Zion National Park is Utah’s first National Park and is the most distinctive compared to the other four found inside the state. With its sheer-faced terracotta cliffs and the meandering Virgin River, the park offers visitors epic hikes and plenty to do. If you are planning a few days here, read on to find the best hikes in Zion National Park.
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YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO READ: The Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary and The Beginner’s Guide to Zion National Park
Easy Hikes in Zion National Park
Pa’rus Trail is an easy and beautiful 3.5 mile (round trip) paved trail following along the Virgin River in Zion National Park, and along the way has impressive views of the Watchman – the most striking mountain in the park.
This is the easiest activity, especially if you are not into long strenuous hikes, as it enables you to go for a scenic stroll or bike ride. Also, Pa’rus is the only trail in Zion National Park that is pet-friendly.
Besides, Pa’rus Trail is an excellent activity if you only have a few hours to visit the park or if you just want an easy, yet gorgeous hike. And if you have more than one day in Zion, make sure to take this hike as soon as you arrive for an introductory experience in this remarkable landscape.
Beginning of the Hike: Visitor center
Distance: 3.5 miles (round trip)
The Riverside Walk is another easy and stunning trail following along the Virgin River. This 2.2-mile trail (round trip) is a perfect family-friend hike in Zion National Park because of its relatively flat scenic pathway.
And since the Riverside Walk is a beginner-friendly hike, it’s also one of the most visited in the park, so be sure to visit early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
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Ps: If you plan on hiking The Narrows, another trail in Zion, you’ll walk the Riverside path at the beginning.
Beginning of the Hike: Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop
Distance: 2.2 miles (round trip)
Zion Canyon Overlook Trail
The Zion Canyon Overlook is a 1-mile trail (round trip) offering incredible views of Zion and the switchbacks of Route 9. It’s one of the best hikes in the park offering striking views without too much effort.
The hike starts near the Zion Tunnel entrance and, although short, there’s some elevation gain and cliff exposure (but there are a few handrails supports to use along the way).
One particular thing about the Zion Canyon Overlook is that this hike isn’t accessible through the Zion shuttle. Instead, you’ll need to find parking nearby along the scenic route or at the parking lot just before the tunnel. Please note that parking is limited in the area, so be sure to avoid a mid-day hike.
Also, Zion Canyon Overlook is a great spot for watching the sunset in the park, so you should definitely reserve this time of your day for this hike. Unfortunately, when I was there it was drizzling a bit.
Beginning of the Hike: Right before the Zion Tunnel entrance
Distance: 1 mile (round trip)
Moderate Hikes in Zion National Park
The Watchman Trail
This 3.3-mile trail (round trip) won’t take you to the top of Watchman Peak and its more than 6,000 feet. However, along this hike, you’ll be able to admire not only the Watchman Peak but also the Towers of the Virgin and part of the city of Springdale.
The Watchman hike is considered moderate because there are 368 feet of elevation gain and a series of moderate switchbacks that lead to a mesa with striking vistas. It’s also one of the top hikes in Zion National Park due to its easy access and views.
Additionally, the trail starts very close to the visitor center and has a lot of sun exposure. So, avoid midday hike (I went around noon, and I definitely don’t recommend doing so!). If you decide to go during the peak hours of the day, bring plenty of water and snacks.
Beginning of the Hike: Visitor center
Distance: 3.3 miles (round trip)
Strenuous Hikes in Zion National Park
Scout Lookout / Angels Landing
The most famous hike in Zion National Park is Angels Landing. This strenuous 5.5 miles (round trip) hike has insane views and is not for the faint of heart – there is approximately 1,500 feet of elevation gain, more than 20 challenging switchbacks, and at the last mile there’ll be a steep narrow ridge with cliff exposure.
Although strenuous, this trail is very enjoyable for the landscape. So, if you get tired along the way, just stop to soak in the views as many times as you want or need.
Now if you don’t feel comfortable hiking the very last part through the edge of the cliff, don’t feel pressured to do so. I saw a lot of people, men and women, deciding to go back because it wasn’t for them, and there’s no shame in that. People have died in this part, so go with extreme caution and only if you feel comfortable.
Luckily, if you are not comfortable going all the way to Angels Landing, you can still make your way up until the last mile and stop off at Scout Lookout. From here you can sit down and enjoy the panoramic view, which is one of the most fantastic in Zion National Park.
If you decide to stop at Scout Lookout, you’ll still have striking views of the park from the top (almost 1,200 feet of elevation gain) and experience the same hiking challenge as you’ll go almost all the way until the end of Angels Landing hike – without the last part.
Please note that Zion National Park now requires hikers to obtain permits to hike Angels Landing. Visitors can access and apply for the lottery online, and it costs US$ 6 per group (non-refundable) plus US$ 3 per person if a permit is issued.
And if you miss the lottery window, you can also apply for a permit the day before your planned hike. On and after March 31, the lottery will open every day at 12:01 am (MT) and close at 3 pm (MT). For this option, there will be fee a US$ 6 non-refundable fee.
PS: the online lottery is only for Angels Landing (the trail part with chains). If you want to hike to Scout Lookout, a permit is not required.
Beginning of the Hike: The Grotto shuttle stop
Distance: 5.5 miles for Angels Landing and 4 miles for Scout Lookout (round trip)
The Narrows Trail
The Narrows will take you on an amazing and unique experience of hiking through a river. In this up to 10 miles trail, you can go in as far as you like, then hike back when you decide through the same way you came.
Before heading to the trail, be sure to check the water conditions and get more info about the trail itself at the visitor center or on the Zion National Park website.
Lastly, be prepared to get wet as you’ll be walking in the river itself. Bring waterproof bags for your camera and other belongings, proper shoes, and walking sticks that can help maintain balance. If you don’t have or don’t want to buy any of these items, in Springdale you can find stores to rent river hiking boots, neoprene socks, walking sticks, and drysuits (try Zion Outfitter or Zion Adventure Company – rents start at US$ 25).
Beginning of the Hike: Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop
Distance: up to 10 miles (round trip)
Observation Point is a strenuous 8-mile hike (round trip) that has more than 2,000 feet of elevation gain. The hike is well worth the effort because you’ll have views of Angel’s Landing, Cathedral Mountain, and Three Patriarchs along the way. With that, this hike offers one of the most unbeatable views over Zion.
The benefit of going to Observation Point is that it’s a less visited hike than Angel’s Landing and less dangerous too, though at the same time providing equally stunning views of the park.
Unfortunately, Observation Point is temporally closed due to major rockfall, but keep checking the alerts on the Zion National Park website to see if there’s any news about reopening.
Beginning of the Hike: Weeping Rock shuttle stop
Distance: 8 miles (round trip)
Things to do near Zion National Park
Once you’ve finished visiting Zion National Park, there are lots of things to explore nearby, such Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, one of the best state parks in Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park – all of them in Utah.
And if you are headed to Arizona, be sure to stop at Grand Canyon National Park, and visit Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell in Page.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO READ: The Beginner’s Guide to Zion National Park
SHOP MY HIKING FAVORITES
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO VISIT OTHER NATIONAL PARKS:
Arches National Park: The Complete Guide to Arches National Park and The Best Hikes in the Park
Capitol Reef National Park: Guide to Capitol Reef National Park and The Best Hikes in the Park
Canyonlands National Park: The Complete Guide to Canyonlands National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park: First-Timer’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park and 3-day itinerary to the park.
Bryce Canyon National Park: The Complete Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park.
OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN THE US:
Vail: Best Hotels and Restaurants in Vail
Austin: The Weekend Guide to Austin
Monument Valley: The Complete Guide to Visiting Monument Valley
Horseshoe Bend: All You Need to Visit Horseshoe Bend
State Parks in Utah: 5 amazing state parks in Utah