9 MUST-DO Easy Hikes in Zion National Park

Last Updated on December 8, 2023

Zion is notorious for its “palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy” day hikes, but there are dozens of easy hikes in Zion that are often outshined by all the longer, difficult trails. Despite being overshadowed though, these beginner-friendly trails are worth a stroll.

When it comes to hiking, struggling for an unspoiled view has always been the cherry on top of my nature sundae. If I need 9+ miles of quad-burning agony to reach a lonesome lake to get away from the rest of society, COUNT ME IN.

After getting out more, I’ve realized shorter trails have their place. Whether you want a relaxing vacation or don’t have the ability to do the harder stuff.

With this round-up of easy hikes in Zion, trust me when I say that these are actually worth your efforts (or lack thereof).

These trails cover multiple areas within Zion, so you can see so much of the park only using these trails. If you pair these with some of the best hikes the park is known for, it makes for a well-rounded Zion itinerary.

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A woman in hiking clothing looking at the camera while standing in front of a scenic canyon vista where granite and red sandstone merge

 

Tips for hiking in Zion National Park

Start your day early. Millions of visitors flock to Zion each year, meaning there will be plenty of comradery on the trails. Your best bet to get the most solitude and ensure a spot on the shuttles is by starting your day extremely early, we’re talking before sunrise. Getting up early also gives you a break from the brutal desert heat if you’re exploring during the summer or early fall.

Stay on the trails. This is crucial to preserve the ecosystem and reduce your footprint on an already heavily trafficked park.

Download an offline map. Although nearly all the hikes in Zion are well-marked, it doesn’t mean getting lost is impossible so a map is a must. I use GAIA GPS Premium. It’s only $40/year and has been invaluable to me in the outdoors since I can save all my maps offline and track my live location. While I rely on it heavily, I always pair it with a paper map for redundancy.

Stay up to date with closures. It’s not uncommon for weather or natural disasters to close trails and roads within the park. Before and during your trip, read the current conditions to stay informed. If you’re visiting during the winter this is especially important.

Bring your National Park Pass. The entrance to Zion is $35 per vehicle and is good for 7 days, but you can save a ton of money with an annual pass! Especially if you’re road-tripping through Utah’s Mighty Five.

Pack the 10 hiking essentials. These are important to get outside safely and comfortably! Read my guide to day hiking essentials here.

Cars aren’t allowed inside Zion National Park. Zion National Park only allows vehicles inside the park when the shuttles aren’t operating (generally during the wintertime). Luckily, there is a free shuttle service that grants you access to all the main trailheads within the park. Park in Springdale and use the respective shuttles to get around.

Take advantage of the free shuttle service. This is the only way to get around and is entirely free.

Follow Leave No Trace Principles. When visiting Zion National Park, or exploring the outdoors in general, following the seven Leave No Trace Principles to help reduce your impact in outdoor spaces is crucial. Now that more people are getting outdoors, vandalism has been on the rise, so let’s please all work together to keep these spaces as we left them.

 

9 Easy Hikes in Zion National Park

Zion National Park has hundreds of miles of hiking trails within its glorious canyon walls, all varying in levels of difficulty. While there are endless options for easy trails, I found these to be the most rewarding and accessible.

Use this easy hikes in Zion map to help you navigate to all the trailheads! For best use, download this map to your smartphone so you can use it offline (instructions here).

 

A tall pointed desert rock formation soars above steep and lush terrain along the Watchman Trail, one of the best easy hikes in Zion

photo by Louis DeVuono on AllTrails

 

1 | The Watchman

Towering above Zion is the 6,545-foot summit of The Watchman. This peak is one of the most recognizable landmarks within the park and this trail gives you an up close and personal look at the stunning fractures and details along its steep walls.

Starting the trail at the South Campground, you’ll follow the Virgin River for around 0.25 miles before cutting into the cliffside. Continue and take in the stratified sandstone layers of Bridge Mountain, the Watchman, and the Towers of the Virgin. At the top, you can even see the entire strip of Springdale.

Most people skip the loop at the end of the trail near the Watchman, but it’s worth adding a small amount of mileage to your hike since these are the best views along the entire trail. Watch out for bighorn sheep as you hike since they frequent this area!

Trail length | 3.3-miles, out-and-back

Difficulty | Moderate

Elevation gain | 368 feet

Trailhead | Shuttle stop #1, Zion Canyon Visitor Center.

 

Canyon walls rise over the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway surrounded by dense desert foliage

 

2 | Canyon Overlook Trail

Angel’s Landing and the Narrows aside, the Canyon Overlook Trail has the best views in the park for the lowest amount of effort. Because of that, the crowds here are astronomical, so I recommend coming here for sunrise to avoid crowds and to snag a rare parking spot.

The hike is mostly flat and has certain portions with a handful of exposed areas, so don’t attempt in poor weather and be careful. The sandstone can be deceptively slippery, especially if you’re not in proper shoes.

Scenic vistas of the Pine Creek slot canyon and the sanctuary of a shaded alcove are two highlights of the trail, just before arriving at the star of the show. From the top, spot cars zigzagging through the Zion Mount-Carmel Highway switchbacks against a backdrop of Bridge Mountain, the East Temple, and the tunnel-like view into Zion Canyon.

Trail length | 1-mile, out-and-back

Difficulty | Moderate

Elevation gain | 163 feet

Trailhead location | Coordinates (37.21339, -112.94066)

 

Desert peaks covered in green foliage expand over a wide canyon in Zion National Park's backcountry where one of the best easy hikes in Zion is tucked away

photo by Matthew Hawkes from AllTrails

 

3 | Northgate Peaks Trail

The Northgate Peaks Trail takes you to some of Zion’s most isolated and dramatic views on its western edge. You’ll see isolated sandstone mountains rise above the Pine Valley and expand into Zion’s vast swathe of untouched wilderness.

It’s an easy-to-follow trail that begins at the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead. There are a few other trails that pass through this area so you’ll want to have your map handy and pay attention to signage. Throughout the trail you’ll be immersed in open woodland, breathing in fresh Ponderosa pines, with brief glimpses of beaming white cliffs along the way.

Start hiking east for around 1.2 miles and continue straight once you reach the junction for the connector trail. A bit further you’ll reach another junction where you’ll go right onto the Northgate Peaks Trail. After about a mile, the trail takes you to the viewpoint between West Northgate Peak and East Northgate Peak, each standing over 7,000 feet.

A jumble of dark volcanic boulders will signal your arrival where you’ll look out to one of the most impressive backcountry views in Zion and pillage your bag for a snack. Look out amongst a painting of rocks and sky where the North Guardian Angel stretches above and the Great West Canyon, whose narrowest section features ‘The Subway’, winds below.

Good to know | If you’re looking at the trail using AllTrails, note that the mileage and difficulty listed involve summiting one of the peaks. I don’t recommend that for beginners. It’s a fine map to follow, but make note that you’ll turn around at the viewpoint instead of following the rest of the trail.

Trail length | 4.2-miles, out-and-back

Difficulty | Easy

Elevation gain | 100 feet

Trailhead location | Coordinates (37.339838 N, -113.075644 W)

a waterfall pours over vibrant orange Navajo sandstone alone the Weeping Rock Trail in Zion National Park

 

 

The Virgin River flows through the tall canyon walls of Zion Canyon, framing a stunning down tunnel view of an easy hikes in Zion

photo by Ken C. from AllTrails

 

4 | Emerald Pools Trail

Zion National Park is notorious for being arid and hot, but the Emerald Pools serve as a refreshing sanctuary away from the heat. Follow a small stream that takes you up to an alcove with small waterfalls pouring into pools forming below.

The entire trail is about 3 miles, but if you don’t want to hike that far, you can opt to hike to just one of the pools on any of their respective routes: Lower, Middle, or Upper. The Middle Emerald Pool isn’t exactly a ‘pool’, per se, but more of like a stream that later turns into a waterfall.

Visiting all three will give you a more complete experience, but any of the pools are worth seeing on their own. The network of trails has lots of variety with some portions being paved, some moderate uphill pushes, and pretty vistas along alcoves. The many different ways you can hike this trail make it customizable to your preferences and abilities.

Good to know | The desert heat is no joke so it may be tempting to wade or swim into the pools. However, the pools are fragile and serve as a very important water source for the wildlife within the park, so getting into them is a huge no-no. The Virgin River offers many different ways to cool down without harming the environment.

Springtime is a great season to hike this trail since the waterfalls will be fuller, rather than just a light sprinkle during the summer months. It’s also best experienced after rainfall or snowfall if it’s safely accessible.

Trail length | 3-miles, out-and-back

Difficulty | Moderate

Elevation gain | 620 feet

Trailhead location | Shuttle stop #5, Zion Lodge.  The trailhead is across the street.

 

a turquoise stream flows through verdant foliage beneath tall canyon walls

photo by Lynne Busby on AllTrails

 

5 | Riverside Walk

Many people overlook the Riverside Walk Trail because it’s technically considered part of the WAY more popular trail, the Narrows, but it’s definitely deserving of a spot on this list of easy hikes in Zion National Park. Since the trail is paved, it’s ideal for those in need of handicap accessibility or if you’re looking for an easy, family-friendly trail.

The walk along the Virgin River takes you to the entrance of the Narrows. Even if you don’t go into the canyon, this spot is definitely worth a photo op.

Begin at the Temple of Sinawava and walk along towering canyon cliffsides till you see the walls narrow and the river feeding further into the canyon, where the Riverside Walk and the Narrows hike officially begins.

If you’re visiting Zion in the summer months, this provides ample shade which is great for getting a break from the heat, but the trail will be very crowded so keep that in mind.

Trail length | 2.2-miles, out-and-back

Difficulty | Easy

Elevation gain | 57 feet

Trailhead location | Shuttle stop #9, Temple of Sinawava.

 

The Virgin River creates a lush oasis flowing through Zion with the towering Watchman peak in the distance. One of the best views among all the easy hikes in Zion

photo by Holly Cechvala on AllTrails

 

6 | Pa’rus Trail

The Pa’rus Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Zion because it’s easy, family-friendly, and paved. It follows the Virgin River and offers really great views of the Watchman.

Another highlight of this trail is the Zion Human History Museum, a must if you’re interested in learning about Zion’s ancient past. If you’re starting the trail from the Visitor Center, there is a small spur trail on the left side past the South Campground that takes you there.

There are seasonal and permanent exhibits that are worth popping into to see artifacts and other items from Zion’s original indigenous settlers.

If you want to rest your legs, picking up an eBike rental and cruising down this paved trail is one of the best afternoon passing times you can experience in Zion.

Trail length | 3.5-miles round trip

Difficulty | Easy

Elevation gain | 50 feet

Trailhead location | Shuttle stop #1, Zion Canyon visitor center. The trail ends at stop #3, Canyon Junction.

 

The roof of an alcove looks out on Navajo sandstone canyon walls and dense trees in the foreground.

photo by Sara Hurst on AllTrails

 

7 | Weeping Rock Trail

The Weeping Rock Trail is a cool and shady hike through the Lower Echo Canyon Area of Zion.  You’ll hike to a large, bowl-shaped alcove where water flows out of the Kayenta sandstone, hence the nickname ‘Weeping Rock‘.

As you pass the ‘weeping walls’ and ‘hanging gardens’, you’ll also enjoy a down-canyon view of the Great White Throne, which is one of the many spectacular rock formations inside Zion. Another draw of this easy Zion hike is the opportunity for wildlife spotting: grazing bighorn sheep, soaring condors, and swallows.

It’s best experienced when the water is flowing and the foliage is at peak vibrancy during the springtime or after a bit of rain in the summer. During dry spells, the “weeping” is kind of lackluster. Note that in the winter months, this trail can be slippery or closed due to ice.

In the summer months, the endemic Hanging Columbine is in full swing along the trail so be on the lookout for the golden and western varieties. The desert heat is brutal during this season, making it an ideal trail for a nice and refreshing cool down.

Trail length | 0.4-miles round trip

Difficulty | Easy

Elevation gain | 98 feet

Trailhead location | Shuttle stop #7, Weeping Rock.

 

Red and brown standstone rock formations tower over verdant trees beneath a cloudy blue sky

photo by Amber Scott on AllTrails

 

8 | Zion Grotto Trail

The Grotto Trail is just across the road from the Emerald Pools Trail. It’s technically a hike, but it’s most commonly used as a link between shuttle stops.

It connects the Zion Lodge to the Grotto picnic area and parallels the road for most of the way. For a more fulfilling route, you can start at the Grotto, hike down to the Zion Lodge, cross the river to Emerald Pools, then follow the Kayenta Trail back to the Grotto picnic area.

This hike is ironically great for spotting wildlife, so make sure you pack your binoculars!

Trail length | 1-mile round trip

Difficulty | Easy

Elevation gain | 450 feet

Trailhead location | Shuttle stop #5, Zion Lodge, or #6 the Grotto.

 

9 | Timber Creek Overlook Trail

To escape the crowds of Zion Canyon, but still experience one of the park’s legendary sunsets, the Timber Creek Overlook Trail is the ideal choice.

Nestled in the Kolob Canyon section of Zion, this area is underrated and gets a fraction of the foot traffic, but boasts the same palette of colors painting over beautiful vistas. The colors are best seen during sunset.

Along the ridge, you’ll take in views of Kolob Canyon, Kolob Terrace, and the Pine Valley Mountains up to a spectacular viewpoint. On clear days, you can see as far as Mt. Trumbull, which rests on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Among towering sandstone rock formations, you’ll spot a sea of dense green pines covering the valley floor.

During the spring and summer months, the trail puts on an impressive display of colorful desert wildflowers. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot rare, colorful lizards during your stroll to the viewpoint.

Trail length | 1-mile round trip

Difficulty | Easy

Elevation gain | 100 feet

Trailhead location | Coordinates (37.43543, -113.20182)

 

Quick List of the Best Easy Hikes in Zion National Park

The Watchman

Canyon Overlook

Northgate Peaks

Emerald Pools

Riverside Walk

Pa’rus Trail

Weeping Rock

Zion Grotto

Timber Creek Overlook

 

Frequently asked questions about the Easy Hikes in Zion

What is the shortest/easiest hike in Zion National Park? The Pa’rus Trail is the easiest hike in Zion. The entire trail is paved and there is no shuttle required to get to the trailhead, making it a convenient option. You can hike in as far as you like and make the trail as short or as long as you’d like.

Is Zion National Park good for beginner hikers? Zion is an ideal park for any hiking level since it offers a wide variety of trail types and varying difficulties. From backpacking the West Rim Trail to cooling down along the Emerald Pools trail, any hiker will enjoy a visit to Zion.

Can you enjoy Zion without hiking? Absolutely! There are many scenic viewpoints and drives to take in that don’t require you to lace up your hiking boots.

 

What To Pack For These Easy Hikes in Zion

Sun Protection | Skin protection is #1 in the outdoors! I am very sunburn-prone so I always pack sunscreena sun hat, and wear a long-sleeved hiking top to help protect my arms.

Plenty of water | The general rule of thumb is 500ml of water per hour of hiking but always pack extra.

Comfortable shoes | While none of these hikes are technical or difficult, you want something comfortable on your feet since you’ll likely be walking most of the day. These are my favorite quality hiking boots.

Wool socks | I almost exclusively hike in these socks. They’re made of wool which helps wick away sweat and prevents blisters.

Navigation | These trails are well-marked and straightforward, but make sure you have a trail map and some type of offline navigation like the GAIA App on your phone.

10 hiking essentials | I cover everything you need for day hiking in this post! Use my gear guide to make sure you have the proper gear to be comfortable and confident while exploring these easy hikes in Zion.

 


 

If you’re planning a trip to Zion, feel free to reach out for any additional advice and travel tips. Otherwise, browse my other guides for Zion National Park to help you plan your trip:

ULTIMATE 2 Days In Zion National Park Itinerary

How To Conquer The Narrows Hike In Zion National Park (Complete Guide)

The Only Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary You Need

 


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