There is no timeframe on when it will reopen. We will update this guide when the trail is cleared.

Before it closed, the short trail to Weeping Rock was immensely popular.

Fantastic down canyon views over The Great White Throne and seeing one of very few accessible waterfalls in Zion canyon made this the perfect short hike for the whole family.

6. Zion Canyon Overlook (East Entrance)

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Distance: 1 mile roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 170 ft
  • Trailhead: East Side of Zion Tunnel
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

Zion Canyon Overlook Trail is an essential Zion hike, and arguably the very best easy and short trail in the entire national park.

We strongly recommend you include Zion Canyon Overlook in your hiking itinerary for visiting Zion.

A fairly steep initial climb up a narrow staircase leads to a unique view of the entrance to the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, before opening up views of Pine Creek Gorge Slot Canyon below and to the left.

After crossing a narrow bridge, the trail passes through a concave formation shaped like a crescent moon.

A fun improvised section follows until you reach the summit and an extraordinary viewpoint overlooking Pine Creek and the zig-zagging road cutting down into the lower canyon.

This is a hugely popular hike with very limited parking. Try to hike Zion Canyon Overlook in the early morning or late afternoon for sunrise or sunset.

One of the best ways to include Canyon Overlook is to hike either on your way into or out of the main Zion canyon area.

Read our full guide to hiking Zion Canyon Overlook Trail for details and photos.

7. Timber Creek Overlook Trail (Kolob Canyons)

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Distance: 1 mile roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 100 ft
  • Trailhead: End of E Kolob Canyon Road
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

Let’s head over to Timber Creek Overlook Trail in Kolob Canyons, the much quieter part of Zion National Park.

This hike is short, easy, has great views and is perfect for the family.

For very little effort, you are rewarded with sweeping 270 degree views over Kolob Canyons and Kolob Terrace.

A memorable panorama of rolling forested hills at the base of gigantic orange sandstone mountains make for a special way to end this hike.

If you’re looking for an escape from the main canyon, Kolob Canyons is your answer and this is the easiest of 4 hikes in Kolob Canyons.

Zion Canyon Overlook stunning sunset view over road leading into Zion canyon from one of the best short hikes in the national park

Moderate Hikes In Zion National Park

Now that the easiest hikes in Zion are covered, let’s advance onto the best moderately rated hiking trails scattered throughout the park.

Zion’s moderate hiking trails mean steeper inclines or longer roundtrip distances, without getting too technical or challenging.

Most of the hikes in this category are suitable for the whole family, with careful supervision recommended for younger kids on certain trails containing drop offs.

8. Emerald Pools Trail (Main Canyon)

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 3.2 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back / Loop
  • Elevation Gain: 400 ft
  • Trailhead: Zion Lodge – Shuttle stop #5
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

Emerald Pools Trail is one of the best family friendly hikes in Zion National Park.

The kids will love this hike, with three shallow pools, two waterfalls and an adventurous feel without it being too dangerous, like Angels Landing.

It is important to note you can hike to Lower Emerald Pool only along Kayenta Trail (hike # 1 on this list) or from Emerald Pools trailhead opposite Zion Lodge.

Lower Emerald Pool Trail alone is an easy and accessible hike.

However, if you want to include Middle Emerald Pool and / or Upper Emerald Pool, the rating jumps to moderate. With that said, this hike is certainly on the easier end of moderate.

Emerald Pools Trail can be hiked as an out and back, or as a loop. The full loop is more inclusive and we recommend you do complete the whole trail to get the best views.

After crossing the Virgin River at the trailhead, turn left or to begin your loop hike. A steep climb follows before leveling out for stunning up canyon views.

You will first reach Middle Pool, before ascending a steep sandy trail to Upper Pool. Enjoy awesome views looking back out into the canyon, then descend to Lower Pool.

In Spring and early Summer you will see waterfalls cascading down through each pool. This hike should be on every first time visitor list.

Read our complete guide to hiking Emerald Pools Trail in Zion for more details and photos.

9. Sand Bench Trail (Main Canyon)

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back with loop
  • Elevation Gain: 450 ft
  • Trailhead: Court of the Patriarchs – Shuttle stop #4
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

Sand Bench Trail is a moderately trafficked hike starting at Court of the Patriarchs shuttle stop for its shortest version.

However, you can hike this trail starting at Zion Lodge by crossing the Virgin River as though hiking Emerald Pools, but turning left and continuing alongside the river for a total roundtrip of 7.6 miles.

Sand Bench is a commercial horse trail from March to October, which means you will have to share the trail in peak season.

The hike follows a straight path until reaching a fork, which you will loop around before ending back on the same straight path.

You will climb the remnants of a massive landslide and be able to enjoy both up and down canyon views. Wildlife is also frequently spotted in this area.

The major downside to this trail is in its name. Sand Bench is very sandy and you know how hard hiking in deep sand can be!

Despite being popular, we would suggest you steer clear of this hike unless you’ve hiked every other trail on your wishlist in Zion.

10. Scout Lookout (Main Canyon)

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 3.6 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,100 ft
  • Trailhead: The Grotto – Shuttle stop #6
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

Scout Lookout is the staging area for climbing the narrow chain section to Angels Landing (which we cover in strenuous hikes), but it is more of a challenge to reach the lookout than most hikers realize.

After walking through refrigerator canyon and ascending a series of moderately steep switchbacks you will reach a cool undercutting path cut into the side of a wall. Views looking back over the valley floor begin to open up.

Suddenly the trail turns left and in between two walls through a narrow passage. This leads to a long series of very short but steep switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles.

At the top of the wiggles, you will summit onto a fairly flat and narrow sandy plateau. This is Scout Lookout and it is likely to be packed full of hikers.

Scout Lookout is a great hike even without going onto the chain section. Views are immense from the summit and the steep trail is a great workout.

You’ll get a good puff on and your legs will be burning.

11. The Watchman Trail (Main Canyon)

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 3.3 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 370 ft
  • Trailhead: Zion main canyon visitor center
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

The Watchman is a very popular hike in Zion beginning right at the national park main visitor center in Springdale.

Pa’rus Trail (hike # 2 in this list) shares a trailhead with Watchman, which makes for two super scenic but very different hikes in one.

This is especially important to know in peak season when getting parked up can be a real problem. Hike both trails before moving on!

Watchman climbs up behind the visitor center and major Zion campground until it reaches a very small summit loop with fantastic views over the southern part of Zion and the town of Springdale.

The hike to Watchman Overlook is great any time of day but due to its easy access from town, sunrise and sunset are wonderful times of day to take this hike on.

We watched the sun rise over Zion from Watchman Overlook and highly recommend it to anyone staying in Springdale.

Read our guide to hiking The Zion Watchman Trail for details and sunrise photography.

Hiking the Watchman Trail in Zion National Park at sunrise with camera to photograph light on sandstone wall

12. East Mesa Trail To Observation Point (East Entrance)

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 6.8 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 300 ft
  • Trailhead: East Mesa Trailhead off North Fork Road
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

Observation Point is famous for having the most magnificent view over Zion National Park, even better than Angels Landing and Zion Canyon Overlook.

We will cover the traditional route to Observation Point later under strenuous trails, which is indefinitely closed due to the same landslide as the closure to Weeping Rock.

At time of writing in March 2022, the only way you can access Observation Point and its astounding view over Zion is by hiking East Mesa Trail.

Observation Point is the highest elevation summit viewpoint in Zion, which means both sunrise and sunset are spectacular from such a commanding position.

Most of the trail is through ponderosa and juniper forest before reaching East Rim Trail. From the intersection you need to take a short spur trail to reach Observation Point.

You cannot descend into Zion canyon from Observation Point. You must return to the trailhead on North Fork Road.

Note: High clearance 4×4 vehicles are highly recommended for reaching the trailhead. However, Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort offers a shuttle to the trailhead for $5 per person.

13. Many Pools Trail (East Entrance)

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 500 ft
  • Trailhead: Zion – Mt Carmel Hwy near East entrance
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

Many Pools is a hidden gem hike in Zion, very few people know it even exists, let alone hike it!

You will find a very small roadside parking area between the tunnel and east entrance. Park up and follow the side of the road for a few meters before crossing the road as the trail turns North.

The Many Pools trail is unmaintained but it is easy enough to navigate. It is the perfect family hike with dozens of small eroded pools, formed by wind and water over time.

These smooth rounded pools are filled by small waterfalls if timed after rainfall or during snowmelt in the region. It is a very open and exposed trail but bighorn sheep are frequent visitors so don’t forget your camera.

Many Pools is almost guaranteed to be quiet, so it could be the ideal escape once you’ve had enough of overcrowding in the main canyon during peak season.

14. Middle Fork of Taylor Creek (Kolob Canyons)

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 6.0 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 2,135 ft
  • Trailhead: Intermediate hikers, getting away from the crowd
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

If you look at a map of Kolob Canyons, you can see Taylor Creek split into three fingers, almost like the shape of a trident.

This hike follows the Middle Fork of Taylor Creek, which is also known simply as Taylor Creek Trail because it is the only hike mapped along Taylor Creek.

There are no ‘popular’ hikes in this part of Zion, but the Middle Fork of Taylor Creek is about as busy as it gets here.

Park at the very first parking area and drop down to the river. You will cross the river dozens of times as the trail criss-crosses the shallow creek until it reaches its conclusion.

This is another box canyon hike so it dead ends, but this time you will pass by two attractive historic log cabins surrounded by forest and colorful leaves, before climaxing at Double Arch Alcove.

Double Arch Alcove is an enormous photogenic concave rock formation and surprisingly impressive ending to the hike. This is one for the family looking for a quieter Zion hiking experience.

We’ve written a full guide to hiking Taylor Creek Trail in the Kolob Canyons area of Zion if you would like more information.

15. South Fork Of Taylor Creek (Kolob Canyons)

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: ~ 4 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 500 ft
  • Trailhead: Unmarked parking lot 3 miles up E Kolob Canyon Rd
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

The South Fork of Taylor Creek is a true ‘hidden gem’ hike in Zion not found on maps or hiking information guides. It is the bottom fork of the trident as you look at a map of the area.

We hiked in Kolob Canyons during December and saw very few other hikers on trails, but we didn’t see a single person when hiking South Fork of Taylor Creek.

Park at a very obvious lot with vault toilets 3 miles up E Kolob Canyon Rd. It is the second parking lot on the road after entering.

Walk to the east side of the lot and cross the road right on its bend. Find a rough trail until it reaches a more obvious trail leading away.

There are steeper sections at the beginning of this completely unmaintained trail, but once you’re up, views looking back through the box canyon are stunning.

South Fork of Taylor Creek is a fun trail with pink sand and natural wall climbs, leading to a dead end when towering cliffs on either side eventually join together in a V shape.

Angels Landing at sunrise incredible photo of the famous Zion hike with no hikers and a low light glow in Utah

Strenuous Hikes In Zion National Park

Zion’s easy and moderate trails are fun, inclusive and often lead to surprisingly good viewpoints or landmarks. However, the most strenuous hikes in Zion are also the most iconic hikes, and they are the main reason this National Park is so popular.

Angels Landing, The Narrows and The Subway are the legendary Zion hikes, but there’s a lot you need to know in order to make the most of each trail.

Let’s take a look at the most strenuous hikes within each major region of Zion National Park.

16. Angels Landing (Main Canyon)

  • Trail Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trail Distance: 5.4 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,500 ft
  • Trailhead: The Grotto – Shuttle stop #6
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails
  • Permit Info: NPS website

Angels Landing is the most dangerous but electrifying hike in Zion National Park.

Our fitness watch trackers showed an insanely elevated BPM both on the way up and down the first time we hiked it, with brief respite at the flatter summit.

This unique and famous climb welcomes Disneyland level crowds daily, and as a result has forced the NPS into piloting a long overdue permit system.

As frustrating as permits are at National Parks (trust us, we know!) this one is a no brainer. It’s no surprise there are fatalities here.

We first hiked Angels Landing on a Monday in October and the amount of hikers clambering past each other on rocks no wider than a person with 1000 ft vertical sheer drops to each side was astounding.

You will hold chains and climb with hands and feet at times. Try to keep your center of gravity pulled inward toward the rocks.

Is it worth it? Oh yes. Views from the summit are outstanding and you will feel a huge sense of achievement.

Hiking Angels Landing is every bit as terrifying as it is exhilarating, and the 1 mile roundtrip razor thin chain section from Scout Lookout to Angels Landing summit is a hike you will never forget.

17. Observation Point (Main Canyon)

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: 8 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 2,150 ft
  • Trailhead: Weeping Rock – Shuttle stop #7
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

Observation Point via East Rim Trail is one of the best hikes in Zion National Park.

Not only do you get the most commanding view of Zion from the summit, but you also get to experience a ‘mini Angels Landing’ by traversing another exhilarating chain section in Hidden Canyon.

Hidden Canyon is touted as being the perfect warm up for taking on Angels Landing for those who are unsure about how they might respond to the fear of heights and drop offs.

However, as mentioned earlier, this entire hike is closed due to a landslide. The sooner they get this open the better because it would help alleviate some of the overcrowding on other trails.

Keep an eye on this hike before you visit. If it reopens, be sure to add it to your Zion hiking wishlist.

Remember, you can still reach Observation Point by hiking East Mesa Trail (hike # 12 in this guide).

Hiking The Narrows waist deep in water through a slot canyon most iconic hike in Zion National Park utah

18. The Narrows (Main Canyon)

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
  • Trail Distance: Up to 9.4 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 340 ft
  • Trailhead: Temple of Sinawava – Shuttle stop #9
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails
  • Top Down Permit Info: NPS website

The Narrows is the most iconic hike in Zion National Park, and the remarkable river slot canyon is so much fun.

Walking through water in a narrow passage flanked by two enormous walls is such a unique experience and should not be missed on your visit to Zion.

It is important to understand the distinction between a bottom up day hike and a permit only top down hike. We are referring only to the bottom up day hike.

We have rated this hike as moderate to strenuous because many will only hike a mile or so and turn around. That can’t be categorized as strenuous.

But if you do venture way into the immense river slot canyon and go for Big Springs, you must know The Narrows is a strenuous hike.

Remember, however far you go in, you must come back. The going is slow and unsteady underfoot as you constantly battle foot placements on stones with river currents for added imbalance.

You will be submerged to ankles, shins, knees and even waists for most of this hike. Please do not forget a pole, you won’t get far without one.

Be aware of flash floods and high water levels. A narrow slot canyon is not where you want to be in a sudden flood.

To reach Big Springs and the end of your permitted bottom up day hike, you will need to navigate large boulders, have good stamina and pass by the famous Wall Street.

We spent around 2 hours completely alone wading through this slot canyon, which was one of our most amazing hiking experiences to date.

Read our complete guide about exactly how to day hiking The Narrows bottom up in Zion.

19. La Verkin Creek Trail (Kolob Canyons)

  • Trail Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trail Distance: 14 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: 1,100 ft
  • Trailhead: Lee Pass on E Kolob Canyon Rd
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails

La Verkin Creek Trail to Kolob Arch is the hardest hike in the Kolob Canyon area of Zion National Park.

We’ve already mentioned how hiking in Kolob Canyons is a much quieter experience, but hiking La Verkin Creek means your chances of seeing other hikers are even fewer.

Most visitors to Kolob Canyons will go to Timber Creek Overlook and maybe hike Taylor Creek Middle Fork. That means you can get lost in Zion wilderness and enjoy spectacular views in solitude.

You will pass by Timber Creek and descend gradually into La Verkin Creek. Turning East and heading upstream you will eventually reach Kolob Arch.

Kolob Arch is one of the world’s largest natural arches and a fitting end to a fantastic day hike in Zion.

If you do hike La Verkin Creek Trail, it is unlikely you will have chance to hike any other trails, so make sure you can spare the full day on your itinerary.

20. The Subway Bottom Up (Kolob Terrace)

  • Trail Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Trail Distance: ~ 9 miles roundtrip
  • Type of Trail: Out & back
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 1,300 ft
  • Trailhead: Left Fork Trailhead on Kolob Terrace Rd
  • Recent CommentsAll Trails
  • Permit Info: NPS website

The Subway is a permit only Zion wilderness hike that can be navigated either from the bottom up or top down. It is important to know that both require a permit.

You must obtain your permit in advance or as a next day walk in. We picked up a next day permit in December 2021 and only say 7 other hikers all day, so it can be done.

Bottom up is the most popular and easiest to hike for most, whereas the top down version is a canyoneering route with a handful of rappelling sections. We’re referring to the bottom up hike here.

Drive to Virgin and take Kolob Terrace Road as far as Left Fork Trailhead. You will descend very steeply to Left Fork of North Creek and begin your upstream hike.

Hiking to The Subway requires you to forge your own path over boulders, across stream, up steep banks and through vegetation.

It is one of the most enjoyable hikes we’ve ever done and the crescendo of emerald pools and The Subway itself is phenomenal.

Read our full guide about day hiking The Subway with details on permits and photos of the trail.

Extraordinary colors and rock formations at the end of the Subway hike in Zion National Park orange light illuminating the tunnel and emerald green pools

Zion Wilderness Hikes

Do you like to get off the beaten path when visiting national parks? Or maybe you’ve already hiked all of the popular trails in Zion so you want to get lost in the wilderness?

Either way, there are plenty of wilderness trails you can get stuck into across the Zion regions.

Due to the nature of being a wilderness trail, you will have to contend with more challenging logistics to access these hikes and many require camping in wilderness areas.

You will need permits for camping, find information on backpacking reservations here.

List Of Zion Wilderness Hikes

Here are just a handful of the top rated wilderness hikes for you to consider including on your visit to Zion National Park:

1. East Rim Trail – Trailheads located at East Entrance to Zion and near Zion Pines Cabin, connects to Stave Spring. Leads to Observation Point, Deertrap Mountain and Cable Mountain.

2. West Rim Trail – Can be hiked bottom up or the more popular top down version. Begin at the trailhead near Lava Point off Kolob Terrace Rd, before camping overnight and descending into the main canyon via Angels Landing.

3. Chinle Trail – Begin at the trailhead on Anasazi Way in Rockville, hike low desert to Coalpits Wash and continue to the campsite before looping on Scoggins Wash and finishing at Coalpits Wash trailhead in Grafton.

Zion Canyon Shuttle Bus vs Driving Into Zion Canyon

If you want to access Zion Canyon during your visit to Zion, you will need to take a shuttle, hike or drive your own vehicle. The Zion shuttle runs from mid March through the end of November.

Over 4 million people visit Zion each year and most of those visitors turn up in the peak months from May to September.

What many don’t realize is that Zion is actually a comparatively small National Park, especially inside the main canyon where the action happens.

As a result of this densely populated natural landscape being overrun by cars, the NPS only allow you to drive your own private vehicles into the canyon from December through mid-March.

Here’s more information on shuttle bus schedules at Zion.

Visiting anytime between mid-March and the end of November means you have to take the Zion canyon shuttle bus to access Zion Canyon scenic drive.

That means you have to take a shuttle to hike Angels Landing and The Narrows in Spring, Summer and Fall.

Tips For Hiking Angels Landing And The Narrows In One Day

The overwhelming majority of visitors to Zion National Park have two incredible hikes at the top of their hiking wishlist. Angels Landing and The Narrows.

The first thing you need to remember is the requirement to win a hiking permit for Angels Landing in advance or as a next day walk in.

You can day hike The Narrows without a permit from the bottom up.

The bottom up version begins and ends at the end of the main Zion canyon, allowing you to hike The Narrows with other popular hikes in the canyon.

We highly recommend you book a hotel in Springdale so you have easy access to the main canyon.

Read our detailed guide on where to stay near Zion National Park for tips on booking the best hotels.

Waterproofs For Hiking The Narrows

Hiking The Narrows is going to involve a little organization of gear:

  • You may need to hire a dry pants package from Zion Outfitter or similar outfitter in Springdale.
  • This is a set of neoprene socks, with waterproof boots and pants. You can also hire a waterproof backpack.
  • Only hire the package in Fall, Winter and Spring.
  • The water will be warm enough in Summer to get away without hiring the gear.
  • You do need to hire a pole in order to walk through The Narrows effectively.

You can hike Angels Landing early in the morning and head back to Springdale to hire this gear, then return to the canyon to hike The Narrows later.

Alternatively, hire all this gear the night before, hike The Narrows and return it before heading back into the canyon to hike Angels Landing.

Limitations

It is much easier logistically to hike these two popular trails on different days, unless you visit in Summer which means you can go straight from Angels Landing into The Narrows or vice versa.

Why?

Because you’re going to need all the time you can get if you want to reach Big Springs, which is the furthest point you are permitted to hike bottom up in The Narrows.

If you’re happy to just get a taste for hiking in The Narrows and only plan to spend a few hours, you can easily hike both trails in one day.

It took us around 8 hours total to bottom up day hike to Big Springs. So you really need to allow a full day in your Zion itinerary if that is also your goal.

Enjoying the view over Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyon on a warm Winter's day in Utah

Zion National Park Hiking Itinerary Examples

Let’s take a quick look at some examples of how you can link some of these hikes together and how we would plan a one or two day hiking itinerary for Zion National Park.

Our comprehensive one day in Zion National Park itinerary covers 5 amazing ways you can day trip Zion.

Easy One Day Zion Hiking Itinerary

Here’s an example of an easy to moderate loop beginning and ending at Zion Lodge lasting just a few hours for a half day Zion hiking itinerary:

  • Start at Zion Lodge and take The Grotto Trail to The Grotto Picnic Area.
  • Cross the bridge and turn left onto Kayenta Trail, before taking a left at the fork and pass underneath Lower Emerald Pool waterfall.
  • Walk back down to Emerald Pools Trailhead and cross the road to Zion Lodge.

To make it a little more challenging, just add in Middle and Upper Emerald Pools.

Challenging One Day Zion Hiking Itinerary

Here’s an example of an action packed one day Zion hiking itinerary starting in Springdale:

  • Jump on the first canyon shuttle of the day or drive your car to stop #6 The Grotto.
  • Hike to Angels Landing and arrive as close to sunrise as possible.
  • Once back down, hike over to see all three Emerald Pools.
  • Head over to Riverside Walk and continue to hike The Narrows as far as you feel comfortable.
  • Once back to Springdale, drive over to hike Zion Canyon Overlook for sunset.

Ideal Two Day Zion Hiking Itinerary

Two days would allow you to split Angels Landing and The Narrows. You can then add on the ‘best of the rest’ around these trails.

Here’s an example of how you can spend 2 days hiking in Zion:

  • Day 1 get an early start and spend the whole day hiking The Narrows.
  • Hike The Watchman for sunset back in Springdale.
  • Day 2 hike Angels Landing at sunrise.
  • Hike Emerald Pools Trail.
  • Head east and hike East Mesa to Observation Point.
  • Stop at Zion Canyon Overlook trail for sunset.

Three Day Zion Hiking Itinerary

If you have 3 full days free for hiking in Zion and you want to hike the most adventurous trails, we highly recommend you follow days 1 and 2 as above, and apply for a permit to hike The Subway.

It is a unique trail in that you don’t follow a set path and you have to carve your own way upstream. The climax is worthy of the effort you put in to reach the end.

Hiking The Subway will take you most of the day, but quicker hikers could still squeeze another easy going trail in back in Springdale afterwards.

If you can’t get a permit for The Subway, spend your third day hiking in Kolob Canyons.

This will be a welcome relief from overcrowding in the main Zion canyon and the hikes are still great fun for the entire family.

Zion Hiking Map

Would you like to see a map of the most popular hikes in Zion?

Personally, we find it useful to orientate ourselves with the geography of national parks before visiting. You can see the exact locations of each trailhead in our map, which makes it easier to formulate you hiking itinerary.

Here’s a link to our interactive google map of the best Zion National Park hikes.

Key:

  • Yellow icons – Hikes in the Main Zion Canyon
  • Maroon icons – Hikes in Kolob Canyons
  • Orange icons – Hikes in Kolob Terrace
  • Blue icons – Hikes near Zion’s main visitor center in Springdale
  • Purple icons – Hikes east of Zion-Mt Carmel tunnel

Quick Tips for Hiking In Zion National Park

Zion is an exceptional landscape to hike but it is very popular and careful planning can save you disappointment.

Here are our top tips to help you plan your visit:

  • Make sure you apply to any permits months in advance.
  • If you don’t win and want to to try a next day walk in permit, visit Zion in off season.
  • Peak season lasts from May until September.
  • Zion is so much quieter and more affordable in Winter.
  • Try to stay in Springdale to avoid drives into and out of the park every day.
  • Watch for flash flooding in Spring, the NPS will close The Narrows if it is dangerous.
  • Kolob Canyons is an excellent alternative if the crowds are too much in the main canyon.
  • Hire your waterproof gear the night before to save time in the morning.
  • Hiking in Summer months on exposed trails can lead to dangerous conditions.
  • Always pack plenty of fluids including water and electrolyte replacements.
Hiker holding a chain on a steep orange rock face with coat on in Utah

Useful Apps for Hiking In Zion National Park

Most hikes in Zion are crowded and safe to hike without need for hiking apps.

However, we recommend you consider downloading one of the best hiking navigation apps if you are venturing into the wilderness.

The Subway has few signposts and people have been known to get lost. You can just follow the river, but it does help to have peace of mind with an app showing you exactly where you are on any trail.

We use two hiking apps to do this: AllTrails and GAIA GPS.

Both apps offer similar features and will allow you to download maps to your phone for offline use. But each app is a little different so will go over the benefits to both.

AllTrails

AllTrails uses a database of trail maps and has a large amount of active users.

What makes this app great is the reviews, tips and current conditions hikers leave about each trail. We always check to see what people are saying about a trail in the lead up to hiking.

AllTrails is a fantastic resource if you want to know what to expect before you hike.

While AllTrails offers a pro membership for $2.50 per month, $69.99 for three years, or $100 a lifetime, we personally only use the basic free membership.

Be aware maps on this app are crowdsourced meaning trails are uploaded by users. For this reason, we have found AllTrails to not always be accurate.

We only use this app for recent reviews so we can prepare for trail conditions.

GAIA GPS

GAIA has become a hiking app we can not live without. What sets GAIA apart for us is the technical detail.

We have used offline maps on our GAIA app for hundreds of hiking trails and have never missed a turn.

This app will record, track, save and share the time and distance of your trip. It will also tell you altitude, current speed, average speed, moving speed, max speed, and pace.

Membership runs $20/year while a premium membership will cost you $40/year.

If you plan to hike in remote places, GAIA will be your best choice for tracking your exact location at all times.

Use our exclusive GAIA GPS 20% discount to get instant access to this awesome hiking navigation app today.

Zion National Park Passes, Fees and Entrances

You have to pay to hike in Zion National Park, whether you enter at the Main Zion Canyon, Kolob Terrace or Kolob Canyon.

Entrance to the park costs any of the following:

  • $35 for a 7 day Vehicle Permit – This includes a private, non-commercial vehicle for up to 15 passengers.
  • $30 for a Motorcycle Pass – Including one single, private, non-commercial motorcycle.
  • $20 for an Individual permit – Includes anyone entering by foot, bicycle, park shuttle bus, and private rafting trip.
  • $80 for an annual US national parks pass – Best for those who visit national parks often.

If you are planning to visit several National Parks, consider buying an annual US national park pass. At $80 you will instantly save money if you plan to visit just a few parks.

Read our guide to the America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass for more information and to see if it is worth buying one for yourself.

There are entrance stations in Springdale and at East entrance to access the main canyon. Plus, you will have to pass through an entrance station in Kolob Canyons.

However, there is not an entrance station to enter Kolob Terrace. You must go to the main visitor center in Springdale to pay and display an entrance ticket.

However, if you have an annual pass, you can head straight up and just display your pass on your rearview mirror or dashboard.

More From Zion National Park

More Best Hikes In …

We hope this comprehensive hiking guide helps you conquer some of the best hikes in Zion National Park!

Have you been to Zion? Which is your favorite hiking trail?

Please let us know if you have any questions or need help planning your hike by commenting below.

Happy Hiking,

Mark and Kristen

Summary Of Best Hikes In Zion National Park

Here’s a summary of our list of the best trails in Zion:

  1. Kayenta
  2. Pa’rus
  3. Riverside Walk
  4. The Grotto
  5. Weeping Rock
  6. Zion Canyon Overlook
  7. Timber Creek Overlook
  8. Emerald Pools
  9. Sand Bench
  10. Scout Lookout
  11. The Watchman
  12. East Mesa
  13. Many Pools
  14. Middle Fork of Taylor Creek
  15. South Fork of Taylor Creek
  16. Angels Landing
  17. Observation Point
  18. The Narrows
  19. La Verkin Creek
  20. The Subway

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