The Most Underrated Hikes in Zion National Park

What if I told you the 3 million visitors every year to Zion National Park are hiking only 16 percent of the park? That leaves an overwhelming 84 percent of the park still unexplored. Most hikers hit up the Angel’s or Narrows Landing leaving the rest overlooked. However, it’s on the underrated hikes that hikers find the most unique experiences.

I’ve got to admit I’m reluctant to even write about this because the best part about these trails is that it is secluded. With rapidly increasing traffic to the park each year, it’s good to know about these places. If you prefer a quiet hike with breathtaking views, you should definitely check out these places.

Here’s the local list of the most underrated hikes to take you away from the crowded trails. This list is not all-inclusive, but it is enough to keep you busy for days.

Observation Point

One of the biggest attractions to the Angel’s and the Narrows Landing is the incredible view of the main Canyon. If the trails are too crowded for your liking, the Observation Point is a perfect choice. The view of the Zion National Park from there is jaw-dropping.

observation point j_av8tor
Observation Point, by j_av8tor on Instagram.

Getting there

You can get to the trail from the Weeping Rock Trailhead, stop #7 on the Canyon Shuttle. This will give you an elevation gain of roughly 2,100 feet along the trail. The entire hike is a beauty, but it calls for a fairly strenuous 7-mile hike (round trip) that takes between 4 to 6 hours. While this hike is quite a workout, it’s still not as strenuous as the Angel’s Landing or the East Rim trail from the Canyon.

Along the way, you will get a glimpse of the mysterious Echo Canyon with its stunning white Cliffs and Slickrock formations.

  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Time required: 4-6 hours
  • Difficulty: Fairly strenuous
  • Trail Access: The Weeping Rock Trailhead, stop #7
  • Seasons: All year round. Spring and fall are best

Read more about Observation Point here.

Hidden Canyon

As you hike your way to the Observation Point, you will pass by Hidden Canyon. Tucked in the east side of Zion Canyon, this beautifully narrow and deep trail is rarely travelled. The locals call it the “hanging Canyon.” Hidden Canyon isn’t actually hidden anymore, but the strenuous hike deters a good number of folks from going there.

hidden canyon trail mabelletheresa
Hidden Canyon Trail, by mabelletheresa on Instagram.

Getting there

It’s only about 3 miles of round trip, but you will gain an elevation of 2,000 feet. That means a little extra strain on the knees with plenty of rock scrambling. Sections of this hike are similar to the vertigo-inducing trails in Angel’s Landing, but it’s not as high. This hike is tons of fun, and it will blow you away with the scenic beauty. The extra strain is well worth it in the end because you will get a different view of The Great White Throne, Cable Mountain, and Angel’s Landing. You’ll also discover an entire canyon full of arches, pools and massive boulders.

  • Distance: Roughly 3 miles
  • Time required: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate with some exposed sections.
  • Trail Access: The Weeping Rock Trailhead, stop #7
  • Seasons: All year round. Spring and fall are best

Read more about Hidden Canyon here.

Emerald Pools Trail

If you only have two hours to spend, hike to the Emerald Pools Trail. It’s a Zion classic with a beautiful oasis right at the center of the desert. This is my favorite because anyone with any skill level can get there and best of all, it’s pretty underrated. It’s a bunch of short trails that meander past a lushly-vegetated stream rolling down from the cliffs, forming several pools.

emerald pools trail breanna___lynn
Emerald Pools Trail, by breanna___lynn on Instagram.

Getting there

This trail starts off as an easy walk from the Zion Lodge to the Lower Emerald Pools. It gets more strenuous beyond this trail, and the last climb to the Upper Emerald Pool is most challenging. This climb will lead you to a large pool that is surrounded by tall cliffs on all three sides. The Upper pool has a spectacular setting like an amphitheater with fun acoustics. If you’re lucky, you might catch a deer or two grazing along the trail.

  • Distance: 1.5 – 3 miles, depending on which loops you hike
  • Time Required: 2-4 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Trail Access: The Grotto, stop #6 or The Zion Lodge, stop #5
  • Seasons: All year round. Spring and fall are best. Summers can be hot with the falls reduced to a trickle.

Read more about the Emerald Pools Trail here.

Watchman Trail

Watchman Trail is probably the best introduction to Zion. It is closest to the south entrance of the park and one of the easiest trails for sure. It’s a great way to explore the spires and the red cliffs without having to fight the traffic. You might not get an epic exposure of the Angel’s Landing or the extreme canyoneering experience that most hikers are looking for, but you will definitely get a stunning view of The Watchman tower, the rock formations on the Zion Canyon and a bird’s eye view of the visitor’s center with a logistically easy hike.

underrated hikes in zion

Getting there

One thing I love about this trailhead is its proximity to the visitor’s center. You cross the pay station and stroll by the shuttle stop and boom… you’re there. The trail starts along the banks of the river, slowing leading uphill and around a small valley towards the top of the cliffs. Once the trail hits west, you will reach the viewpoint where you will get a good view. You can relax and have lunch at the viewpoint before heading back.

  • Distance: 3 miles round trip
  • Time Required: 1-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail access: Zion Visitor Center
  • Seasons: All year round. Spring and fall are best.

Read more about the Watchman Trail here.

Taylor Creek Trail

This beautifully secluded canyon is another family-friendly trail hidden between the “fingers” of the Kolob Canyon. It is also commonly known as “the Middle Fork of Taylor Creek.” The Taylor Creek is easy to spot with its well-marked trailhead. This one is worth going on because you will get to see the Double Arch Alcove, an impressive geologic marvel. The alcove is deep, with beautiful stained and algae covered stones. The Middle Fork is another attraction with its red stone and tremendous concentration of the greenery in the sanctuary.

Getting there

It’s only a 5-mile round trip with the least amount of strain through the Kolob’s finger canyons. As you hike upstream, your feet will get a little wet. Along the way, you will get to see some historic old cabins, and some orange and pink sandstone before reaching the Double Arch Alcove with its beautiful cave formation.

  • Distance: 5 miles round trip
  • Time Required: 3-5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail access: Taylor Creek Trailhead
  • Seasons: All year round unless snowfall blocks access in winter.

Read more about the Taylor Creek Trail here.

Leave a Comment