Top 5 Zion National Park Day Hikes

Zion National Park is one of the greatest geologic wonders in the world.  Each year, over 4 million people flock to this remote corner of southern Utah to hike the breathtaking trails in this stunning canyon landscape.  We have scoured over 100 miles of trails in Zion to bring you the best of the best.  Jaw-dropping panoramas, astonishing canyon depths, and unlimited adventure is just the beginning of what awaits you. Plan your visit with these Top 5 Day Hikes in Zion National Park.

Trip Difficulty Miles Elevation
Riverside Walk and The Narrows Easy-Moderate 2-10 Minimal
Angel’s Landing Strenuous 5.5 1500 ft
Observation Point Strenuous 8 2000 ft
The Subway (Bottom-Up) Strenuous 7 1000 ft
Canyon Overlook Easy 1 200 ft

 

1. Riverside Walk and The Narrows

zion hiker narrows

The Area

The Narrows via Riverside Walk is the quintessential hike in Zion National Park.  If you had to see one thing in Zion, this is it.  Witness 2000 foot high sheer cliffs, one and a half miles apart at the Visitor Center, converge to a mere 20-30 feet apart in the shadows of Wall Street.  Take a leisurely stroll beneath lush hanging gardens dripping with grasses, maidenhair fern, and explosions of golden columbine.  This northernmost end of Zion Canyon is the perfect place to escape the searing heat of summer.  In the winter, it becomes a dazzling wonderland of snow and ice and sandstone.  Hike the wheelchair-friendly paved path at two miles round trip, or all 10 miles round trip to Big Springs.  All of the hikes are out and back, so when you have had your fill, simply return the way you came.

Trip Overview

The Riverside Walk is a one mile paved trail and the gateway to the Virgin River Narrows.  The first half mile of this path is accessible by wheelchair, and assistance may be required for the last half mile.  The Riverside Walk parallels the Virgin River, winding beneath towering sandstone walls and dripping gardens.  Where the sidewalk ends, the adventure begins and hikers must strike out through the water. Closed-toed shoes and a hiking stick are a must for navigating the river’s current and the boulder-strewn stream bed.  Throughout the first one and a half miles, the “trail” criss-crosses the river across rapids and up on sand banks.  At two miles in, the canyon narrows further and the sand banks disappear at Wall Street.  Explore each new bend to your heart’s content and see what secrets await.

Getting There

From March through November the only access to the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is via the Zion Canyon Shuttle. The Riverside Walk trailhead is located at Shuttle Stop #9, The Temple of Sinawava.  Simply board the shuttle going up canyon at any of the previous 8 stops and ride to the end of the line. During the winter months, it may be possible to take your personal vehicle to the trailhead.   From SH-9, turn north onto the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive at Canyon Junction. The Temple of Sinawava marks the end of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. There is parking at the trailhead.  Restrooms and water filling stations are available at the trailhead as well.

Day Hiking Destinations

Riverside Walk

The Riverside Walk is a two mile paved hike that runs parallel to the river.  It is accessible to wheelchairs with some assistance.  The path stays above the river, so there is no need to get your feet wet.  The trail makes a short climb over a large rockfall just before the end.  Two sets of stairs and multiple marked river access points give hikers a chance to get down to the river.

Mystery Falls

Mystery Falls is a short, but spectacular destination just one half mile from the end of the Riverside Walk.  A small waterfall cascades from Mystery Canyon down a smooth buttress of sandstone.  Here, the river touches both canyon walls and springs weep through hanging gardens of grasses, ferns, and wildflowers. The total round trip to Mystery Falls is 3 miles from the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop.

Orderville Canyon

Round the bend in the canyon at 1.25 miles from the Riverside Walk and the canyon walls are suddenly drawn together at Wall Street.  There is no dry ground in this cavernous corridor some 1500 feet below the canyon rim.  A short distance into Wall Street, and Orderville Canyon cuts in from the east (right).  Explore Orderville’s even tighter and taller narrows to Veiled Falls. The total round trip to Orderville Canyon is 5 miles from the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop.

Big Springs

Big Springs marks the end of the line for day hikers in the narrows.  This 10 mile round trip trek will take you through the darkest heart of The Narrows.  Multiple swims and some boulder scrambling may be encountered along the way.  This can be a long day hike, so allow yourself plenty of return time and be sure to check the shuttle schedule for the last shuttle from the Temple of Sinawava.

Permits, Fees, Reservations…etc.

There are no permits required to day hike The Narrows from the bottom up.  Day hike permits or overnight permits are required for all top-down hikes.

When to do this Trip

The Riverside Walk and the Narrows can be hiked year-round, depending upon conditions.  The Narrows will close if the flows in the Virgin River are above 150 CFS.  Storms and spring runoff often cause closures.  The Riverside Walk remains open even in high flows, but sections can be closed in the winter months due to falling ice.  Summertime is the most popular time to hike these trails because the narrow canyon stays cool in the summer heat.  Winter time is sublime in The Narrows where snow, ice, and solitude abound.  Just be sure to wear waders or wading pants and layer up. Wading boots and other gear can be rented just outside the park at a number of great outfitters.

Hike The Narrows with a Guide

Guided Narrows Hikes are available, and are a stress-free, exciting way to hike this trail. The tour company handles permits, gear, transportation, meals, and provides a professional guide so you can focus 100% on enjoying your adventure. Read more…(fix link)

2. Angel’s Landing

The Area

Perched 1500 feet above the canyon floor, the sweeping 360 degree panorama from Angel’s Landing is a heavenly experience.  Count your blessings if you get to this amazing viewpoint because this trail is not for the faint of heart.  Steep switchbacks that never seem to end and a hair-rising high wire hike up the spine of Angel’s Landing are sure to get your blood pumping.

Trip Overview

The hike begins at The Grotto, across a foot bridge and to the right.  After paralleling the river, the trail begins the moderate climb up the vegetated slope to the cliff. The switchbacks steepen as they wind up the cliff face to the mouth of Refrigerator Canyon.  This cool, dark hallway gives a little reprieve before the real work begins at Walter’s Wiggles.  The 21 steep switchbacks were blasted right out of the side of the canyon wall, making the almost vertical ascent to Scout Lookout possible.  From Scout Lookout, only the bravest hikers continue along the chains down the narrow spine up to Angel’s Landing.  At its narrowest, the trail is a vertigo-inducing 2 feet wide and drops straight off for 1000 feet.   It is one half mile from Scout Lookout to Angel’s Landing with a climb of 500 feet.

Getting There

From March through November the only access to the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is via the Zion Canyon Shuttle. The Angel’s Landing Trail starts across the road from shuttle stop number 6, The Grotto.  During the winter months, it may be possible to take your personal vehicle straight to the trailhead. From SH-9, turn north onto the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive at Canyon Junction and drive 3.4 miles to the Grotto Picnic Area. Restrooms and potable water are available at the trailhead, along with picnic tables.

Day Hiking Destinations

Scout Lookout

A hike to Scout Lookout is a challenging and tremendously rewarding day hike option.  This four mile round trip hike delivers hikers to a jaw-dropping vista of Big Bend suspended 1000 nearly vertical feet above the canyon floor.  The views don’t come cheap. The hike begins with a deceptively easy stroll along the Virgin River. The first challenge is the 400 foot ascent into Refrigerator Canyon. Take the opportunity to catch your breath in preparation for the infamous Walter’s Wiggles.  This series of 21 steep switchbacks ascend up the vertical wall with an average grade of 24%.  All that hard work pays off with the approach to the edge of the abyss at Scout Lookout. From here, hikers can choose to hang out, turn around, or to hike the half mile razorback ridge to Angel’s Landing.

Angel’s Landing

So you want the full monty?  From Scout Lookout, the trail narrows to as tight as 2 feet with plummeting drop offs on either side.  This is not a hike for those with a fear of exposed heights and proper footwear and caution are strongly advised.  Sections of chain anchored directly into the rock guide courageous ascendants to the top of Angel’s Landing and the penultimate panorama of Zion Canyon. Be aware that this is an out and back trail.  Hikers are using the same chain both directions and emotions may be amped up. Use caution and due consideration when passing. Some minor rock scrambling is required and ice may be present during the winter months.

Permits, Fees, Reservations…etc.

As of this writing, there are no permits required to hike Angel’s Landing.

When to do this Trip

The Angel’s Landing Trail can be hiked year-round given the right conditions.  During the winter months, ice may be present on the trail and traction devices may be advised.  It is best to avoid holidays and holiday weekends, if possible, due to the high volume of visitors to the park.  In recent years, Zion National Park staff have made efforts to control crowding on the Angel’s Landing Trail on these busy dates.  As a general rule, earlier is better to beat the crowds at any time of year.

Hike Angel’s Landing with a Guide

Guided Angel’s Landing Day Hikes are available, and are a stress-free, exciting way to hike this trail. The tour company handles permits, gear, transportation, meals, and provides a professional guide so you can focus 100% on enjoying your adventure. Read more…(fix link)

3. Observation Point

The Area

Looking for awe-inspiring views without the tightrope walk and the crowds of Angel’s Landing? Buckle up for a trek to Observation Point.  The eight mile round-trip hike from the East Rim and Weeping Rock trailhead showcases stunning canyon panoramas and a peek into the slickrock wilderness of East Zion. Perched 700 feet above Angel’s Landing, hikers can take in the entirety of Zion Canyon from Observation Point.  Hey, I can see my car from here!

Trip Overview

The East Rim Trail begins on the floor of Zion Canyon and quickly ascends via a series of steep switchbacks to the mouth of Echo Canyon.  This hidden gem of Zion National Park is tucked beneath the sheer monolith of Cable Mountain.  Hikers catch glimpses into the tortuous wonderland of Lower Echo Canyon’s narrows.  Out of the darkness and into the light the trail emerges on the edge of the slickrock wilderness of Zion’s east side.  At the two mile mark, the East Rim Trail splits off into a faint track in the wild yonder.Continue the climb up and around the corner to the open expanses of Zion Canyon.  Three long switchbacks offer unimpeded views falling away into the canyon on their way to the top of the plateau.  Catch your breath on the fairly level half mile approach to the viewpoint.

Getting There

From March through November the only access to the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is via the Zion Canyon Shuttle.  Depart the shuttle bus at stop number 7 (Weeping Rock) to access the trailhead.  During the winter months it is possible to drive your personal vehicle directly to the trailhead.  From SH-9, turn north onto the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive at Canyon Junction and drive 4.5 miles to the Weeping Rock/ East Rim Trail parking area.  Pit toilets are available at the trailhead.  As of this writing, the East Rim Trail from the Weeping Rock Trailhead is closed from an April 2019 rock slide. Check the Zion National Park website for the  latest updates and trail conditions. 

Day Hiking Options

Echo Canyon

Echo Canyon makes a great 2 mile round trip destination.  After the initial climb above the canyon floor the trail levels out and makes a turn into a hidden and magical world.  Echo Canyon is bound by the towering cliffs of Cable Mountain and rippling walls of ancient sand dunes frozen in time.  Peek over the edge into the smoothly sculpted bowls of Echo Canyon’s lower narrows.  Relax in the quiet shaded splendor while you contemplate the throngs of moss and lichen and the trailing call of the canyon wren.

Approach from East Mesa

Via a series of rocky backroads, it is possible to hike to Observation Point with minimal elevation gain across the forested plateau top.  At 7 miles round trip, this option is not as physically challenging as starting from the canyon floor, but some planning and logistics are necessary.  High clearance is recommended to reach the parking area.  It is not recommended to drive these remote back roads during wet conditions.

Permits, Fees, Reservations…etc.

No permits are required to day hike to Observation Point.  A permit must be obtained for any overnight trip in Zion National Park.  Read more on the Backpacking Information page.

When to do this Trip

The Observation Point Trail can be hiked year-round.  The best time to hike this trail is during the spring and fall.  Ice may be present on the trail during the winter months, so check conditions and bring appropriate footwear.  It is best to hike this trail in the early morning during the summer months.  Much of the trail is exposed to the harsh summer sun and it can get hot by mid morning.  Check weather conditions before you go and avoid hiking this trail if there is a threat of thunderstorms.

Hike Observation Point with a Guide

Guided Observation Point Day Hikes are available, and are a stress-free, exciting way to hike this trail. The tour company handles permits, gear, transportation, meals, and provides a professional guide so you can focus 100% on enjoying your adventure. Read more…(fix link)

4. The Subway (Bottom-Up)

The Area

If you have done any research on Zion National Park, then you have likely heard of the Subway.  This magical tunnel in the desert has gained unparalleled popularity and is thus only accessible by permit.  A mere 80 people per day have the privilege of hiking into this spectacular destination.  If you are one of the lucky few, be prepared for a full day hike into the remote back country on the western side of Zion National Park.  Descend into the canyon of Left Fork of North Creek and splash through its cascading waterfalls to the canyon destination of a lifetime.

Trip Overview

From the Left Fork trailhead, a half mile hike over fairly level ground will deliver you to the cliffs overlooking the Left Fork of North Creek.  Be careful on the steep, loose descent into the canyon floor 400 feet below, and be sure to take note of your return exit point.  The trail follows in and along Left Fork, skipping over boulders and often descending into the stream bed.  Don’t bother taking care to keep your feet dry.  At two miles in, this unassuming canyon begins to hint at wonderful things to come. A sharp right bend in the stream signals the start of the pièce de résistance, the Subway.  The two walls have been carved by water to resemble a subway tube riddled with potholes, emerald pools and weeping gardens.  Take your time here and hike out the way you came.

Getting There

From SH-9 turn north onto the Kolob Terrace Road in the small town of Virgin, UT.  From the turnoff it is 8.3 miles to the parking area on the right (east) side of the road.

Permits, Fees, Reservations…etc.

A permit is required to hike the Subway.  Permits may be obtained via an online lottery system.

When to do this Trip

The Subway can be hiked year-round, but is best hiked during the spring and fall.  Fall can be a particularly amazing time of year to attempt this hike.  Check weather conditions before you go.  Inclement weather can make this a dangerous place to be, especially when there is a threat of heavy rain.

 

 

5. Canyon Overlook

The Area

The Canyon Overlook Trail is, without a doubt, the best bang for your buck trail with a view in Zion National Park.  At 1 mile round trip it is a low investment with high rewards skirting along cliff edges and through caves  to an epic view of the Temples and Towers of the Virgin on Zion’s western flank.  Slickrock scrambling opportunities and picturesque sunrises and sunsets await.

Trip Overview

The Canyon Overlook Trail starts at the eastern entrance to the Zion/Mt. Carmel Tunnel, a 1.1 mile long engineering marvel.  Follow steps carved into the rock up the cliff face and follow the railing along the narrow edge of the precipitous Pine Creek Canyon.  Take a look down into the serpentine corridors of Pine Creek, a worthy canyoneering destination.  Soon you will cross the rickety bridge into a fern filled cave.  From the cave, continue along the trail on narrow sandstone shelves to the final approach to the Canyon Overlook.  Take your time (and plenty of photos) at this breathtaking overlook.  Listen for the trickle of Pine Creek 1000 feet below and watch cars wind up the the western entrance to the tunnel.  Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep.  They often hang out on this side of the park.  When you’ve had your fill, return the way you came.

Getting There

The Canyon Overlook Trail starts just east of the Zion/Mt. Carmel Tunnel and is easy to locate just east of the ranger kiosk.  But nothing easy comes without a price.  The shuttles in Zion Canyon do not go to the tunnel or the east side of the park, so the only way to access this trail is by personal vehicle.  Parking is extremely limited in the parking area (9 regular spaces and 1 handicap accessible space) directly across from the trailhead.  There is additional parking at turnouts along the road to the east.  Be sure to only use authorized turnouts that are not marked with no parking signs.  Zion National Park has little tolerance for “creative parking.”  Use caution when trying to wiggle into a parking space and watch out for oncoming traffic.

Nearby Day Hikes

If parking for the Canyon Overlook Trail is already full, there are tons of great hikes nearby.  Drop into Clear Creek and explore to your heart’s content without ever being too far from the road.  Head back down through the tunnel into East Canyon and discover hidden swimming holes along lower Pine Creek.  Or head over to Canyon Junction to hike along the Pa’rus Trail to the Human History Museum, or all 1.8 miles to the Visitor Center.  Catch a shuttle at either location back to Canyon Junction.

Permits, Fees, Reservations…etc.

There are no permits required to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail.

When to do this Trip

The Canyon Overlook Trail is accessible year round.  There may be ice or snow present on the trail in the winter months.  If you can get up early enough, bring a headlamp and witness one of the best sunrises anywhere in Southern Utah.

Hike Zion National Park with a Guide

Guided Zion National Park hiking tours are available, and are a stress-free, exciting way to experience this awe-inspiring place. The tour company handles permits, gear, transportation, meals, and provides a professional guide so you can focus 100% on enjoying your adventure. Read more…(fix link)

Wildland Trekking Hiking Adventures

Wildland Trekking ToursAs the world’s premier hiking and trekking company, Wildland believes in connecting people to fantastic environments in amazing ways. Zion National Park offers an array of incredible hiking and trekking experiences. Wildland Trekking provides 9 different multi-day hiking and backpacking adventures in the stunning Southern Utah. Read more about our Zion National Park trips.

To learn more about our guided backpacking trips and all of our award-winning hiking vacations, please visit our website or connect with one of our Adventure Consultants: 800-715-HIKE

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Top 5 Zion National Park Day Hikes
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Top 5 Zion National Park Day Hikes
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Zion National Park is a stunningly beautiful array of colorful canyons and soaring cliffs. Start planning your trip with this list of the best trails that Zion National Park has to offer.
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The Wildland Trekking Company
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Adam Reimer

Adam grew up fishing, hunting, hiking, and camping in the deep pine woods of East Texas. At Baylor University he serendipitously stumbled into the Environmental Science building after leaving the rock gym and began what would become a decade long career in environmental work. He has worked as a biologist across the country, from bushwhacking through Appalachia restoring native Brook Trout, basking in the island life with sea turtles on the Texas Gulf Coast, to running the rivers with the salmon of Northern California. He has also spent time guiding fishing and hunting trips on the Texas coast. He maintains a passion for fishing, hiking, hunting, and biking. The thing he is perhaps most passionate about is sharing the beauty of the wild world and tuning in to its rhythms.