A Quick Visit to Zion National Park


I really love Zion National Park.  It’s my favorite, which helps explain why on this trip, I was on my way back to Zion, for my second visit in less than a month.

In August, 2007, I spent several days here, hiking trails to Observation Point, Angels Landing, and Hidden Canyon, among others.  A month later, I was on this trip, and I simply couldn’t pass by Zion without, at least, a very brief visit.   If you want an in-depth report on Zion, you should jump over to my previous trip.

For this very short visit, I first rode the park shuttle up to the far end of Zion Canyon, to the trailhead for the Riverside Walk trail, which leads to The Narrows.  I thought about taking this trail, but decided I would only have enough time to hike one short trail, and while the Riverside Walk is great, it wasn’t my choice.

So I admired the Temple of Sinawava, and moved on.

Emerald Pools Trail

The hike I did decide to take is the Emerald Pools Trail.  The Emerald Pools are three of the park’s most popular destinations, since the trail is short, the climb is minimal, and the trailhead is conveniently located across the road from Zion Lodge, right in the middle of the canyon.

You might want to check out my first visit to the Emerald Pools Trail in 2004, when I visited the lower and middle pools.  For many other Zion-related hikes, check out my 2007 Zion National Park visit.

The Emerald Pools Trail starts by crossing the Virgin River on a footbridge.  On the other side, you can choose the low road or the high road–both end up in the same place, so you can select one, then take the other on the return.  On the way out, I took the low road.

There are three Emerald Pools — upper, middle, and lower.  The middle pool is immediately above the lower pool, while the upper pool requires a slightly longer hike.

The “low road” arrives first at the lower pool, which is what you see above.

When I arrived here, I was somewhat surprised.  During my previous visit in 2004, water was plentiful.  Streams were freely flowing over the hillside above, forming small waterfalls that splashed down into the lower pool.  This time, the water was barely trickling, and the lower pool was small and dirty–hardly “emerald” at all.

Here’s the lower pool from another angle.  Where I’m standing would normally be directly behind the waterfalls.

The middle pools are on the other side of that overhang.  Normally several streams flow over the edge.

Heading up to the middle pools requires a short walk, part of which takes you in between two huge slabs of sandstone.

Up at the middle pools, the view improves.  But this time, these pools were also surprisingly dry.  Normally the water goes all the way to the edge (and over it) in places…

… but this time, there wasn’t much more than a large puddle.

I had seen the lower and middle pools before, but during my previous visit, I hadn’t wandered on up to the upper pool, which is about 3/10 mile (one way) off the main loop trail. Since I wasn’t satisfied with the lower two pools, this time, I decided to make the extra effort.

The upper pool is nowhere near the middle and lower pools.  Instead, it occupies some great real estate next to the mountainside, in a cove that reminded me a little of Double Arch Alcove in the Kolob Canyons section of the park.

There were quite a few people at the upper pool, yet it still felt nicely secluded.  There are plenty of places on the surrounding rocks to hang out–grab a spot and break out your picnic lunch.

The water that flows into the middle and lower pools flows out of the upper pool through this small creek.

On the return trip, I took the “high road”, which offered one great view of the canyon, after another.

Back at the bridge, I took another picture of the upper canyon, nearly identical to the one I took when I started (earlier on this page).  You’ll notice the sunlight is nearly gone.

Back at Zion Lodge (the trailhead for the Emerald Pools trail), a few deer were casually munching on the green grass in front of the hotel.  Clearly they were less amazed at the sight of humans, than the humans were at the sight of them.

After the sun set, I left Zion, headed west, to spend the night in St. George.  All that was left to do on day 8 was to make the 2 hour drive to Las Vegas, and fly home.  Don’t worry, I found a way to make the drive much longer, and more interesting.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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