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Emerald Pools zion National Park Canyoneering

Emerald Pools is one of Zion's sweetest signature trails. Generously endowed with breathtaking scenery, this trail is one that children and adults alike will have fun hiking. Waterfalls, pools and a dazzling display of monoliths create the Emerald Pools Trail System. When I was a kid I did this hike a multitude of times, never getting tired of it. Back then we would drop out shoes at the start of the trail, stack tiny cairns on the upper trail and never missed a chance to swim in the upper pool and we usually explored the drainage behind the middle pool. With all the visitation that park gets now, those things are not allowed, but still this is one of the most enchanting hikes anywhere.

Lower Emerald PoolEmerald Pools at a Glance
Photo Album:
Emerald Pools Pictures
Maps:
Trail Map - Backcountry Map
Overview Map
Day Hike: Yes
Trail Distance: 3 miles round-trip
Lower Pool: .6 miles one-way. 30 minutes. 69' ascent.
Middle Pools: 1 mile one-way. 1 hour. 150' ascent.
Upper Pool: 1.5 miles one-way. 1.5 hour. 350' ascent.
Kayenta Trail: 1 mile one-way. 1 hour. 150' ascent.
Accessible Trail: The lower pool only.
Trail Usage: Heavy in the summer. One of the three most used trails in the park.
Difficulty: Lower Pool - Easy. Middle Pool - Moderate. Upper Pool - Moderately Strenuous.
Sun Exposure: Full sun in most places.
Permits: Not needed
Trail Conditions: Well maintained. Paved lower trail. Dirt and rock, middle and upper trails.
Trailhead: Footbridge across the road from the Zion Lodge.
Trailend: Exiting on the Emerald Pools Trails leads to the Zion Lodge. The Kayenta Trail exit leads to the Grotto Picnic area.
Best Season: Year-round.
Trail Access:
Usually from April 1st until October 30th Zion Canyon is accessed via the shuttle. Private cars are allowed in Zion Canyon in the rest of the year. Park at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to ride the shuttle and get off at the Emerald Pools parking lot.
Off the Beaten Path:
No, this is a popular trail.
Classic Zion Hike: Yes
Elevation Gain: Lower Pool - 69'. Middle Pool - 150'. Upper Pool - 350'. Kayenta to Middle Pool - 150'.
Restrooms: Zion Lodge and Grotto picnic area.
Water Availability: Water bottles can be filled at the Grotto picnic area or the Zion Lodge.

Zion National Park Map Zion National Park Map Coral Pink Sand Dunes Map Zion National Park Lodging Cedar Breaks and Dixie National Forest Map Bryce Canyon and Red Canyon Map Grand Staircase-Escalante Map Lower Emerald Pool - At the trailhead, choose the scenic Lower Emerald Pool Trail rather than the steeper Middle Emerald Pool Trail. Much of the paved lower trail is shaded by cottonwood and box elder trees as it winds along the North Fork of the Virgin River. It's just over a half-mile to the lush alcove of the lower pool. Moisture seeps from sandstone and mist sprays from the falls, feeding lush hanging gardens in the recessed rock. Ferns and moss sprout from the mountainside with an occasional monkey flower, shooting star or delicate columbine peering from the more subtle vegetation. The trail ducks behind twin waterfalls, spilling from the middle pools, leaving black streaks of desert varnish behind. Droplets dance off boulders that have fallen from above, now lining the pool of mossy green water. The lower is my favorite of the pools. Anyone can get to it and you are right there with the pool, hanging gardens and the dripping water.

Directions to Zion National Park

From the North: Travel I-15 south, past Beaver. Exit on Hwy 20. Follow US-89 to Mount Carmel Junction. Take SR-9 to Zion's east entrance.
From Arizona: Travel US-89A through Fredonia, Arizona and Kanab Utah. Follow US-89 to Mount Carmel Junction. Take SR-9 to the east park entrance.
From the South: Travel I-15 north. Take exit 16 and travel through Hurricane to LaVerkin. Continue on SR-9 to the south entrance of the park. SR-9 through Zion National Park is always open and is also called the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway.

Zion National Park Maps
 
Zion's Emerald Pools Trail

Zion Photo: This rare view taken on a winter day after a great deal of rain in Zion shows water pouring out of Heaps Canyon into the Upper Emerald Pool and from both Heaps and Behunin Canyons into the Middle Emerald Pools.

 

Zion National Park Lodging

Lodging Zion National Park Lodging and services are available in East Zion. The main road through Zion, the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway (SR-9) is open year-round, and is not a route the Zion Canyon Shuttle takes. Zion Canyon is deep inside the park. Towering 3000' walls form a slot canyon, forged by the violent rush of torrent water over millions of years. From late March to late October access through the six mile stretch of road is via the Zion Canyon Shuttle, the rest of the year the canyon is accessed in private vehicles.

 

Middle Emerald Pools Trail - Continue behind the falls. The unpaved trail emerges into sunlight, leading to the middle pools. After a couple of short switchbacks, and a gain of over 100' in elevation, hikers come to the plateau of the middle pools. At the middle pools, shallow streams cross the trail, before the water spills over the lip to the lower pool. The first middle pool is formed by the Behunin Canyon watershed - one of Zion's drier canyoneering routes. Next, just over the ridge, the second middle pool is created by the Heaps Canyon watershed - one of Zion's most difficult canyoneering routes. After a storm, when water is flowing in Heaps Canyon and Behunin Canyon, the waterfalls become profuse. Watch that children never stray near the overhanging ledge, past the chained areas, where algae and slippery rock result in unsafe footing.

The Views - A gallery of Zion landmarks compete for attention from the lofty perch of the middle pools, but Red Arch Mountain is center stage. Lady Mountain, one of the original trails in Zion Canyon, towers almost 3000' above the canyon floor. The difficulty of maintaining the "via feratta" of Lady Mountain and nearly impossible conditions for rescue forced the park to disassemble the chains and ladders along the trail and discontinue promotion of the hike in the 1970's. Looking north, glimpses of Mount Majestic and Cathedral Mountain are observed.

Upper Emerald Pool Trail - The trail leading to the Upper Emerald Pool is on the ridge between the two middle pools. Though most of the foot traffic ends at the spur to the upper pool, where the trail becomes more rugged and steep, the upper pool at the end is worth every step. This secluded oasis is framed by colossal cliffs on three sides. Watch for canyoneers rappelling from Heaps Canyon down the backside of the boulder-rimmed pool.

Kayenta Trail - There are three ways to enter or exit the Emerald Pools Trail System, so unlike most of Zion's trails there is no need to backtrack. For a variation on the exit, take either the Middle Emerald Pools Trail back to where the trail began or the Kayenta Trail to the Grotto. If exiting via the Kayenta Trail, after the shuttles have shut down for the season, (November-March) follow the .5 mile Grotto Trail back to the Emerald Pools parking area, located across the road from the Zion Lodge.

Trail History - At the trailhead, choose the scenic Lower Emerald Pool Trail rather than the steeper Middle Emerald Pool Trail. Much of the paved lower trail is shaded by cottonwood and box elder trees as it winds along the North Fork of the Virgin River. It's just over a half-mile to the lush alcove of the lower pool. Moisture seeps from sandstone and mist sprays from the falls, feeding lush hanging gardens in the recessed rock. Ferns and moss sprout from the mountainside with an occasional monkey flower, shooting star or delicate columbine peering from the more subtle vegetation. The trail ducks behind twin waterfalls, spilling from the middle pools, leaving black streaks of desert varnish behind. Droplets dance off boulders that have fallen from above, now lining the pool of mossy green water. The lower is my favorite of the pools. Anyone can get to it and you are right there with the pool, hanging gardens and the dripping water. This trail was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 14, 1987.

 

History of the Thunderbird

Best Western
East Zion Lodge

Reservations
1.888.848.6358

Zion National Park Lodging

East Zion Lodge
Vacation House
Group Lodging
East Zion Golf
East Zion RV Park
Vacation Packages
Family Reunion
Bus Tours
Business Retreat

Mileage from
Mt. Carmel Jct.

Zion National Park 12
Bryce Canyon 60
Grand Canyon 85
Cedar Breaks 45
Grand Staircase 9
Dixie Forest 22
Sand Dunes 11
Coyote Butte 57
Red Canyon 47
Tuweep 90

Stay in the heart of the parks, Mount Carmel Junction, and visit the treasures of the Southwest and Utah.

In these pages you will find insiders information on Zion National Park lodging & camping. This guide includes maps, pictures and even information on Zion's hidden treasures.

 

Kayenta Trail

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Beta: Coordinates and other trail and canyoneering information by Zion Park search and rescue veteran team member Bo Beck and www.zionnational-park.com author Tanya Milligan.

To post trip reports, offer corrections, updates, or for more information please visit the Zion National Park Forum

Suggested Gear: A sturdy pair of shoes are recommend to hike the trails in Zion National Park. Many quality shoes will help grip the rocks and prevent injury. Experienced Zion hikers and canyoneers like the La Sportiva Exum Ridge. This shoe is great for hiking, bouldering and canyoneering.

 

 

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