Zion National Park may be a small park by comparison to its larger neighbors, but it has the distinction of being Utah’s first national park. Zion has numerous trails to explore varying from easy to strenuous. Here we will explore seven moderate trails that will excite you and bring you the satisfaction of a good hike without the difficulty factor that may bring about some degree of concern. Each of the hiking trails account for here are rated easy-to-moderate and should offer no more difficulty for the average hiker than a standard walk in the woods.
Hiking in Zion, one should always bear in mind you are in a remote desert landscape so standard precautions should always be observed. Pack plenty of water to stay hydrated, and wear appropriate clothing to shield you from the sun. Dehydration can set in quickly and can ruin your hike, not to mention put you in danger, especially considering the isolation of many of these trails. Cell phone service is spotty at best and non-existent in most places. So pack light, stay safe, and enjoy the beauty of the Utah desert while hiking these seven moderate trails in Zion National Park.
The Watchman Trail is a stunning three-mile round-trip hike in Zion National Park. This family-friendly journey starts on the east bank of the Virgin River. It then travels up through charming hills. The trail ends at a unique cliff top that is a perfect stop for sightseeing and picnics. This satisfying trail offers avid hikers breathtaking views. The peak of this journey takes hikers to clifftops roughly 300 feet above the next highest peak.
This destination also gives adventurous hikers a sensational bird’s eye view of the canyon below. Hikers can see the Virgin River and a distinct view of Watchmen Mountain South Peak. In addition, hikers can look down to the visitor center where the trail began, allowing anyone to see the full distance of their hike.
It can take up to two hours to complete this rewarding adventure. However, it can be slightly difficult due to it’s uphill climbing. For this reason, it is recommended that travelers choose a morning trip, especially during the summer season.
Sand Bench Trail
Sand Bench trail is perhaps one of the most underrated trails in Zion National Park. This hidden gem can be found at the Court of the Patriarch shuttle stop. This brisk seven-mile trail takes hikers across the Virgin River through a small spur trail that leads to a fork. This fork offers hikers two paths that form a loop, known as the East and West.
Both parts of the trail have much to offer. It’s highly recommended hikers enjoy both, as each provides some of the most unique scenery found in the main canyon area. For travelers that like to ride or simply watch horses, you’re in luck! This trail in Zion is one of the most popular for horseback riding.
In fact, Canyon Trail Rides offers horseback riding tours on this trail for any wishing saddle up. On foot, Sand Bench trail can take up to five hours to complete. Its gradual 200-foot ascent to the top of the Sand Bench trail can be taxing on most hikers.
The eastern path of the loop is especially known to be quite rocky. There are going to be many boulders scattered throughout the path. Spring and fall seasons are the most optimal time of year to experience Sand Bench Trail. For hikers that have been to Zion National Park but have yet to experience Sand Bench trail, this is a great choice as it is certainly not your average hike.
Upper Emerald Pools Trail
A Zion National Park classic, the Upper Emerald Pools trail is quite a fascinating short trek for hikers. Known as the final stretch of the Emerald Pools, the Upper Trail is attached to the Middle and Lower Emerald Pool trails. This connection of trails is roughly two miles long and can take up to four hours to complete. However, venturing just the Upper Emerald Pools trail is much shorter, spanning only one mile.
This sandy trail provides hikers sights including 300-foot cliffs, shaded boulders, lushly vegetated streams, and a view of a faint waterfall coming from the mouth of the Heaps Canyon. In addition, the trail includes a loop, allowing hikers two directions for their experience.
A favorite activity among hikers is to break for lunch under one of the Upper Emerald Trail’s many shaded boulders. Each of the trails gets crowded in the summer months, so plan your hike accordingly. Due to the rocky nature of the trail, the Upper Emerald Pools is listed as a moderate difficulty. However, it is very doable for children or larger groups.
A year-round favorite, the Kayenta Trail begins along the banks of the Virgin River. It spans two miles, leading hikers to the well-known Emerald Pools. This trail rests in a miniature oasis in the impressive cliffs of the Zion National Park. The Kayenta Trail is particularly known for its abundance of wildlife.
This hike can take up to 90 minutes to complete. The moderate two-mile trail rewards those with its wide range of beautiful scenery. Popular sites include:
- Stunning views of the Virgin River
- Alluring plants and vegetation
- Unique variations of dancing light from the canyon walls
- Emerald Pools that sit at the end of the trail
Though mildly challenging, the Kayenta Trail is an excellent choice for adventurers of all ages. Also, due to the diversity of sites and creatures, this trail is also a crowd favorite amongst photographers, bird watchers and animal lovers.
Canyon Overlook Trail
The Canyon Overlook Trail is a gorgeous, short distance hike in Zion National Park. This welcoming hike offers great views down into the Pine Creek Canyon below. Additionally, one can experience lush ferns growing like veins on canyon walls.
The initial steps of this hike are mostly level for this moderate trail. However, take caution during winter seasons, as ice and snow can increase the difficulty of this one-mile hike. This hike usually takes travelers up to one hour to complete.
In the summer months, this well-known trail can get quite busy. For this reason, it’s encouraged to plan for an early hike if you want a more peaceful experience. Canyon Overlook is a perfect option for hikers looking for a short and sweet hiking experience in Zion. From its prominent landmarks to sandstone walls, this area of Zion National Park is a classic for all.
Taylor Creek Trail
Taylor Creek trail is a pleasant year-round trail and one of the few trails in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park. This popular five mile trail is a child-friendly hike that takes you down the banks of Taylor Creek. This upstream journey will lead to photogenic caves and uniquely colored rock walls. A must see includes the Double Arch Alcove which is the largest cave formation on the trail that boasts a large entrance for hikers to explore and take shelter from the sun or weather. Another great site is the historic cabins along this trail as each house was built back in the 1930s.
Taylor Creek has become a favorite afternoon trail for many hikers as the late day sunlight gives the sandstone a pink & orange glow attracting viewers of all ages to enjoy. The complete ambiance of this enchanting trail is a must do for hikers looking for a signature hike in Zion National Park. From start to finish, this family-friendly trail can take up to three and a half hours and worth every minute.
Timber Creek Overlook Trail
Timber Creek Overlook trail is a delightfully more private hike for those looking to enjoy the Kolob Canyons and escape from the crowds. This one-mile hike leads to a ridge about 150 feet above that provides an enjoyable view of Taylor Creek and the Finger Canyons.
A highly favored activity is to stroll this trail in the afternoon to catch the sunset at the top of the ridge allowing witnesses to embrace the sun setting behind the finger canyons. Although this trail is moderate, it is very doable for children and takes hikers up to one hour to complete.