Zion National Park 2018
Travel and hiking go hand in hand for someone like myself. I’ve hiked in some amazing places in the world, Kenya, Iceland, Australia, etc. The best trails aren’t limited to far off places. Some are just a road trip away. I recently returned from a 4-day extended weekend in southern Utah. Zion National Park is one of my favorite hiking areas in the world and it’s just a little over 6 hours away, by car, from southern California. The park has all levels of trails from the life-risking Angels Landing to the wet trail of the Narrows. Coming of my 2nd knee surgery, I decided to hike the easy to moderate trails. But, in hind site, I wish I had done Angels Landing again since I felt no pain in my knee at the end of the trip.
One of Zion’s most iconic trails is the Canyon Overlook with its wonderful view of the canyon below. It’s not a difficult hike with a short assent at the start but if you are afraid of heights, beware. The trail snakes along a cliff and eventually reaches the overlook. The trail is approximately 2 miles up and back and I’ve seen children and retirees accomplish this hike. The park shuttle doesn’t venture up here and there is very little parking for this popular hike. I would recommend coming early.
If you’re venturing to the eastern portion of the park, I would recommend doing the Canyon Overlook with the less visited Many Pools Trail. The trail is less than a mile east of the small tunnel. As its name suggests, the trail consists of many pools formed from water sliding down a rocky path that creates pools along the way. It’s a unique and unmarked trail that can be done by children and older hikers. The hike is easy with a small and gradual elevation.
There is no direct parking in front of the trailhead, you’ll have to park a short distance away. Look for the portable restrooms at a turn out and park there. You’ll have to make your way to the trailhead maybe 100 yards away. You can use Google Maps and the drop pin marker is 37.223166,-112.914675. Look for the two trees that mark the start of the trail and after you make your way down, make a right and continue for about half a mile and you’ll see the first pool. The best time to visit would be after a rainy day when the pools are full.
The Watchman is a moderate trail that I had attempted to hike before but I didn’t finish due to impending darkness. This time I started with enough time to finish the route. It’s an approximately 3.1 mile lasso-shaped trail that starts at the visitors center so it’s heavily visited. The first portion of the trail is flat and as you put the visitors center in your rear view mirror, the trail will become an uphill battle which doesn’t end until you get to the end. This trail doesn’t actually take you to the Watchman but to a cliff side view-point where you can spot the Watchman. It also has a wonderful view of the town of Springdale on one side and the Zion valley on the other. This trail takes about an hour to reach the top and will definitely test your legs.
One of my favorite hikes, and popular with most visitors is the Emerald Pools Trail. The prize is the Upper Emerald Pool Trail put it was closed due to recent landslides so I was relegated to the easy Lower Emerald Pool Trail. It is a flat 2 mile up and pack path which takes you to a waterfall that drops into the lower pool. If you wish to walk under the waterfall, be warned you will get a little wet with a mist coming from the fall. Visit the pool in November as I did and you’ll see the autumn colors of some of the trees. This is an easy hike that can be done by anyone who can walk.
My last hike I’ll call the Virgin River Trail. I don’t even know if it has a name. It’s an easy hike along the river which you can even dip your feet into the water. I’m sure it would be refreshing in the hot summer days, to walk in the river and cool your senses. Being fall, the water was cold so I was glad my hiking boots were waterproof. The trail starts at the Big Bend shuttle stop and you can take the trail to the Weeping Rock stop. I didn’t measure the trail but I would have to say it’s just under 2 miles. It’s a flat route but the surrounding views is spectacular.
What it lacks in challenging terrain, it makes up for with a wonderful landscape for wandering for the family. It’s an opportunity to see Zion from the ground level with 360 degree views that will blow your mind.
Zion National Park is full of technical, gruelling, and sometimes dangerous trails but there are many hikes perfectly suited for the family. This visit was my fourth and I’m sure I’ll be back again and again. Visiting Zion won’t get you closer to heaven but it will make you feel like it.
Photos are wonderful but they can only represent a single dimension so I put together this video for a better representation of my experience.