Zion offers hikers and backpackers an exceptional variety of lovely trails that meander across rivers and streams, pass by striking waterfalls and end in magnificent geological formations like hidden canyons and soaring arches.
To protect these precious resources, hikers are required to stay on established trails. The cryptobiotic soil in the desert often takes centuries to establish. That satisfying crunch you hear when you step on the desert crust is the destruction of centuries of microbial toil.
Staying on dedicated paths also protects you. Those picturesque rocks at the bottom of the canyon came from the edges of the cliff like those that rise above the trail you are standing on. Sandstone is particularly unstable when wet when it can crumble or become slippery.
Remember to Leave No Trace when hiking -- meaning take only pictures and memories and leave only footprints. Backcountry campers must stop by the Visitors Center to get camping permits. Campsites must be at least ¼-mile from springs and out of sight of trails to preserve the wilderness experience for other campers and hikers, and, of course, be cognizant of flash flood danger.
Everyone should take the scenic short hike to Weeping Rock Trail. The half-mile climb is doable for almost everyone, yet offers many of the key attractions that make Zion, Zion. You'll cross a small bridge before heading up a moderate grade on a well-packed path. The path is about twenty feet above a gurgling brook until it winds up to a massive rock face from which includes many trickling waterfalls, hanging gardens and seeps. Scientists estimate that the water making its way to the surface may have fallen as rain up to 4,000 years ago.
Coalpit Wash is a two-mile desert hike with great canyon views. The hike can take several turns depending upon which route you take. Most people begin with the trail to Coalpits Wash where it meets Coalpits Alcove. The dry stream bed can be filled with boulders, but is usually fairly easy hiking along its edge but may entail scrambling over boulders. If small stream is present, you'll be treated to small waterfalls, pools and cascading waters.
Huber Wash to Chinle Trail is another moderate hike through the desert with striking rock formations, abundant wildlife and a petrified log perched high on a canyon wall near a dry waterfall.
The hike to Kolob Arch is tough, but worth it if you want to see one of the world's largest freestanding arches amidst scenic southwest desert landscapes. A little over seven miles from the trailhead, most people prefer to make it a two day event. The hike begins at Lee Pass and heads down to La Verkin Creek where it meet Timber Creek at an old corral where it follows the streambed until you come to the arch. If you keep going upstream another two miles, you'll come to Beartrap Canyon which features a lovely waterfall.
Angels Landing Trail is one of the park's most popular destinations. The five-mile strenuous hike offers dramatic views from the edge of one of the park's most notable landmarks. Begin at the Grotto Picnic Area where you will cross the bridge and head for West Rim Trail (which was originally called the "Royal Trail" because it was designated by the crown prince and princess of Sweden). You'll hike through pinion and juniper forest for about a half mile before encountering a series of switchbacks that will take you through a half-mile stretch within Refrigerator Canyon which will provide a welcome relief from the sun.
The next section is a steep ascent cut into the side of the mountain called Walter's Wiggles that will snake your way up to Scout Lookout, the base of Angel's Landing. The last mile ends with a hike along a narrow ridge with stomach-dropping open air on either side. Needless to say, this is one of the most striking views in the canyon.
Observation Point is another highly-recommended hike in Zion National Park.
Need a map? Download an official Zion National Park map for basic road and attraction locations. Want a detailed topographical map of trails in the park? Buy the NatGeo Trails Illustrated Map for Zion National Park at REI.com. The map includes trails, trailheads, points of interest, campgrounds, lakes and much more. Or get the complete Utah National Parks Map Pack with five topographic maps. All of the NatGeo maps are printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material.
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