JOE’S GUIDE TO ZION NATIONAL PARKCitrusMilo.com
ALTERNATIVE HIKES FOR 2021

East Rim Trail hikingAs of Friday, May 28, 2021, Zion National Park has discontinued the temporary shuttle ticket system that was put in place as a precaution for the coronavirus pandemic. Shuttle bus capacities and first come/first served policies are back in place as they were pre-COVID. Masks are still required while waiting in shuttle lines and while riding the shuttle. On busy days during the height of tourist season, you can expect the shuttle lines to be very long. Alternatively, if you have a bicycle or can rent a bicycle, you can ride up the scenic drive into Zion Canyon. More details are on NPS's bicycle page.

Below is a list of hiking ideas that do not require you to ride the Zion Canyon shuttle. If you are open to seeing something that isn't Angels Landing or the Zion Narrows, you can find some great hikes and with a little luck, you can even escape the crowds a bit and have some scenery to yourself. Click on any hike to get more detailed information and see some photographs that give you a pretty good idea of what you are in store for. Bring the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map with you to find your way through the different sections of Zion National Park. Happy hiking!

Zion Canyon and Upper East Canyon:

THE WATCHMAN TRAILThe Watchman Trail
Rating: easy to moderately strenuous day hike. family-friendly

If you can make your way to the Visitor Center (either by parking at the Visitor Center early in the morning or by parking in Springdale and taking the town shuttle to the park entrance), you can do this hike! The Watchman Trail is a short trail (roughly 3 miles round-trip) that heads up to a lovely viewpoint on top of the first layer of cliffs roughly 300 feet above the canyon floor. While the trail doesn't actually take you to the top of the Watchman mountain, you can still get a good view of the famous and photogenic peak to the south as well as a good bird's eye view of the whole Visitor Center complex below. This trail is completely exposed to the sun, so during the hot summer months, this hike is best done on a cloudy day or in the morning when this side of the main canyon is still in the shade.
Trail Information  Photos

PA'RUS TRAILPa'rus Trail
Rating: easy leisurely stroll. family-friendly

Also starting near the Visitor Center, the Pa'rus Trail is one of the newer and most accessible trails in Zion National Park. It is the only trail in Zion that is open to bicycles and pets, and it is also one of the few wheelchair-accessible trails in the park. Starting at the South Campground just north of the Visitor Center, this wide, paved trail skirts the Virgin River in the flat and open lower section of Zion Canyon and ends at the Canyon Junction. This trail is great for a leisurely stroll at sunrise or sunset and you are likely to see wildlife both big and small, from butterflies and birds to mule deer.
Trail Information  Photos

CANYON OVERLOOK TRAILCanyon Overlook Trail
Rating: easy short hike with some exposure. a Zion classicfamily-friendly

While you cannot drive a vehicle up into Zion Canyon during tourist season, you can drive east on Route 9 to go through the famous Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel and enjoy the ride through the wondrous slickrock of the Upper East Canyon. This stretch of road is one of the most scenic drives you will ever experience. The Canyon Overlook Trail is one of the few official trails in the upper East Canyon; starting just east of the tunnel, it is a nice short-but-sweet hike that ends at a great viewpoint looking into the main canyon. But be warned: parking is very limited and traffic often turns to gridlock by midday.
Trail Information  Photos

"MANY POOLS"Many Pools, Zion National Park
Rating: moderately strenuous day hike.

Less than half a mile east of the small tunnel in the upper East Canyon is a pair of drainages north of Route 9 with many unofficial nicknames. "The Root Canals" (and "The Twins") refers to the drainages' resemblance to a molar's roots on the topo map. East Root Canal is also more popularly known by locals as "Many Pools" because of its many interesting pothole formations. This open wash makes for a lovely leisurely hike in some beautiful sandstone scenery and is most interesting during spring runoff or after recent rainstorms. Note that this is not an official trail; it is up to you to find your way safely.
Route Information  Photos

GIFFORD CANYONGifford Canyon
Rating: moderately strenuous day hike.

Located in the Upper East Canyon directly across from the Canyon Overlook parking lot, Gifford Canyon is a mostly open wash with sandy sections interspersed with short sections of bare slickrock in the streambed. While this drainage doesn't usually have flowing water, it retains a good amount of moisture and has lush vegetation in many sections. Though not the most exciting or photogenic canyon in Zion, this wash makes for an interesting half-day hike for people looking to do some random exploring and get a quick taste of the Zion backcountry.
Route Information  Photos

EAST MESA TRAIL (to Observation Point)East Mesa Trail
Rating: moderate day hike.

The famous Weeping Rock to Observation Point trail has sadly been closed since 2019 due to a massive rockfall, but hikers can still get to Observation Point via an old jeep trail up on the east plateau. The hike is roughly 3.2 miles (one way) through mostly level terrain, but the hardest part of this hike is actually the drive to the East Mesa Trailhead which is along a series of increasingly sketchy dirt roads outside the east border of the park. Do not attempt the drive after a big rainstorm and please obey any private property signage.
Trail Information  Photos

Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyons:

NORTHGATE PEAKS TRAILNorthgate Peaks Trail
Rating: short easy family hike. family-friendly

The Northgate Peaks Trail is a short easy family hike to a fairly interesting viewpoint in the Kolob Terrace section of Zion. This unsung trail is a fairly recent addition to the park's canon of official trails, and it offers a good change of pace and escape from the crowds of the main canyon. The view at the end of the trail is more "subtle" than views from the West Rim Trail or the main canyon, but it gives you a fascinating peek into the Great West Canyon. The hike starts 15.5 miles up the Kolob Terrace Road at the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead.
Trail Information  Photos

THE SUBWAY FROM THE BOTTOM (Non-Technical Hike)Bottom-Up Subway Hike
Rating: strenuous day hike. a Zion classic

I hesitate to put the famous Subway hike on this list since it's just as over-the-top popular as Angels Landing and the Zion Narrows, but if you are lucky enough to score a permit to do this hike, do this hike! Roughly 5-9 hours of fairly strenuous obstacle-filled stream hiking will take you to the famous cascades and lower Subway formations. Warning: This is a strenuous and wet hike that many people underestimate. Start early in the day and prepare to work hard! Note: A wilderness permit is required for this hike and a drybag is useful to protect your electronic gear.
Route Information  Photos

WILDCAT CANYON TRAILWildcat Canyon Trail
Rating: moderate hiking/backpacking route. backpacking route

The Wildcat Canyon Trail is a 6-mile stretch of trail that connects the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead with the West Rim Trail (just under Lava Point) and is part of the "Trans-Zion Hike" that allows backpackers to hike from the Kolob section all the way down to Zion Canyon. While this wouldn't be considered a destination hike, this trail wanders past some lovely scenery, including views down into and across Russell Gulch, lovely high-elevation meadows and pine forests, and a peek into the elusive and remote Wildcat Canyon. And you will likely have much of the trail all to yourself.
Trail Information  Photos

TIMBER CREEK OVERLOOK TRAILTimber Creek Overlook Trail
Rating: quick easy stroll. family-friendly

Far from the crowds of the main canyon, the Kolob Canyons is the isolated northwestern section of Zion National Park, noted for the deep pink and orange glow of the area's Navajo sandstone formations. It is roughly a 40-mile drive from Springdale to the Kolob Canyons entrance at Exit 40 off of I-15; the Kolob Section has its own ranger station and visitor center. The lovely Kolob Canyons Road is a great five-mile scenic drive from the entrance up to a viewpoint of the finger canyons and the short and pleasant Timber Creek Overlook Trail takes you along a ridgeline for a better view.
Trail Information  Photos

TAYLOR CREEK TRAIL (Middle Fork of Taylor Creek)Taylor Creek Trail (Middle Fork of Taylor Creek)
Rating: fairly easy day hike. a Zion classicfamily-friendly

The Taylor Creek Trail is one of the few official and popular trails in the Kolob Canyons section: a pleasant 5-mile (roundtrip) hike up one of the enchanting "finger" canyons. The hike is fairly easy, but the trail is rough in spots and a little bit of stream-crossing is involved. Along the way are two historic old cabins from the early 1900's. Eventually the canyon walls get get narrower until the route officially ends at one of the more famous Zion landmarks: the Double Arch Alcove.
Trail Information  Photos

SOUTH FORK OF TAYLOR CREEKSouth Fork of Taylor Creek
Rating: moderate day hike. family-friendly

Another short interesting route, this hike is one finger canyon south of the Taylor Creek Trail. While the South Fork of Taylor Creek isn't actually an official trail, there is a giant parking lot at the mouth of the canyon. Follow the trail-of-use up an ancient landslide to explore the more secluded and forested upper section. The route ends at a rockfall just upcanyon from pink sandstone walls with interesting seep formations. A few sport climbing routes can be found here.
Route Information  Photos

LA VERKIN CREEK TRAIL (to the Kolob Arch)La Verkin Creek Trail
Rating: fairly strenuous hiking/backpacking. backpacking route

The La Verkin Creek Trail is the main connecting trail through the Kolob Canyons section of Zion. Starting at Lee Pass along the Kolob Canyons Road, this trail runs almost 11 miles in length from end-to-end, heading south to loop around the Finger Canyons and then turning east to join up with and follow La Verkin Creek to the NPS boundary. An in-and-out hike to see the Kolob Arch makes for a strenuous and rewarding day and is probably the most popular use of the trail. Numerous campsites along the trail also allow for longer visits to explore the lonely northeast corner of the Kolob Section.
Trail Information  Photos

The Greater Zion Area:

EAGLE CRAGS TRAIL (and Lower Mountain)Eagle Crags Trail
Rating: moderately strenuous day hike.

If you look south of Springdale, you may notice the jagged rock formations of the Eagle Crags looming in the distance. Located in BLM land south of Rockville, the Eagle Crags Trail is a pleasant half-day hike that approaches and circles east of the Vermilion Cliffs to end just under the imposing Eagle Crags formations. Along the way, you will get good views of the mouth of Zion Canyon to the north and Parunuweap Canyon to the east. And for those looking for something longer and more strenuous, the hike can be extended to reach the top of Lower Mountain.
Trail Information  Photos

GRAFTON (Ghost Town)Grafton Ghost Town
Rating: easy family stroll. family-friendly

Located on the southern banks of the Virgin River outside of Zion National Park, the ghost town of Grafton was first settled in 1859. A flood in 1862 and Indian attacks in 1866 helped lead to its eventual abandonment. The site is now maintained by the Grafton Heritage Partnership and includes several historic buildings (several which have been restored) and an old cemetery. A visit to Grafton makes for a pleasant family stroll through history.
Route Information  Photos

WATER CANYON and CANAAN MOUNTAINWater Canyon and Canaan Mountain
Rating: fairly strenuous day hike.

Located on BLM land near the Arizona border several miles south of Zion National Park, accessible from behind the remote town of Hildale, Water Canyon is a beautiful little oasis in the middle of the desert. Reminiscent of The Subway, Water Canyon is a narrow canyon with a clever trail that follows the fractures in the west side of the canyon to make its way to the mountains above. Once out of the canyon, Canaan Mountain is a beautiful and wild island in the sky that beckons for exploration.
Route Information  Photos

KANARRA CREEK (Kanarra Falls)Kanarra Creek
Rating: moderately strenuous day hike.

Kanarra Creek was once an obscure and little-known canyon, but due to its intense beauty and growing reputation as a mini version of the Zion Narrows along with its Instagram-famous waterfall ladder, this hike became overly popular and trampled by the masses. In recent years, a permit system has been put in place with a daily quota. If you are willing to pay $15 a person and you have the foresight to reserve well in advance, this water-filled canyon is a beautiful experience and the quota system really lets you enjoy the canyon.
Route Information  Photos

Hiking symbols used for descriptions:
a Zion classic ZION CLASSIC: a must-do hike if you want to see the best of Zion!
family-friendly FAMILY-FRIENDLY: a good choice for those with children who like to hike.

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Hiking in Zion National Park

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