Zion National Park – Emerald Pools
No visit to Zion National Park is complete without a visit to one of it’s most popular locations, the Emerald Pools. The Emerald Pools are a series of small, secluded pools that are fed by gently flowing waterfalls from the canyon above. This trail is often crowded during the peak season due to it’s natural beauty and accessibility, but don’t let that deter you from experiencing this treasure for yourself.
The Emerald Pools Trail begins at the trailhead across the footbridge from the Zion Lodge. The Zion Lodge is the 5th stop on the Zion Canyon Shuttle. There’s a restaurant, small café, and restrooms here, making it the perfect place to begin and end your hike. For a slightly longer, less crowded, and more scenic alternate route you can take the Kayenta Trail and start or end your hike at the Grotto, the 6th stop on the Zion Canyon Shuttle.
The lower pools trail is a gently sloping, partially shaded, and well maintained trail. It’s about a six-tenths of a mile stroll that starts off along the bank of the Virgin River before heading further into the side of the canyon beneath the cottonwood trees. This section of the trail is often crowded as it is easily accessible and a perfect way for families with young children, the elderly, and the disabled to experience firsthand the incredible beauty that is Zion National Park. The trail leads to the first of the Emerald Pools, where water gently cascades off of the curved cliff face above. The path leads under the rim of the cliff and takes you behind the shimmering falls that will sparkle with little rainbows when the sun catches them at the right angle. This is one of the most beautiful places in Zion National Park, even in the summer months, when the water falls have slowed to a trickle.
After passing the lower pools you’ll come to an intersection with the upper pools trail. The middle pools are a short tenth of a mile from here and climb another 80 feet or so with the aid of some steps that have been carved into the rock. You can continue to follow this trail back down to the Zion Lodge or head back to the intersection with the upper pools trail.
The remaining quarter mile to the upper pools is steeper, rugged, and more strenuous then the previous sections, but by no means difficult. The crowds tend to thin out here, as many choose not to venture up to the upper pools. The upper pools have the deepest of the Emerald Pools and some nice shaded areas to break for lunch in. During the winter and spring seasons there’s a very pretty 300 foot waterfall that flows down from Heaps Canyon above, although this is usually dried up during the summer months.
From here you can backtrack down the Emerald Pools trail and head back to the Zion Lodge, or choose to take an alternate route along the Kayenta Trail and head up to the Grotto. The Kayenta trail is a relatively easy stroll as it follows along the bank of the Virgin River for about a mile before reaching the Grotto and the junction with the West Rim Trail. It is far less crowded than the Emerald Pools trail and offers some spectacular views of the river, canyon, and surrounding cliff faces.
Overall: One of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park because of it’s natural beauty and accessibility. Shouldn’t be missed.
The Emerald Pools trail is a perfect intro to the beauty of Zion National Park. I chose to do this as my first hike in Zion and was not disappointed. Until next time. Namaste!
Here’s some more pictures from my Emerald Pools adventure in Zion National Park