5 beautiful and easy Zion National Park hikes

Zion is one of the most beautiful national parks we have ever visited and somewhere we are already dreaming of returning to. The park is most famous for its more difficult trails, such as Angels Landing and The Narrows but there is so much beauty to be found on the shorter and easier tracks too.

We were staggered by the incredible views you can get to without having to put much effort in at all. We’re used to having to scale mountains for the kind of views you can get on a 30 minute stroll in Zion.

The views from the Canyon Overlook Trail


5 Beautiful & easy Zion National Park hikes

These trails can be walked at any time of year and were perfect for us when visiting in winter when some of the longer trails were closed and the area had several inches of snowfall (it was a stunningly beautiful landscape to see).

Here are our favourite Zion National Park hikes which don’t require working up a sweat!

Par’us Trail

Distance: 2.49km (1.5 miles) one way. If you don’t want to walk back you can use the free shuttle from Canyon Junction to the Visitor Centre.
Elevation: 0 metres
Time taken: 42 mins
Condition of trail: This trail is fully paved and wheel chair accessible.
Start point: Zion National Park Visitor Centre.

The river views from the Par’us Trail

This trail is flat and easy making it a great introduction to the easy Zion National Park hikes, especially if you arrive later in the day or don’t fancy getting on one of the shuttles. You are surrounded by the gorgeous red mountains of the lower Zion Canyon on either side of you for the whole walk.

You are also following the Virgin River and there are plenty of spots where you can access the riverside, the perfect place for a paddle on a hot day.

The mountain views from the Par’us Trail

The Par’us trail is also a great sunset spot in the park. It is right by the visitor centre making it one of the easiest sunset spots to access and only requires a few minutes walking for some great views, including the famous Watchmen.

The trail is wide and paved and is therefore also good for cyclists.

The Virgin River that follows the Par’us Trail

Getting to the Par’us Trail

The Par’us Trail is one of the easiest to get to as it is by the visitor centre at the entrance of the national park. You can find the signs for the track from the visitor’s centre or along the small bridge which leads into the car park.

 

Watchman Trail

Distance: 5.12km (3.1 miles) return (out and back)
Elevation: 131m
Time taken: 1 hour 30
Condition of trail: This trail can be narrow in places and has some short rocky sections. This is one to avoid after rain or snow melt as the vast majority becomes one boggy mess.
Start point: Zion National Park Visitor Centre.

The view from the top of the Watchman Trail

The Watchmen Trail is slightly more difficult than the other Zion National Park hikes on this list, although it is still an overall easy walk.

In the early morning or late afternoon it can be a good track for spotting wildlife and we were lucky enough to see mule deer crossing the path.

Deer crossing the path on the Watchman Trail

The trail winds its way up to a mountain lookout and has expansive views all the way - perfect for if you want to take a breather on the way up. The track is not terribly steep and although the trail is narrow at points, it isn’t precarious, so should be suitable for all but extreme vertigo sufferers.

The lookout at the top is another fantastic place to watch the sunset. There are plenty of rocks to sit on and admire the view and, as it is much quicker going down than up, you should be able to make it back to the start of the trail in the twilight.

The views of the surrounding mountains from the top of the Watchman Trail

There is an additional short loop which you can add on to this track which is accessed from the lookout at the top which gives you additional fantastic views.


Getting to Watchman Trail

The Watchman Trail is another that goes straight from the visitor centre and isn’t difficult to find. Simply walk to the RV Car Park and you should be able to easily find the start of the trail.

 

Lower Emerald pool

Distance: 2.32km (1.4 miles) return (out and back)
Elevation: 22m
Time taken: 50 minutes (but mainly because we were enjoying the snowy views!)
Condition of trail: The trail is in good condition and easy to walk on. It can get a little slippery at the very end if you descend for a closer look at the Emerald Pool.
Start point: Zion Lodge.

Following severe rockfall in 2018, this is now the only emerald pool you can access in the park (the middle and upper pools are closed for the foreseeable future).

The route will take you on a narrow (but not steep) treelined path with frequent glimpses out to the magnificent red mountains. It’s an easy walk and pretty throughout.

The start of the trail

The start of the trail

One of the views from the trail

The emerald pool itself is fairly small but picturesque and depending on the recent weather conditions you may have a waterfall cascading into it.

We only had a small amount of water flow but it was still a gorgeous sight. The whole scene is beautiful and it’s a really peaceful spot.

The bottom of Lower Emerald Pool

We visited Zion National Park in winter when it was very quiet, in the peak season it gets really busy so you might want to visit early or late in the day if you are after some serenity. We assume due to the closure of the middle and upper emerald pools this track will only increase in popularity.

Getting to the Lower Emerald Pools

If you can drive, park at Zion Lodge and start the trail from there. When the shuttle system is running, get the shuttle from the Visitor Centre to stop 5 - Zion Lodge.

 

Canyon Overlook Trail

Distance: 2.4 km (1.5 miles) return (out and back)
Elevation: 30 minutes
Time taken: 1 hr 30 (including a lot of time enjoying the viewpoint)
Condition of trail: You are largely walking on flat rock which could be a little slippery in wet conditions but is otherwise easy to walk on. There are a couple of narrow sections, most of which have hand rails, but there are a few parts which don’t - probably only unnerving for vertigo sufferers but as there are some steep drops it is definitely one to keep an eye on children.
Start point: Canyon Overlook Car Park.

The view of the valley from the viewpoint at the end of the Canyon Overlook Trail

Of all the trails on this list this was our favourite. In fact we could hardly believe how amazing this trail was for such a short distance. The trail is quite narrow for much of the walk, so you feel very close to the absolutely spectacular views throughout.

It is far from Angels Landing scary, but as we walked on a slippery day we did see some people a little unnerved by certain sections (though no one had to turn back).

There is only ever a drop on one side as you always have the canyon cliff on the other side, which helped me avoid any feeling of vertigo.

The Canyon Overlook Trail in winter

The trail during winter

We visited in the late afternoon and were thrilled to see a number of Bighorn Sheep grazing on what little greenery they could find up there. Once you get to the final lookout the view is just sensational taking in Zion Canyon and also the incredibly winding road through the park.

The road from the Canyon Overlook Trail

There are some huge rock formations which make great photo ops in the warmer weather. The snow on our visit meant they weren’t really suitable for sitting on the edge of!

Some of the residents of the trail

The lookout area is pretty big and you can spend quite a while up here either admiring the view or exploring the area. We had intended to visit at sunrise which the visitor centre told us had the best light, but due to a morning snowstorm we ended up visiting closer to sunset. Although it isn’t a sunset spot, the light was still very beautiful.

Incidentally, the two car parks for this walk are absolutely tiny, especially for the popularity of the track so early or late is the best time to walk this trail.

One of the stunning views on the trail


Getting to Canyon Overlook Trail

If you’re driving from Springdale, the start of the Canyon Overlook Track is at the far side of the tunnel on the Zion - Mount Carmel Highway. There is a small car park next to the trail, but more spaces further along the road.

 

Riverside Walk

Distance: 3.5km (2.2 miles) return (out and back)
Elevation: 17m
Time taken: 1.5 hours
Condition of trail: The first half of the trail is wheelchair accessible, completely flat and paved. The last half is still paved and in great condition but has some very slight up and downhill sections.
Start point: Temple of Sinawava Car Park or shuttle stop 9.

This is a great trail if you want to take a look at the famous ‘Narrows’ but don’t actually want to venture into the water. It’s at the furthest end of the Zion Canyon and a truly beautiful spot.

Our family enjoying the trail

You are walking with the towering mountains on both sides of you, a bit like the Pa’rus trail, but unlike the Pa’rus you feel far away from the road.

There are various points you can access the river but the best is obviously at the end marking the start of the Narrows.

The start of the Narrows

It’s the kind of walk that makes you feel small as you are continuously dwarfed by the red cliffs. Part of this walk can be closed off in the winter due to ice fall.

Getting to the Riverside Walk

The Riverside Trail is the furthest along the Zion Scenic Drive and the final stop on the shuttle system. It takes 40 minutes from the Visitor Centre.

 

Essential Information about Zion National Park

Orientation and Trail Status

Trail conditions at Zion can change quite quickly. Before you go, check this page on the National Park Service’s website to see which trails are open. When we visited, Observation Point, the Upper and Middle Emerald Pools and Hidden Canyon were closed due to rockfall and staff weren’t sure when they would re-open again.

The main trails for Zion are along two roads with the majority along the the Zion Scenic Drive. This road is stunningly beautiful and follows every bend of the Virgin River, taking you deeper into the narrow canyon as you go. From the visitor’s centre, the shuttle takes 40 minutes to drive to the very end with 9 stops/car parks along the way. The car parks can only be used when the shuttle is not in operation.

The other road winds its way up towards Mount Carmel. This road will take you to the Canyon Overlook Trail and a few other viewpoints.


Zion National Park Entrance Fee

You can use the America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass to get into Zion (US80 per annum). Otherwise it will cost $35 for entry with a car for 7 days. Otherwise it will cost $30 for a motorbike or $20 per person on foot or bike.

As the National Parks Pass is $80 for the year, we felt it was worth it if you plan on visiting more than three national parks in a year.

Read next: Bryce Canyon in Winter - is it worth it?


What to pack for Zion

We recommend stocking up on hiking gear to make sure you’re comfortable on the trails. We both wear Merrells and they have served us well for years. We also use Osprey backpacks and carry a resuseable water bottle to cut down on single use plastics.

You can check out our recommendations on Amazon below.


Where to stay in Zion

Cable Mountain Lodge

When it comes to staying in Zion, the majority of accommodation is concentrated in the nearby village of Springdale. We stayed at Cable Mountain Lodge and absolutely loved it. The lodge is literally steps away from the entrance to the park and the Visitor Centre, meaning you won’t lose any time driving to and from the park!

The views of the Watchman for the Cable Mountain Lodge in Springdale

The rooms at Cable Mountain Lodge

The rooms here are beautiful, comfortable and have stunning views of the Watchman and Zion Canyon. Many rooms also come with kitchenettes which allows you to self cater which was a massive bonus for us. It was the perfect place to relax after a long day hiking. There’s a pool and hot tub with great views. The pool wasn’t open on our visit as it is outdoors but we definitely made use of the outdoor hot tub - even when it was snowing!

Booking.com
Booking.com

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