The 5 Best Easy Hikes in Zion National Park

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Zion National Park has some of the most breathtaking views in the United States.  Known for its amazing scenery, the park offers visitors a variety of hiking trails that range from short strolls to strenuous treks. While many people visit Zion to hike the well-known (but moderate to difficult!) Angels Landing or Narrows trails, there are a number of easy hikes in Zion National Park that are perfect for visitors that are looking for shorter trails. I put together this guide to show you all of the best easy hikes at Zion that can be done as day hikes, or even if you only have one day in Zion. And if you’re looking for Zion hikes without the shuttle, I’ve got your covered for those, too! Read on for all of the details on these easy trails in Zion National Park!

court of the patriarchs sandstone cliffs

Tips for Hiking in Zion

If you’re planning to do some hiking while you’re visiting Zion National Park, you’re in for a treat! Zion is a hiker’s dream, with a range of trails to fit all skill levels. Best of all, the hiking trails in Zion feature the park’s breathtaking scenery. It’s hard to find more scenic hiking trails than those in Zion.

Here are a few important tips for hiking in Zion National Park:

Plan Your Day Ahead of Time

Planning ahead of time will help your hiking experience in Zion go much more smoothly.

Zion National Park is huge, so it’s better to be informed about where you’re going ahead of time. That way, you can spend your time in the park enjoying everything it has to offer, instead of trying to figure out logistics.

Check Zion hiking conditions in advance

Make sure to check the Zion National Park website’s hiking section before your trip. Here, you can see any current restrictions or closures at the park prior to your visit.

Plan Your Hike Early in The Morning or Late Afternoon

The weather at Zion can get very hot, so plan on doing your hikes first thing in the morning, or in the late afternoon when the day starts to cool off. If you go first thing in the morning, you’ll beat the crowds for the day!

Use the park shuttle for access to Zion Canyon

If you’re visiting Zion from May – September, you must use the park’s shuttle system to access Zion Canyon from the Visitor Center. Cars aren’t allowed, which helps control traffic during the busier summer months. I’ve include the shuttle stop information for each hike listed below.

I also included some hikes at Zion that you can do without using the park shuttle – these are great for sunsets!

trees in front of Zion lodge

Take note of the shuttle schedule

The Zion Park shuttle system is very easy to use, but make sure to take note of the times for the first and last shuttle departures. If you miss the last shuttle, or if it’s full, you’re out of luck! The last thing you want to do is have to walk miles home in the dark. So give yourself plenty of time to get back BEFORE the last shuttle departs.

Need More Help Planning Your Trip to Zion?

I’ve written an entire post on my best Zion National Park tips – check it out for all of the mistakes to avoid when you visit!

Pro Travel Tip: These days, travel can be more uncertain than ever. Check for any COVID-related restrictions at your destination, and never travel without travel insurance! I recommend SafetyWing, because they have flexible + affordable insurance plans, and also cover COVID-related impacts on your trip (not all companies do)!

What to Pack for Hiking in Zion

For a complete checklist, check out my Zion packing list.

Bring plenty of water and snacks

It is important to bring plenty of water and snacks, even for easy day hikes in Zion. The weather in Zion Canyon can be quite warm, especially during the summer months, so make sure to stay hydrated while you’re hiking. I always bring this hydration pack with me. My hands stay free (for photos!) and it also has extra pockets for carrying snacks and other supplies.

Why It’s Important to Bring a Map or Guidebook to Zion

Many areas in Zion Canyon, including parts of the hikes listed below, don’t have cell phone service. So you won’t be able to rely on your phone for directions!

Grab a map of the park at the Visitor Center, or bring a guidebook with you – I love this guidebook for all of its detail and bonus section on Bryce Canyon!

Additional Must-Haves for Zion

Don’t forget to pack these additional must-haves for hiking in Zion!

  1. Lightweight Waterproof Women's Hiking Boots
  2. Lightweight Waterproof Women's Hiking Boots
    $75.00

    Breathable waterproof material

    Lightweight style is easy to pack in a suitcase!

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  3. Travel Size Flashlight
  4. Travel Size Flashlight
    $6.99

    Perfectly sized LED flashlight to fit in a backpack or suitcase

    Comes with 3 AAA batteries

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  5. Travel Size First Aid Kit
  6. Travel Size First Aid Kit
    $14.95

    100 piece travel-size first aid kit

    Perfect for hiking, or to keep in your suitcase for your next trip

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  7. Water Buffalo Hydration Backpack
  8. Water Buffalo Hydration Backpack
    $34.95
    • Better than a water bottle because you keep your hands free for taking photos
    • Perfect for day hikes! It holds 2 liters of water which is sufficient for one person for a 3-4 hour hike
    • Additional pockets to hold your snacks, car keys, and warm clothing layers
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    12/01/2022 04:57 am GMT

What Are the Best Easy Hikes in Zion?

Zion National Park is known for some very famous day hikes, including Angels Landing and the Narrows. Both of these hikes are moderate in terms of difficulty and may be challenging for some visitors to Zion.

The good news is that there are plenty of easy trails in Zion that make for fantastic day hikes, and will still allow you to enjoy all of the scenery that Zion is known for. If you’re looking for easy hikes in Zion National Park, you’ve come to the right place!

The five hikes in this guide are all considered easy trails. They are all less than 3 miles, and are mostly flat, with the exception of the Watchman Trail which does ascend about 400 ft. In addition, none of these Zion hikes require any special equipment or permits, so they’re perfect for beginners.

If you decide to do a more moderate hike in Zion, you can’t miss hiking the Narrows! It’s a must-do when visiting Zion. Even if you don’t have a lot of hiking experience, you can absolutely hike the Narrows at your own pace. Check out my guide on hiking the Narrows for beginners for all of the details!

If you’re looking for hikes in Zion without the park shuttle, I’ve included three options at the end of the list.

1. Emerald Pools Trails Hike

  • Distance: 1.2-2.3 miles, loop
  • Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours
  • Shuttle Stop: #5 Zion Lodge
  • Trailhead Location: From Zion Lodge, cross the wood bridge over the Virgin River to find the trailhead
  • More information from the trail guide here
Emerald Pools Hike in Zion

If you only do one hike while you’re in Zion, I recommend doing the Emerald Pools hike.  Emerald Pools Trail is one of the best easy hikes in Zion National Park, because it gives you a little bit of everything.  Sweeping vista views, the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Zion’s unique hanging gardens.

And best of all: waterfalls in Zion!  The Emerald Pools trail combines the best of the scenery in Zion with some unique treats along the way.

I recommend the Emerald Pools trail as an easy hike in Zion because you can decide how long you want it to be.  The Emerald Pools trail is an out-and-back trail, so you can decide to turn around at any point in time. 

Lower Emerald Pool, Middle Emerald Pool, and Upper Emerald Pool

While it is commonly referred to as “The Emerald Pools Trail”, this day hike is actually a collection of several smaller trails: The Lower Emerald Pool, the Middle Pool, and the Upper Pool. Depending on how easy you want the hike to be, you can mix and match the different trails.

Most hikers visit the Lower Emerald Pool and marvel at the waterfall spilling into the canyon, surrounded by the vertical gardens on the surrounding walls. You can turn around at the Lower Pool and go back, or you can continue up to the Middle Pool.

emerald pools trail is a must see for one day in Zion national park

The crowds thin out a bit at the Middle Pool, which feels very much like a secret oasis. From the Middle Pool, you can continue up a steeper, but short, climb to the the Upper Pool.

The climb is well worth it for the scenery at the top! The Upper Pool is located just at the foot of the cliffs of Lady Mountain, and is serenely beautiful.

Hiking the Emerald Pools trail is a perfect way to start a morning in Zion because it is easy to get lunch nearby after the hike! 

The trailhead is directly across from the Zion Lodge, where you’ll find a restaurant with plenty of lunch options.  If you prefer to bring your own food, the grounds in front of the lodge are perfect for a picnic lunch.

2. Riverside Walk Trail

  • Distance: 2 miles, out-and-back
  • Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours
  • Shuttle Stop: #9 Temple of Sinawava
  • Trailhead Location: The trail begins just beyond the restrooms located at the shuttle stop
  • More information from the trail guide here

If you only do TWO hikes while you’re visiting Zion, I recommend combining the Emerald Pools Trail with the Riverside Walk Trail.  Most visitors to Zion can easily do both of these short trails in one day, and still have time for meals and relaxation as part of their day.

The Riverside Walk hike is the first mile of the Narrows trail at Zion National Park.

riverwalk trail easy hike in Zion

The Riverside Walk Trail is a great easy short trail in Zion that is accessible for most visitors to Zion (see my note below). If you don’t plan to hike the full bottom-up Narrows trail as part of your visit to Zion, the Riverside Walk Trail will give you a great taste of the scenery you would see on the Narrows hike.

The trail follows the Virgin River as it meanders towards the beginning of the Narrows. On the way, you’ll likely spot wildlife grazing alongside the river. The riverside location also makes this hike a great place to play for kids who will love wading in to the shallow (but chilly!) waters.

Accessibility of the Riverside Walk Trail

To Note: The first 0.4 miles of the path is deemed to be “wheelchair-accessible with assistance”. Having hiked this trail, I think that the level of accessibility is dependent on a guest’s personal circumstances.

While the path is paved and mostly flat, there are some places where someone in a wheelchair might need pretty strong assistance, so keep that in mind when planning. Strollers would be fine on the path.

Zion Hikes Without The Park Shuttle

In addition to the short trails listed above, there are a few easy hikes in Zion National Park that you can access directly from the Visitor Center. That means that you can do these Zion hikes without the park shuttle system.

The reason that hikes without the shuttle are popular at Zion is because they make for great sunset hikes. Sunset at Zion is a magical time, where the red cliffs glow from the setting sun, and the light makes the Canyon come alive in a fantastic way.

Since you don’t have to worry about catching the last shuttle on your way out of the canyon – you can just walk to get to these hikes from the Visitor Center! Make sure to bring a headlamp, though, if you’ll be coming back in the dark after the sun sets.

3. Pa’rus Trail

  • Distance: 1.7 miles one way
  • Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours
  • Shuttle Stop: Visitor Center #1
  • Trailhead Location: Across the street from the Visitor Center
  • More information from the trail guide here

“Pa’rus” means “bubbling waters” in Paiute, and this trail is aptly named for its location alongside the Virgin River. Starting across the street from the Visitor Center, the Pa’rus Trail follows the Virgin River as it flows through Zion Canyon.

The Pa’rus hike is a great easy trail at Zion National Park because it is appropriate for hikers of all abilities. In addition, there are facilities at both ends of the hike, and the scenery of Zion Canyon is stunning.

Pa'Rus Trail Hike, Zion National Park

There are multiple places along the trail where you can cross footbridges to the other side of the river, or wander down to the river itself to stop and enjoy the views. The trail ends at the Canyon Junction shuttle stop.

In addition to this hike being an easy short trail at Zion, I like the Pa’rus Trail because it is also bicycle-friendly. If you decide to rent bikes while you’re in Zion, plan on enjoying the scenery in Zion Canyon from the Pa’rus Trail.

4. Watchman Trail

  • Distance: 3.3 miles, out-and-back
  • Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours
  • Shuttle Stop: Visitor Center #1
  • Trailhead Location: Cross the street in front of the Visitor Center, where you’ll see the trailhead, which is shared with the Pa’rus Trail.
  • More information from the trail guide here

The Watchman Trail is a great easy hike in Zion and is a perfect choice for a sunset hike! This scenic hike ascends about 350 feet to an overlook with the perfect view of the Watchman spire.

easy trail Zion national park watchman hike

The Watchman trail begins across the street from the Visitor Center. You’ll hike alongside the Virgin River for a short ways before turning towards the West wall of the Canyon and following a series of switchbacks up the side of the canyon.

The climb is worth it, though! You’ll be rewarded with a picture-perfect view of the Watchman spire, and also get a great view of the Towers of the Virgin, the town of Springdale, and the Eagle Crags.

5. Canyon Overlook – An Easy Day Hike in East Zion

  • Distance: 1 mile, out-and-back
  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Shuttle Stop: n/a
  • Trailhead Location: Park at the end of the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel and cross the road to find the trailhead
  • More information from the trail guide here

While it might be the shortest of the hikes on this list, the Canyon Overlook trail is not short on views! Access the Canyon Overlook Trail by following Highway 9 through the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel. Park on the other side of the tunnel, and cross the street to access the trailhead.

Make sure to check the Zion National Park website ahead of time for any potential closures of the tunnel.

canyon overlook trail Zion national park

Although this is a great easy hike at Zion, some of the terrain can be uneven, so hikers with limited balance should take care. The Canyon Overlook trail is unique on this list because you’ll be looking down on Zion Canyon, rather than starting of the bottom of the Canyon and hiking up.

This short trail at Zion follows an initial ascent up a staircase, and then flattens out to follow the canyon wall until the overlook.

There are some steep drop-offs, so keep your little ones close! At the end of the hike, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of Zion Canyon, the West Temple, the Altar of Sacrifice, and the Sentinel.

Can you hike Zion in a day?

If you aren’t planning to stay overnight at Zion, and you only have a day in the park, you can still see plenty of sights to make your trip worthwhile.  The easy hikes I have listed in this post can easily be done in half a day. That means you can combine 2 or 3 of your choosing to make for a day trip itinerary.  I also put together a 1 day Zion itinerary that you can follow to make the most of your time in the park!

Looking to do More Hiking in Utah?

The scenery in Utah’s National Parks is just incredible. If you want even more, check out Bryce Canyon National Park which is just a few hours away from Zion. It’s possible to see most of Bryce in just one day – so if you’re looking for more incredible day hikes, check out one day in Bryce Canyon.

There You Have it – The Best Easy Hikes in Zion!