World Class Hiking in Zion
World Class Hiking in Zion
Zion National Park is home to some of the best hiking in the country and will have something for everyone in your exploration party! Whenever someone is considering a hike, it is important to consider several factors such as the fitness level of everyone in your group, time of day of the hike, and distance. You want to make sure that the hike you select is achievable for everyone in your group. Hiking is a fine balance between challenging our bodies and having fun. In terms of time of day, depending on when you choose to visit Zion, it gets incredibly hot, which can make long hikes with no reprieve from the sun dangerous. Longer hikes should always be started earlier in the morning to limit hiking in the heat of the middle of the day. Distance is going to dictate several things, including supplies for the hike. The most crucial thing to pack for a hike on a hot day is water! A good rule of thumb is 1 liter of water for every 2 hours of hiking so knowing how many miles you can cover in 2 hours is important. In addition, if you are going on a long hike, it is important to bring food and salty snacks. We always pack our Jetboil system with a tasty lunch since it is lightweight with minimal clean up. Always remember to pack at trail map since you can't rely on cellular GPS, first aid kit, and a whistle/flare to signal other hikers in the case of an emergency.
Here are some of the must do hikes in Zion!! We didn't review Angels Landing as we have never completed that hike and can't speak to personal experience.
- The Narrows
The Narrows are a must do hike for anyone planning to visit Zion and is great to do on a hot day since it is through the Virgin River. The Narrows is one of the most popular hikes in Zion and for good reason as it takes you through a beautiful slot canyon with through The Virgin River with towering rock canyons on both sides.
There are two ways to hike The Narrows, one of which is top-down which is a challenging one-day hike but an even better two-day, night camping trip. The top-down hike is approximately a 16-mile hike. This option does require a permit. To reserve a permit please visit https://zionpermits.nps.gov/wilderness.cfm?TripTypeID=3
The second option is a bottom-up where you hike in as long as you want and then backtrack when you are ready to turn around. This way was perfect for us as it doesn't require permits. Either way, it is essential to check the water flow in the river as flash flooding can have fatal consequences. In addition, there are times of the year in which the hike is closed, typically in the spring when flow rates are at their highest due to snow melt. The Narrows is doable in the winter; however, you must prepare with extra gear due to temperatures. In our opinion, the best time to hike The Narrows is in September
Either hiking option will require use of a shuttle. You can hire a private shuttle service to take you to Chamberlain Ranch the morning of your top-down hike. If you are needing a private shuttle, we recommend Zion Adventure Company or Red Rocket Shuttle. If you choose the bottom-up option, you utilize the park shuttle system, and the trail head is at shuttle stop 9.
We also recommend visiting Zion Outfitters in Springdale to rent a few supplies. At first, I thought a hiking stick would be silly as I grew up trekking through rivers and creeks, but I am so thankful I rented one! We also recommend renting canyoneering boots and neoprene socks. All three can be rented for $29.00 per person. Please visit https://zionoutfitter.com/narrows-rentals/ for more information on The Narrows rental packages, especially if you plan to hike in a colder month. We also recommend investing in owning a drybag which can be purchased on amazon. They are a perfect addition to any camping setup and are a good way to keep your valuables dry, especially since the water can get chest deep at some places.
- Watchman Trail
Watchman Trail is an easy to moderate trail that is in walking distance from the Watchman Campground that provides beautiful views of Springdale and the northern side of Zion National Park. The trail is incredibly convenient for those who have struggled with shuttle reservations. The trail is 3.3 miles round-trip with a 370-foot elevation gain with an estimated 2-hour hike time.
The first part of the trail is relatively flat and easy, and you have views to Watchman Peak to the right (which you will be hiking near the top of). Over the next mile, the trail turns uphill with little shade, however, as you climb, the views just keep getting better and better.
While this hike is one of the least exciting and less scenic of all the trails, it is great for people who struggle with a longer hike or can't get shuttle tickets. We did the hike as the morning of a double hike with a beautiful sunset hike later in the evening.
- The Canyon Overlook Trail
This is a gem of a hike in Zion National Park and was out choice for a sunset viewing. It is short hike at only 1 mile round trip, which makes is a perfect choice for all ages and fitness levels. This is a must for any Zion bucket list.
The hike is not on the agenda for the Zion shuttle so a car Is necessary to get to the trailhead. From the Visitor Center, take Highway 9 towards the east entrance of the park. You will drive up a series of switch backs before approaching Mount Carmel Tunnel (which is incredibly cool to drive through). The parking lot is immediately past the exit of the tunnel, however, don't bank on a spot, especially before sunset. If there are to parking spots, there is an overflow lot just a little further down the road.
You gain elevation very quickly in this hike through a staircase from Highway 9 up to the trail. Don't let this deter you as it quickly flattens out and is mostly flat to the viewpoint. At several points, there are more exposed sections, however, there are railings for safety. Once you reach the viewpoint, the trail opens to a wordless display of wonder as you look out over Zion. While this is a fun place to explore, be mindful as you are on the edge of a cliff.
We highly recommend this spot for sunset viewing!
- The West Rim Trail
This is arguably our favorite hike in all of Zion National Park. It allows you a unique opportunity to see the park in a way that a lot of people never will be due to the fitness level that is required for the hike. I highlight this because this trail is a 17-mile beast with not only a 3,156 feet descent but 1,486 feet of climbing at the mid-portion of the hike. It can't be underestimated the strain on different muscles hiking downhill takes when compared to uphill. This hike is not for the faint of heart because once you are out there, your only choice is to finish.
This beautiful hike takes months of planning as it requires booking a private shuttle to the trailhead at Lava Point as well as time to get into peak physical condition. We chose Red Rocks Shuttle, who picked us up at the Visitor Center at 6:30 am. The hike takes 9-12 hours on-average, so the early bird gets the worm.
The hike starts off on a plateau through a forest section for about 7 miles, which reminded us of a lot of Kentucky. This is a fairly easy part of the hike, and the scenic views are rare, however, that is truly in the eye of the beholder as we found it beautiful. The relatively slow decline ends ag Potato Hallow, which consists of two climbs spaced out over the next two miles. Between the climbs is a meadow that reminded me of the scene from Gladiator in which Russel Crowe walked through the wheat fields. The views really start to change here and wow wow wow. After the second climb, the trail splits. For the best views, remain on the West Rim Trail. The descent happens very quickly as you walk down steep trails that are carved right out of the side of a white cliff. At the bottom, you get the pleasure of walking over rocky formations that go on for miles. Soon after this, you head upwards again, which is when Angels Landing comes into view. We didn't add this to our day because the chain link section was closed due to covid. Honestly, even without corona, I wasn't sure we had enough fuel in the tank to do it! From Scout Lookout, it is 2.5 miles downhill to the end of trail, which takes you on a massive descent through the Walter's Wiggles switchbacks.
Our feet were very beat up after this hike and we needed two days to physically recover from it, but we wouldn't trade the experience for anything! If was such as amazing gift
to see Zion from that perspective as I know not everyone is capable of that hike. This
gave us the quiet and solitude we were looking