Zion National Park in southern Utah holds some of the greatest adventures of any park in the United States
With its distinguishable steep, red cliffs and blue-green Virgin River flowing through the canyon, it’s more than words can describe. The first sight of Zion Canyon leaves you wondering if you just stepped out of a time machine or ended up in a Jurassic Park movie as one of those useless extras who gets eaten by the T. Rex.
Below are our three favorite hikes at Zion, including trail descriptions and photos for your viewing pleasure.
1) Angel’s Landing: For The Daredevils
Angel’s Landing is an iconic, world-renowned hike at Zion National Park. For good reason.
The trail starts nice and easy, until you hit the twenty-one lovely switchbacks nicknamed “The Wiggles.”
On one hand, switchbacks mean you get up the trail way faster. On the other hand, you may or may not have a heart attack as you hike.
The saving grace of The Wiggles is you start to get a glimpse of Zion Canyon. And it’s a glorious prehistoric scene.
As you get to switchback fifteen or sixteen, you start thinking about how much it would cost to get bionic legs.
(It costs too much. We looked.)
You’ll hit Scout Lookout at about the two mile mark if your heart hasn’t exploded yet. There are bathrooms and a crowd of folks here deciding whether they’re going to take on the final 1/2 mile ascent to Angel’s Landing.
Don’t be a whimp. Do it.
You’ll make your way up what they call “Hogsback” to summit Angel’s Landing. This is where things get a little tricky.
Parts of the climb have you walking along sheer cliff edges, holding onto a chain for good measure. There’s never a time where your full weight is actually on the chain — it’s more for balance — but a misstep is well…probably fatal (only 15 people have died, you’ll be fine).
Also, if you happen to have some crotchety old lady up there complaining about everything like we did, push her off.
Just joking. Murder is bad, kids.
The view is spectacular and we’ll leave you to your own devices to figure out how fun the climb down is.
Angel’s Landing Trail Details
The Grotto Trailhead / Stop #6 on Zion Shuttle
5 miles, 4-5 hours
Strenuous / 1,488 feet elevation change
Restrooms are available at Scout Lookout about 3/4 of the way up — the base of Angel’s Landing. Check ahead of time, because they were closed for maintenance when we went. There is no drinking water.
2) The Narrows at Zion
The Narrows may be the most well-known hike at Zion, if not a close second behind Angel’s Landing. I’ll say it’s the most unique hike I’ve been on.
- A day hike starting at the bottom of The Narrows (Temple of Sinawava), which is the most common choice. You hike out and back. The distance is really up to you, but you’ll get a full experience in 4-5 miles.
- A 1-2 day thru-hike/backpacking trip starting at the top of The Narrows (Chamberlain Ranch) and hiking all the way down. It’s a 16-mile hike and you’ll need a backcountry permit for this option.
For either option, unless you’re a real penny-pincher, you’ll want to rent waterproof shoes and a walking stick from one of the stores in Springdale — just outside the Zion park entrance. There’s additional gear you can rent if you’re hiking in the winter.
Find these rentals at:
If you rent the waterproof shoes, my biggest tip is to spend an extra few minutes trying them on to make sure your foot has wiggle room, especially in the toes area. Once your feet get wet and the skin is soft, your toe nails can do some damage if your toes are being squeezed together by the shoes. It’s unpleasant to say the least.
“Why’s this guy talking about toe nails?”
Onto the hike itself…
You start by casually strolling on the paved Riverside Walk, which runs along the river (who would’ve guessed) for about a mile.
Then the fun times begin. Into the river you go!
You immediately find yourself walking in the water, surrounded by massive sandstone walls on either side.
For most of the hike, you’ll be crossing the river back and forth to small patches of dry land or trying to find shallow areas. The water is typically calm and well below your waist. But as you go farther into The Narrows, the water level gets higher and you’ll find yourself walking almost exclusively through the river. This area is often called “Wall Street.”
The water barely went above our knees the entire hike (in October), but levels vary throughout the year so be prepared. If you’re unsure, ask the rangers about the expected water flow — generally anything below 50 cfs is easy hiking.
About two miles into the hike, you’ll come across Orderville Canyon. This is a side-hike, which some say is even more enchanting than The Narrows. If you continue up The Narrows about two more miles, you’ll find Big Springs, where the waterfalls flow right out of the walls. It’s wizardry, in my opinion.
At any point you’ve had enough, turn around and hike right back out.
The Narrows is an incredible hike and something you’ll never experience anywhere else.
Worth a warning: check the weather or ask rangers about the weather before you set off. The Narrows are prone to flash flooding and, frankly, you’ll most likely die if caught during a flood.
The Narrows Trail Details
Start Location (for day hike)
Temple of Sinawava / Stop #9 on Zion Shuttle
Variable and mostly up to you. You could go up to 16 miles if you’re a hardass, but you’ll get the full experience in 4-5 miles. It’s a slow pace while you’re hiking in the water, so that 4-6 miles will take you around seven hours.
Moderately strenuous. Requires wading through knee-deep to waist-deep water frequently and crossing the river on slippery rocks. Not dangerous, but also not a stroll in the park.
No, for the day-hike. Yes, for the overnight backpacking trip.
Absolutely do not do this hike if there’s significant threat of rain in the area. The Narrows are prone to flash flooding.
Restrooms at the beginning of the trail, but no restrooms along the way. Though there’s a river, I guess (you may get a felony for indecent exposure, but YOLO). The Narrows are usually closed during spring due to snowmelt and run-off from March to mid-May — ask rangers before heading up. Winter hiking is possible with the proper gear, which you can rent from many stores in Springdale just outside the park entrance.
3) Observation Point at Zion National Park
Observation Point is much less talked about than Angel’s Landing and The Narrows, but it offers one of the most jaw-dropping views in all of Zion National Park.
It’s quite a doozie, though, with an elevation change of 2,100 feet and lots of fun switchbacks.
The trail starts at Weeping Rock, an easy hike and famous tourist attraction at Zion, where water flows out of the sandstone walls — giving the appearing of the rock weeping.
Creative naming systems around these parts, huh?
The Observation Point trail immediately throws you into a rapid ascent and you quickly find yourself 700-800 feet above Zion Canyon. About halfway up the initial switchbacks, the path diverges, with one way taking you to Hidden Canyon and the other continuing to Observation Point.
If you plan on checking out Hidden Canyon, tack on an extra 1-3 hours to the Observation Point time. My suggestion is wait until you’re coming down before adding on Hidden Canyon. That way, you’re not too tired to make it to Observation.
Or maybe you’re in great shape and can do it all. Hey, it’s your call. I don’t really care.
Passing Hidden Canyon and continuing the ascent to Observation, you’ll soon find Echo Canyon — a welcome change of scenery and shade from the sun.
The trail to Observation Point continues its ascent, zig-zagging along the sandstone cliffs and offering frequent glimpses of the view soon-to-come. You’ll soon hit the final trail junction with the East Mesa Trail, which is a less-used trail to Observation Point starting in the eastern portion of Zion.
By now, your legs will feel like they’ve been beaten with a stick. Fortunately, the trail flattens the entire last mile, just when you’re about to lay down and weep. Carry on to the end of the trail: Observation Point.
Here, you’re met with a 270-degree, breathtaking view of Zion Canyon, including a clear shot of Angel’s Landing below. Grab some lunch in the little bit of shade offered by the trees (just watch out for the chipmunks…they’ll bite your fingers off with their little chompers, no lie).
Observation Point Trail Details
Weeping Rock / Stop #7 on Zion Shuttle
8 miles / 7-8 hours
Strenuous, but doable for most people with breaks and lots of delicious waters
No restrooms along the trail that I know of. No McDonald’s either. Sad, I know.
What’d We Leave Off The List?
Let us know in the comments which of your favorite hikes at Zion we left off the list.