The pools and waterfalls are the attraction here, but the surrounding scenery is outstanding as well. This is an enjoyable entrance or exit from the classic Emerald Pools Trail. The Emerald Pools Trail was completed in 1925 and named due to the green tint the algae gives the three pools. Rock slides have changed the trail system over the years. Heaps Canyon and Behunin Canyon were named after Mormon pioneers from the late 1800's. The old stone building at the Grotto is the original Zion National Park Visitor Center, the second visitor center is now the Zion Human History Museum.
At a Glance
Park at the lot across the road from the Grotto picnic area, or if the shuttles are running, get off at the Grotto stop. Cross the footbridge to get to the other side of the Left Fork of the Virgin River. Hike up the stone steps, around the bend to a dirt path. The trail begins a steady rise past junipers and ephedra. The depth of the vertical desert is in perfect view from the trail. Prickly pear and Yucca ornate the lower mountain sides. The path levels out as it begins a short downward hike toward the lower pool. The cool breeze blowing from the secluded canyon ahead is a stark change from the heat of the lower sun baked trail. After a heavy rain all three pools can be viewed from the Kayenta Trail. As the path approaches large boulders, signs will indicate directions to the Lower Pool by turning left and descending down between two massive boulders, or continuing straight to the middle and upper pools.
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.
Middle Pool - Backtrack up the same trail just descended to get to the middle pools and turn left after passing between the two large boulders. 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.
Upper Pool - The secluded oasis of the upper pool is framed by colossal cliffs on three sides. Watch for canyoneers rappelling from Heaps Canyon down the backside of the boulder-rimmed pool.
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.
Zion National Park, Utah
History of the Thunderbird
This is my new favorite quote:
"I don't know who Tanya Milligan is, but I mean www.zionnational-park.com
It's a better site than the NPS's anyway."
Written by the authors of the book: Favorite Hikes in and around Zion National Park