Explore the Stunning Scenery of Zion National Park on These Top Hikes
The trails on our moderate trails list all have larger elevation gains than the above trails and cover distances ranging from one to 7.6 miles. The trails generally offer amazing views of the Zion Canyon and the park’s stunning natural beauty.
They are not recommended for those with very young children, the elderly or those with physical limitations. They could be great options for families traveling with older kids though! If you’re looking to add a little adventure to your trip without the need for formal wilderness skills or training, these trails provide a great option.
Proper planning does become more important on these hikes, however, as does knowing your physical limitations. Be sure to wear proper footwear and bring a good supply of water and snacks.
Easily accessible from the Visitor Center (Shuttle Stop #1), Watchman Trail begins across the road and up the canyon (just follow the river to the trailhead). The trail is relatively short — about three miles round trip — and offers nice views of the famous mountain, The Watchman (although it does not reach the top), and the Visitor Center Complex above.
The trail isn’t the most exciting one in the park and it doesn’t have the most amazing views, but it is pleasant, especially in the fall or spring. It also offers the benefit of often being less crowded than the more popular trails. Most older kids could do this trail. However, pay close attention as there are several drop-offs along cliff edges where you need to be careful.
Do note that the entire trail is in the sun, so you’ll want to make sure to bring sunscreen and would be better off doing the hike early in the morning when this section of the canyon is shaded, or on a cloudy day.
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Canyon Overlook Trail
The Canyon Overlook Trail is a Zion National Park classic. If you are visiting the park for the first time, you should certainly consider this trail. The hike is about one-mile and takes less than an hour to complete.
Driving to the trailhead is half the fun if you have your own car. You’ll follow Route 9 east which takes you through the landmark Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel and offers stunning views of the Upper East Canyon. If you’re driving from the east entrance of the park, the trailhead is located just before the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel.
The hike is short and relatively easy. You’ll pass through a large cave and can then enjoy one of the best photography spots in the park: a stunning view of the main section of Zion Canyon. This hike isn’t strenuous at all, but we’ve included it in the moderate section because of several exposed spots along the trail which pose a risk of falling. As always, before hiking in Zion (or any park), make sure someone knows your plans for the day and check back in after you complete your hike.
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This hike isn’t the most enjoyable hike in the park, as the path is very sandy and much of the trail is exposed to the hot sun during the day. It is also the main trail for guided horseback riding trips through the park from March to October which can add to the unpleasantness. However, it offers scenic views of an ancient rockslide and the Court of the Patriarchs.
You can also access the Emerald Pools via a short spur trail. There are eastern and western loop sections of the trail, with both offering unique views. The eastern section is rocky and features interesting boulders and rock features as well as nice views of the main section of the canyon. Alternatively, the western loop offers views of the ancient landslide.
Due to the often intense summer heat on this trail, summer hiking isn’t recommended, but spring and fall can be pleasant. Horseback riding is one of the best ways to experience this trail if you are looking for a break from all of the hiking you’ve been doing as you worked your way through this list! To get here, take the shuttle to Zion Lodge (Shuttle Stop #5). The hike is 7.6 miles round trip and takes approximately five hours.