Explore the desert on the best hiking trails in Zion National Park

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When the weather on most hiking trails starts to turn cold, the desert is barely reaching cruising speed. If we is the perfect spot in the fall, with highs in the 70s, lows in the 40s and an average of just two weeks of rain in September, October and November combined. The hike is also good – with five distinct trail regions in the park, you’ll have no trouble finding a spot even when the park is crowded. From beginner-friendly canyon hikes to a 50 mile trek across the park’s highest terrain, these are Zion’s best trails.

Day hikes in Sion

Zion Angel’s Landing National Park (Photo: Spondylolithesis / iStock via Getty Images)

Whether you are at basic camping with all the luxuries you can fit in your car or are passing through for a day, a good day hike can give you a taste of all that Zion has to offer. within a few hours.

The classic hike of Sion: The landing of the angels

This hike is one of the most sought after bucket list spots in the country, and for good reason: between the views at the top and the wild climb to get there, it’s an experience like no other. Located in the southeast corner of the park, the trail climbs up through the Virgin River Gorge, passing 270 million year old layers of Kayenta and Navajo sandstone. At 5 miles round trip the trail isn’t the longest, but 1,488 feet of elevation gain and occasional sections of scrambling make it a strenuous climb. The last section, with a path sometimes only 2 feet wide and with drops of a thousand feet on each side, is not for the faint of heart; but the summit rewards with a 360-degree panorama of green canyons with pinyon and juniper, colorful sandstone cliffs rising thousands of feet above the canyon floor, and the occasional reflection of a distant river. Downside: A classic like this comes with a crowd. From March 2022, hikers will be chosen by lot.

Best hike for kids: Double arch alcove

Zion’s Kolob Canyons area is less visited than the rest of the park, but no less spectacular. This 5.2-mile round-trip crosses a small cove, walks through red rock canyons, and ends with a pair of sandstone arches and hanging gardens. And all of this comes with a change in altitude gentle enough for the whole family to enjoy. The trail begins by following Taylor Creek, periodically jumping over the water, before heading into a real red rock canyon about a mile away. stick to miles 1.1 and 2.1.

Quick stop: Walk along the river

Teenage girls hiking in the mountains on summer vacation. Backpackers on hiking trail in Utah. Friends enjoying a summer trip. Copy space. Zion National Park, Utah, United States (Photo: MargaretW / iStock via Getty Images)

The Riverside Walk is filled with Hanging Gardens, a desert swamp, the Virgin River, and even a brief stretch of the Narrows (the thinnest part of the park’s entire canyon system), all over just 3 , 2 km. The trail begins at the Sinawava Temple Shuttle Stop and then winds along the east bank of the Virgin River to the edge of the Strait. The hanging gardens on the sandstone cliffs along the path remain green with water from the “infiltration line”, the meeting point between the porous sandstone of the Navajo Formation and the denser shale of the Kayenta Formation. Bonus: The trail is wheelchair accessible.

Weekend nights in Sion

The Narrows in Zion National Park is a section of canyon on the North Fork of the Virgin River. The Narrows hike is one of the best hikes on the Colorado Plateau. (Photo: Bas Vermolen / Moment via Getty Images)

Ready to spend a night in the desert? Zion has a lot of options. Whether you want to spend two days following a slot canyon or tracing the edge of a mesa above, there is no shortage of captivating weekends here.

Slot Canyon Experience: The narrow ones

This 16-mile point-to-point crosses one of the most impressive river gorges on the planet. With 2,000 foot sandstone walls on either side, sometimes with only 20 feet between them, it’s a real slot canyon. Much of the hike takes place in the Virgin River itself, as there is no shoreline or sandbanks between the canyon walls, although in other places the gorge widens. enough to accommodate small trees and hanging gardens. There are 12 camping pitches in the canyon (wilderness permit required); experienced hikers can use the extra time saved by making the narrow passages like an overnight hike rather than a long day to explore the side canyons and springs. Prepare to wade or even swim significant sections of the canyon and always check the forecast before heading there to avoid flash floods.

Hiking along the canyon: West Rim Trail

Meadows, forests, open expanses of sandstone, canyon descents: this weekend itinerary is full of it all. After starting in woods often frequented by deer, the path enters a meadow (filled with wild flowers in spring and summer). The first campsites on the route are located here, around kilometer 5. The next section climbs back into the forest before emerging into the highlands of the Horse Pasture Plateau, with a view of the rest of the park’s mesas, canyons, and red rock towers. At mile 9, the road descends from the eastern edge of the plateau and crosses a section of open-pit rock before descending into Refrigerator Canyon, then descending to the floor of Zion Canyon. The 14.6 mile point-to-point ends at the Grotto trailhead.

Multi-day trips to Sion

Various hikes. trail systems through Zion National Park in Utah. (Photo: Chris LaBasco / iStock via Getty Images)

When a weekend isn’t enough or you’re finally vacationing and ready to spend a week deep in the desert and out of reach, experience one of these long, adventurous routes through Zion National Park. .

Total crossing: Lee Pass to East Rim

Do you have a week and want to see the whole park? Travel north to south at this 47 mile point to point. From Lee Pass, at the north end of the park, cross the Kolob Canyons and the Hop Valley. After this expanse of red rock canyons and hidden hanging gardens, climb to the highest points in the park (over 7,000 feet) by connecting to the West Rim Trail. This stretch goes through a place called Little Siberia which has snow from November to May. Return to the sandstone formations below with a steep descent over narrow cliffside switchbacks to Zion Canyon. The trail ends on the east bank with a climb past a slot canyon waterfall at Jolly Gulch.


Overnight camping in the park requires a wilderness permit ($ 15 for 1-2 people, $ 20 for 3-7 and $ 25 for 8-12), half of which can be booked in advance. The other half of the permits available are first come, first served, and can be obtained at visitor centers inside the park.

Hiking Tips for Zion National Park

Look at the weather forecast.

Especially in slot canyons like narrow ones, flash floods are a serious risk. Check the weather for the area you will be walking in and the upstream watersheds for several days around your scheduled hike time, and check out our canyoning guide to know what to look for.

Bring plenty of water.

On any desert trek, water is your most precious resource. Many hikes in Sion do not have water sources (or the water sources are home to toxic algae blooms), so be prepared to carry a lot of water. It’s something you don’t want to skimp on, however; bringing enough water could mean life or death in the Zion hinterland.

If you are going to The Narrows, be sure to waterproof your gear.

The Narrows and several other similar slot canyons require wading or even swimming. Double up your sleeping bag, line your bag with a trash bag, and make sure your dry bags and other waterproof systems are working before you head out into the backcountry.

Tell someone where you are going.

This is important for any hike, but the desert can be especially unforgiving for stranded backpackers. Make sure someone you trust knows where you are going and when you expect to be back.

Bring warm layers.

In autumn and spring, even the valleys of Zion can easily drop below freezing, despite the daytime temperatures of the 70s. Bring warm layers and a sleeping bag rated at at least 30 degrees.

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