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If you’re looking for an easy stroll in the outdoors with incredible views and an abundance of lush vegetation, Emerald Pools is the hike for you. The trail is well paved and the minimal elevation gain can be accomplished by anyone. Hiking Emerald Pools is a great chance to get outside and enjoy a taste of what Zion has to offer.
Time Required: 1-2 Hours
Trailhead: Zion Lodge
Distance: 3.5km (2 miles) round trip
Highest Elevation: 1834m (6113ft)
Elevation Gain: 60m (200ft) to the Middle Emerald Pool and another 60m (200ft) to the Upper Emerald Pool
Difficulty: 4/10 – Minimal elevation gain on a well maintained trail.
Season: Year round. Spring and Fall are most pleasant. Summer can be very hot and the waterfalls generally aren’t flowing as strongly.
Additional Requirements: N/A
From St. George: Travel on the I-15 North towards Salt Lake City, after 11 km (7 miles) merge onto UT-9 East via exit 16 and travel 20km (12.5 miles) through Hurricane and then up to La Verkin. Take a right turn in La Verkin to continue on the UT-9 East for 32km (20 miles) until you come into Springdale. Follow that same road until you pull up to the Zion park entrance.
From Arizona: Travel US-89A North through Fredonia, AZ and Kanab, UT. Follow US-89 to Mount Carmel Junction. Take UT-9 West to Zion’s East Park Entrance.
From the North: Travel the I-15 South past Beaver, UT and exit on Hwy 20. Head east until you reach US-89, then head south to the Mount Carmel Junction. Take UT-9 west to Zion’s East Park Entrance.
WHAT TO BRING
- Comfortable Footwear: A good pair of comfortable sneakers is all that this hike requires.
- Water: One bottle of water per hiker should be sufficient as this hike is short and not too strenuous.
- Snacks: Bring some of your favorite snacks to enjoy along the hike. Some of our favorites snacks are trail mix, bananas, beef jerky and licorice
- Weather appropriate clothing: Temperatures can get up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in the summertime. Shorts, a breathable long sleeve shirt, and a hat can help protect you from the sun and heat. In the winter, the temperature can drop below freezing and it is possible to encounter snow. Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly.
- Sunscreen: If it is sunny and you’re like Mattson, who easily burns, bring sunscreen!
- Camera: There are numerous photo opportunities you won’t want to miss.
- This Guide: Print a copy of this guide to reference throughout the hike
Heat and Dehydration: In Zion National Park, the days can be very hot. Limit sun exposure during the hottest parts of the day. Appropriate clothing such as a hat and long sleeve shirt can protect your skin from the sun as well as reduce the risk of dehydration. The hot weather increases your need for fluid intake. Ensure you are hydrating throughout the day. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking water.
Steep Cliffs: Falls from cliffs along the trail have resulted in death. Stay on the trail, stay back from cliff edges and be careful of sand or loose rocks that can make for a slippery surface. Always be aware of your surroundings, especially when you are trying to capture the perfect photo. During the winter months, the trail can be snow and ice covered so be extra careful and wear traction devices on your shoes for extra grip.
Leave No Trace: It is important that we enjoy the outdoors responsibly and sustainably. Some key principles to consider when hiking to “Leave No Trace” are:
- Plan ahead and prepare: Proper planning allows adventurers to hike safely while minimizing damage to the land.
- Travel on durable surfaces: Stick to the trail when possible. If there is no trail, or you must travel off trail, stay on durable surfaces to reduce your impact.
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out.
- Leave what you find: Leave rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.
- Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance. Never feed wild animals.
- Be considerate of other visitors: Be courteous to others to allow everyone to enjoy their outdoor experience.
To learn more about “Leave No Trace” visit http://www.leavenotrace.ca
ZION SHUTTLE SYSTEM
Zion Shuttle System: Emerald Pools is perfect for hikers and adventurers of all levels and abilities. The trail starts at the Zion Lodge and immediately crosses over the Virgin River. The first stop along Emerald Pools Trail in the Lower Pool. From the Lower Pool the trail gains elevation to the Middle Pool and then finally climbs to the Upper Pool.
Summary: Emerald Pools is perfect for hikers and adventurers of all levels and abilities. The trail starts at the Zion Lodge and immediately crosses over the Virgin River. The first stop along Emerald Pools Trail in the Lower Pool. From the Lower Pool the trail gains elevation to the Middle Pool and then finally climbs to the Upper Pool.
There are three different possible routes for this hike. Our recommended route, and the route we will describe in this guide begins at the Zion Lodge (Route marker #1 on the map). If the Zion Shuttle service is in operation, this is the fifth stop. If the shuttle is not running, park at the Emerald Pools Parking Lot. Alternatively you can begin this hike at shuttle stop #6 the Grotto Picnic Area (Route marker #2 on the map), and take the Kayenta Trail to the Emerald Pools. This makes the hike around 3-4 hours. The third option is taking the Southwestern Spur Trail from the Zion Lodge straight to Middle Emerald Pools. We do not recommend this route as it bypasses the Lower Emerald Pool, which is our favorite of the three pools. Also the Southwestern Spur Trail is also often closed due to rainfall and flooding. If you wish to take this trail, check in at the Visitors Center first to check if its open. Please respect all trail closure signs as they are there for your safety.
The route description below is from Zion Lodge (Route marker #1 on the map) taking Emerald Pools Trail.
From the trailhead at Zion Lodge follow the trail over the Virgin River and take a right to head northeast on Emerald Pools Trail along the river.
Emerald Pools Trail is paved and has a very gradual incline. The trail follows the Virgin River with some shade provided by small collonwood trees. After following the trail for about one kilometer, you will reach Lower Emerald Pool (Route marker #3 on the map). The Lower Pool is home to lots of lush, green vegetation growing from the moisture filled rocks. The mist caused from the waterfalls creates a microclimate where plants thrive. In the winter months, the mist freezes, forming icicle branches on the trees, which creates a unique photo opportunity. The trail follows the canyon wall behind the two waterfalls that drain from the Middle Pool and fill the Lower Pool. Be careful in the winter, if the temperature is below freezing, the trail may be slippery with ice.
After wrapping around the Lower Pool the hike starts to get a little bit more challenging. The trail becomes less paved and you begin to gain elevation more rapidly. A rocky staircase along the way helps to ease the sudden elevation increase. The trail loops around to the Middle Pool (Route marker #4 on the map) at the top of the cliff that you just walked under. The Middle Pool supplies the water to the falls viewed previously from Lower Pool. It is small and the least scenic of the three pools but there are good photo opportunities looking back into the main Zion Canyon from this vantage point.
The last leg to the Upper Pool (Route marker #5 on the map) is only 450m (0.3 miles) but can be difficult as you have 60m (200ft) in elevation to gain. Whe you arrive at the Upper Pool, you’ll realize that every step was worth it! The Upper Pool sits at the base of a monsterous 300-foot cliff with a waterfall cascading into the pool below. The Spring and Fall are the best times of the year to view the waterfall because it has the highest volume of water. Upper Pool is a great place to find some shade, relax, and have some lunch.
On the return trip you can either follow Emerald Pools Trail back the way you came, or take the Southwestern Spur Trail (if its open) south from Middle Pool to complete a loop and see some different scenery.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU
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Have fun out there!