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12 Best Hikes in Zion National Park

Want to find the best hikes in Zion National Park? Check out these 12 amazing hikes ranked and our top recommendations to avoid crowds!

Let me start by saying, Zion is worth the hype! Hiking in Zion National Park is something everyone can enjoy due to the easy access and variety of trails.

Want an epic adventure? Don’t miss The Subway! Want something amazing but easy? The Canyon Overlook has your name all over it!

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Best Hikes in Zion National Park
Let me start by saying, Zion is worth the hype! Hiking in Zion National Park is something everyone can enjoy due to the easy access and variety of trails. Read this blog to find the best Zion hike for you!

We’ve done nearly all the hikes in Zion’s Main Canyon plus Kolob Canyon, and Kolob Terrace Road. Here’s a complete guide to the best Zion hikes to help you make the most of your National Park adventure!

Visiting Zion? Don’t forget to check out these 12 awesome hikes nearby in St George.

What’s the best hike in Zion (if you have to pick one)?

Easily The Subway [Top-Down]! You do need a permit for this hike from May-September though so if you can’t get a permit, Angel’s Landing is the next best thing!

What’s the best easy hike in Zion?

The Canyon Overlook Trail is the greatest 1-mile hike you’ll ever do! Make sure you go early to avoid crowds. For a slightly longer easy hike is the Middle Fork of Kolob Canyon.

What’s the best uncrowded Zion hike?

If you want to escape crowds, check out hikes on the outskirts of the national park. Our top picks would be Middle Fork of Kolob Canyon (5 miles) or Observation Point via East Mesa (7 miles)!

Should I hike the Narrows?

In our opinion…no…UNLESS, it’s off-season (October – April). Summertime is just way too crowded for the work/reward ratio. That being said, we do encourage advanced hikers to take on the Top-Down rote which is about 15 miles and requires a shuttle.

Best Time to Hike in Zion

Hiking in Zion National Park is a year-round adventure! Almost all of the trails in the park are likable even in the wintertime, you just have to keep an eye on the weather to make sure there’s no bad weather rolling through.

The best time of year to visit Zion N.P. depends on the hiker.

Late September or early October presents an ideal window for exploring the Subway and the Narrows, offering warmer water temperatures and fewer crowds. Nevertheless, these hikes are viable throughout the year.

For trails outside the river-deep canyons, I suggest planning visits between mid-March and mid-April when the weather is pleasant, and the crowds are yet to surge.

To minimize crowds and enjoy the freedom of driving in the Main Canyon, consider a visit in late February.

For tips on visiting Zion, a 1 day itinerary, and info on where to eat, stay, and camp, click here and read our Ultimate Guide to Zion.

Getting To Trailheads in Zion

Accessing Zion involves unique logistics as the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, the primary route, is closed to private vehicles during the shuttle operating months. The shuttle runs from March to November, with weekend services in February and during the last week of December.

Essentially, for a significant part of the year, car access to several trailheads is restricted, although not all. This restriction is a compelling reason why winter visits to Zion can be particularly enjoyable!

Click here for current info on using the Zion shuttle system & to see if tickets are required.

Best Hikes In Zion National Park

1 | Riverside Walk

Riverside Walk at the Temple of Sinawava, Zion
Riverside Walk at the Temple of Sinawava

Distance: 2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Change: 0 feet
Access Trailhead: Shuttle Stop #10 Temple of Sinawava
Difficulty: Easy

The Riverside Walk is just the first mile of the Narrows that’s paved. I frankly don’t think this walk is worthwhile in the summertime because it gets so crowded it just feels like a zoo, not a hike. In the spring and winter, this hike can be spectacular with blossoming flowers or snow on the ground.

2 | Emerald Pools

Distance: 3 miles roundtrip
Elevation Change: 600 feet
Access Trailhead: Shuttle Stop #5 Zion Lodge
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Emerald Pools trail is an easy-to-moderate loop hike to some small vivid pools among the trees. For a shorter hike, you can just go to the Lower Pools or you can add another mile and a little more elevation gain if you want to go to the Upper Pools and make it a loop, though the Upper Pools are not very rewarding. Due to the ease of the hike, it can be super crowded and not very rewarding.

3 | Weeping Rock + Hidden Canyon

Hidden Canyon, Zion NP

Distance: 2.5 miles roundtrip (or .8 for just Weeping Rock)
Elevation Change: 850 feet (100 feet for just Weeping Rock)
Access Trailhead: Shuttle Stop #7 Weeping Rock
Difficulty: Moderate (Easy for just Weeping Rock)

Unfortunately, this hike is closed due to rock fall.

Weeping Rock is a short, steep trail that brings you to—you guessed it, a weeping rock that has a constant mini waterfall seeping down the cliff. While it’s still a lovely trail, we highly recommend that you continue past the rock to add on Hidden Canyon.

Hidden Canyon, which shares a start with Observation Point, brings you up steep switchbacks and past a few sheer sections along the cliff with chains to hold on to.

In a very reasonable distance, you reach very unique views of Big Bend before containing into a condensed anyon.

This canyon is filled with fun scrambling over boulders and trees which makes it a really fun hike for families.

4 | Watchman Trail

Best campground Zion, Utah, Watchman
Sleep right under the towering red rocks of Zion, Utah at Watchman Campground

Distance: 3 miles roundtrip
Elevation Change: 600 feet
Access Trailhead: Shuttle Stop #1 [START] Zion Visitor Center
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Though this trail is not the best of Zion, I think the Watchman trail is a bit underrated given the panoramic views of Zion. Watchman is a 3.3-mile hike to some gorgeous views and is rarely crowded!

Related: 10 Best Campgrounds in Utah

5 | Northgate Peaks via Kolob Terrace

Distance: 4-6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Change: 1100 feet
Access Trailhead: Wildcat Canyon Trailhead
Difficulty: Moderate or Strenuous

Off of Kolob Terrace Road, there’s more than just The Subway to hike. From the same trailhead as The Subway, you’ll find an alternative route that goes up, not down. This hike is a flat, easy 2-mile trail that takes you to a rocky outcrop that gives you great panoramic views of Northgate Peaks.

From here you can turn back or you can tack on one or both Northgate Summit trails, each 1 more mile respectively. Though the distance may sound easy, the trail grade suddenly gets strenuous. These ascents primarily involve scrambling up rock scree slopes with cairns to guide the way.

We tried to hike the East Peak in the winter of 2021 and despite our rock climbing experience, we struggled to find a doable route to the summit and ended up turning back.

Needless to say, only take on the peaks if you’re ready for an adventure. If you decide not to, the viewpoint is beautiful as well.

Grab our FREE Fit To Hike program + hiking pack list & trail guides:

Click here to access our free Hiking Fitness program. With it, you’ll also get access to a printable hiking pack list and our hiking trail guides, plus additional pack lists and road trip guides. Yep, it’s all for free!

6 | Lamb’s Knoll

Distance: 1-2 miles roundtrip (plus rappelling time)
Elevation Change: 200 feet
Access Trailhead: Lambs Knoll Climbing Area
Difficulty: Easy

The Riverside Walk is just the first mile of the narrows that’s paved. I frankly don’t think this walk is worthwhile in the summertime because it gets so crowded it just feels like a zoo, not a hike. In the spring and winter, this hike can be spectacular with blossoming flowers or snow on the ground.

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of this under-the-radar Zion hike. Lamb’s Knoll is not much of a hike, rather, it’s more well known for its great rock climbing in the St George area.

Here’s the real draw of hiking at Lambs Knoll, there’s an incredible beginner rappelling route. You can hire one of the many climbing guides in the area to take you on the adventure or you can guide yourself. Important: Only take on this rappelling adventure by yourself if you have rock climbing experience.

Even if you don’t want to rappel, Lambs Knoll is still worth the drive to explore the 1 mile of narrow canyon walls and lush trees.

7 | The Narrows

Distance: 9 miles roundtrip
Elevation Change: 700 feet
Access Trailhead: Shuttle Stop #10 Temple of Sinawava
Difficulty: Strenuous

The Narrows is, like it sounds, a narrow slot canyon that involves hiking in the stream bed of the Virgin River.

We did The Narrows this past Christmas Day and loved it! You want to get all the gear to stay warm from Zion Outfitters! Even with the dry suit and wetsuit socks, it was a bit chilly.

If you’re going to hike The Narrows, make sure you do it in the off-season because summer is crazy crowded.

Zion Narrows Hike
Freezing our toes off in the cold March waters but having a good time anyway

The Narrows can be hiked year-round with proper gear. In the summer and fall, you can get by with just water shoes/sandals. 

We learned the hard way that you need to have special gear in the winter, after attempting to rock sandals on a sunny day in March. Turns out the water is still icy cold.

In the winter and spring, you’ll want neoprene socks, booties, and a drysuit, all of which can be rented from Zion Outfitters in town.

No permit is required to hike this out-and-back to Big Springs but if you want to mix things up a bit and add some adventure, you can also thru-hike the Narrows Top-Down from the Zion Narrows Upper Trailhead.

To sum up, Top-Down requires paying for a shuttle service, wading/swimming through pools, and it’s an 18-mile hike.

This is an adventure that is on our bucket list and we’ll write more eventually. Until then, you can learn more about this hike here. 

Related: Ultimate Guide to Bryce Canyon [+ Best Hikes]

8 | Middle Fork of Kolob Canyon

Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Change: 700 feet
Access Trailhead: Middle Fork Trailhead (accessed via Interstate 15)
Difficulty: Moderate

Kolob Canyon is a little-known western region of Zion National Park, accessed right off of Interstate 15. While the main canyon of Zion is often packed with people year-round, this side is secluded and almost equally as beautiful.

There are many trails on this side of the park, but the Middle Fork trail is definitely the most bang for your buck Zion hike and it’s one of the best St George hikes too.

The hike brings you through tall red cliffs and after 2.5 miles, you reach a vast, open cave. We did this hike in the middle of winter and the icy tones make for a beautiful contrast to the warm tones just like Zion in the winter.

This is one of the better Zion winter hikes due to the flat trail but come prepared with layers and it might be a good idea to wear micro spikes to prevent slips.

Bonus: Timber Creek Overlook

Timber Creek Overlook, Kolob Canyon Zion
Timber Creek Overlook in Zion’s Kolob Canyon

Distance + elevation gain: 1 mile roundtrip
Elevation Change: 250 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Timber Creek Overlook Trailhead

If you’re out in Kolob Canyon, you might as well check out the quick 1-mile roundtrip hike to Timber Creek Overlook, just a 5-minute drive further past Middle Fork Trailhead.

Though the hike is short, the secluded view of Zion’s western cliffs is stunning! 

9 | Canyon Overlook Trail

Distance: 1 mile roundtrip
Elevation Change: 400 feet
Access Trailhead: Canyon Overlook Trailhead (accessed by car only, no shuttle)
Difficulty: Easy

The Canyon Overlook is by far one of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen and it’s hard to believe you only have to hike 1 mile to see it.

This hike is a can’t-miss for any visitor to Zion National Park! Winter is a great time to avoid the crazy crowds at this scenic spot. If you’re visiting in the high season, this is a hike you want to hit at sunrise.

Related: Ultimate Utah Road Trip Itinerary

10 | Angel’s Landing

Distance: 5.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Change: 1,488 feet
Access Trailhead: Shuttle Stop #6 The Grotto
Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous

If you only have time for one hike in Zion, you can’t miss Angel’s Landing. The only exception is if you are terrified of heights but even still, you can just hike to the first viewpoint and turn around there.

Important! Just updated for 2023. You are now required to obtain a permit through in order to hike Angel’s Landing.

This hike has made it into so many “best hikes in the world” lists that you really should see for yourself how fabulous it is. It’s a steep climb and yes, you do have to hold chains for the final mile of the hike, but it’s only scary if you have a fear of heights.

We’ve hiked Angel’s Landing in the winter and in the summer and my conclusion is to push yourself and go for it.

It’s not as bad as it seems and it’s only scary when you look down. Truly, it would be VERY VERY difficult to fall off the cliff edge.

Exposure on Angel's Landing, Zion National Park Hikes
Exposure to Angel’s Landing

11 | Observation Point

Observation Point Hike, Zion National Park
Views looking down on Zion National Park from Observation Point. Photo credit:

Distance: 8.0 miles roundtrip
Elevation Change: 2,148 ft feet
Access Trailhead: Shuttle Stop #7 Weeping Rock
Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous

Unfortunately, this hike is also temporarily closed due to rock fall. Read on to find out an alternative way to hike this.

Observation Point is our family’s second favorite hike in the valley. I think this hike has even better views of Zion than Angel’s Landing.

Aside from the views, this hike has also fewer crowds, exposure, and sheer drops than Angel’s Landing.

The stunning panoramic views at the top make the steep climb up worthwhile.

Via East Mesa (This Trail Is Open)

If you’re looking for even less crowds, there is an alternative way to hike to Observation Point. The East Mesa route is accessed from N Fork County Road on the east side of the National Park near Ponderosa Ranch Resort. This route is 7 miles roundtrip but flatter (700’ elevation change) than the usual route and it brings you to the stunning Observation Point (even while the trail is closed).

Do note that it’s a dirt road to access this trailhead. At times, it can become impassable even to AWD vehicles. You can usually find current updates on AllTrails reviews here.

Related: 5 Best Hikes in Arches National Park, Moab

12 | The Subway

Best Hikes in the World- The Subway

Distance: 9.5 miles for top-down (6.5 miles for bottom-up)
Elevation Change: 1,000 feet rappelled, 400 feet on foot
Access Trailhead: Wildcat Canyon Trailhead and/or Left Fork Trailhead
Difficulty: Strenuous to Very Strenuous

The Subway Top-Down is without a doubt one of the most epic hikes in the world!

What does Top-Down mean? There are two different ways to hike The Subway: Top-Down and Bottom-Up. Bottom-Up is the version where you start at Left Fork trailhead and simply hike out and back to the cave-like section of the canyon.

While Bottom-Up hiking is certainly not bad, the real epic factor comes in when you hike this Top-Down. The Top-Down adventure entails strenuous hiking, route finding, rappelling, and swimming through cold pools of water.

This memorable adventure might seem daunting, but it’s more manageable than it appears. I recommend this hike for seasoned hikers or climbers, though for those familiar with such activities, there’s no need to worry. We confidently took our 11-year-old brother on this trek.

The real challenge with the Top-Down is that you need to snag a permit to hike this.

Click here to learn more about How to Hike the Subway Top-Down.

Hope this blog helped you pick which hike in Zion is best for you! If you have any questions, comment below!

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