Hiking Guide Photos 1 2 3

Emerald Pools TrailThe Emerald Pools Trail is a classic little hike in the heart of Zion Canyon. Starting at the Zion Lodge (the 5th stop for the Zion Canyon shuttle), this collection of trails crosses the Virgin River and heads back into a large sandstone amphitheater, leading hikers to a lush oasis in the middle of the desert. There are three officially designated areas: the lower, middle, and upper emerald pools, with the most famous waterfalls in the park flowing over the impressive cliffs from the middle to lower pools. As this hike is fairly easy and is located just across from the Zion Lodge, this is a very popular spot to visit, especially during the summer months.

CLOSURE NOTICE: As of June 2023, the hikers bridge at the Zion Lodge is closed for safety concerns. You can alternatively cross the river at the Grotto (Shuttle Stop 6) and hike the Kayenta Trail to Emerald Pools or cross at the Court of the Patriarchs (Shuttle Stop 4) and hike the sandy riverside horse trail.

CAUTION: While this hike is fairly short and easy, there are a few exposed spots where a fall could be dangerous. Please stay behind any chain fences and respect the exposed cliff edges.

Zion Lodge to Lower Emerald Pools:

The most likely starting point for this hike is at the Zion Lodge. Cross the footbridge and follow the trail north along the Virgin River. In less than half a mile, the vegetation becomes more lush and the trail makes its way along the base of a tall alcove under two tall waterfalls with pools below. Emerald Pools Trail This area is known as Lower Emerald Pools. Getting to this point is quite easy even for the elderly and baby-strollers. Note that these waterfalls are mostly seasonal; they often have strong flow during spring runoff or after recent rain storms, but during the drier summer months, they may be down to a trickle.

Middle Emerald Pools:

Beyond the alcove, the trail gets more difficult as it works its way up the slopes and around several interesting boulders to bring you on top of the cliff that you just walked under. The Middle Emerald Pools are the two streams that leisurely flow to form the waterfalls. This section is quite beautiful. (The stream to the left/west is from Heaps Canyon and the stream to the right/north is from Behunin Canyon.)

Upper Emerald Pool:

The hike to Upper Emerald Pool is the most strenuous part of this hike. The final stretch is a hot and sandy quarter mile especially in the hot summer sun, but it is well worth the effort to get to the final pool at the base of the 300-foot cliffs above. The upper pool area is a great area to find a shaded boulder to relax and have lunch. You can often see a faint waterfall coming from the mouth of Heaps Canyon far above. For the return trip, you can either retrace your steps or take the optional western loop back to the Lodge.

Kayenta Trail Alternative Hike:

For a longer alternate start to visit Emerald Pools, you can start at the Grotto (the 6th stop for the shuttle) and hike the Kayenta Trail. This slightly longer trail provides great views of Zion Canyon to the south and in roughly .7 miles, you will reach the junction with the main Emerald Pools Trails.

Emerald Pools Trail Topo Map

Random Notes:

Joe's Spin:

The Emerald Pools Trail is a perfect short and easy hike through some classic Zion scenery. If this is your first visit to Zion, definitely put this one on the "to do" list. But since Zion has seen more and more visitation over the years and this is one of the most popular hikes, be prepared to share the trail with many other people. If you are lucky enough to catch the waterfalls running full blast, it really is a magical experience.

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