On numerous other visits to Zion National Park, I turned my nose up at the Pa’rus Trail. Compared to the other adventurous paths in Zion, this trail seemed far too easy. But during my January 2017 visit, I developed a new appreciation for the Pa’rus Trail. Sure, it’s not as rugged and wild as the hike to Angels Landing or Observation Point, but it does serve an important purpose, and the scenery is darned beautiful.
Zion National Park is located in southwest Utah, about an hour east of St. George. From Interstate 15, take exit 16 (or exit 27, if you are approaching from the north). Follow Utah Route 9 through Springdale and into the park. Route 9 runs through the park and continues east, allowing access from Kanab, Utah, and US 89.
The Pa’rus Trail runs between the visitor center (at the Springdale entrance) and Canyon Junction (shuttle stop #3).
That last sentence above explains why the Pa’rus trail is so important. It provides an alternative to driving or taking the shuttle bus, for anyone headed into the canyon. It’s 1.7 miles, one way, from the Visitor Center to Canyon Junction, and if I was in a hurry to hike in the canyon, I’d hate to spend that much time here. But, if you need an easy trail (for kids, or the disabled, or just to end the day), or if you want to ride a bike or rollerblade, this is the ideal trail.
I didn’t especially need an easy trail, but I did need a path that would take me to some beautiful photography spots. And that’s why I learned to love the Pa’rus Trail.
The northern end of the Pa’rus Trail is just beyond the bridge that crosses the Virgin River. This is a spot where photographers gather throughout the day, and especially at sunset, to shoot the light streaming onto The Watchman and other Zion landmarks. I think you can even see a few tiny people on the bridge in that picture above.
The Pa’rus trail begins at shuttle stop #3, just north of the bridge, and heads south, underneath the bridge, and then follows the river.
But it doesn’t just follow the river, it crosses it three times, on some very pretty footbridges.
There’s also a fourth footbridge that crosses Pine Creek, just before it empties into the Virgin River. Each of these bridges provides a view of something special. Above, you can see the East Temple and the Twin Brothers — both of which loom over Canyon Junction on the east side.
I never walked the entire length of the Pa’rus Trail, but I did use the northern end of the trail, and those bridges, to frame up some nice photos. One visit was on a foggy morning, just after a dusting of snow had fallen in the canyon (much more had fallen, and was still falling, on the east side of the park). I used the Pa’rus Trail to access some spots where I could position my time-lapse cameras. Just off the beaten path, these somewhat hidden places allowed me to shoot video all day, watching that fog swirl and blow away, and clouds race overhead. You can see some of those shots in this compilation of my time-lapse videos:
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Here’s a look at the drive into and out of Zion National Park, beginning and ending in Springdale:
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The Bottom Line
Even though I didn’t hike the entire Pa’rus Trail, I’m pretty sure the scenerly along its entire length will not disappoint anyone. You’ll have great views of the lower Zion Canyon, including The Watchman, throughout the trail. And, if you have a bicycle, I think you’ll find this trail to be especially enjoyable. Give it a try — at least part of it — the next time you’re in Zion National Park.