When you think of Zion National Park there are a few iconic details that may come to mind. It was Utah’s first National Park, it’s Utah’s most-visited National Park, and it’s home to the intense hike up Angel’s Landing. You rarely hear anyone talk of Zion without mentioning Angel’s Landing, and for pretty good reasons. It’s name comes from when the park was originally created and one of the men described the point as being “so high, only angels could land on it.”
This particular hike is 5 miles long (roundtrip) with 1,488 feet change in elevation. You might be thinking, “okay, that’s sort of strenuous, but I could do it!” And maybe you can! But if you’re like me and heights make you nervous, check out this photo from the top by Joe Braun:
People have described the Angel’s Landing hike as the scariest in America – and I agree! Five people have died on this hike since 2004 according to its Wikipedia page, and to me it seemed more scary than enjoyable. For those of you who are thrill-seekers, Angel’s Landing is the perfect hike for you.
However, I knew there had to be more to this national park than dangling thousands of feet above the ground with only the protection of a chain, and I set off to find it.
This is how you can spend a day exploring Zion National Park (and love it!) without facing Angel’s Landing.
Travel Tip: Check the NPS website before visiting to see which trails are open and closed. The Narrows is currently closed due to high & swift water levels, so we couldn’t hike it.
A great hike to start off your day is the Lower Emerald Pool. Take the shuttle to stop #5 and cross the street to make your way along this easy, 1.2 mile trail. There is only 69 ft of elevation change and it’s a paved path leading back to the waterfall.
When I came there wasn’t much water flowing, but the falls were still there and it was like a hidden oasis in the middle of the park! I was a nice way to warm up my legs and get going.
If the trail is open (it wasn’t for me because of storm damage) you can continue onto the Upper Emerald Pool. See the pools from above on the 1 mile, 200ft in elevation change trail.
Up next is the shortest hike of the day, but it’s a pretty neat hike. Hop off at stop #7 for Weeping Rock. It’s only half a mile round trip. Named for the water trickling down the side of the mountain, Weeping Rock Trail is known for the beautiful greenery growing out of the stone. It looks like the rock is crying because of the water, and it’s a beautiful little spot!
I was surprised around the park how much greenery there is. The river running through the park, as well as all of the trees and shrubs growing make this the greenest park in Utah. The entire park is like an oasis in the desert!
You’ve got enough time to get in another hike before lunch, especially since this one isn’t really a hike, it’s just a walk. The Riverside Walk trail has no elevation gain, and is 2.2 miles long. It’s a really beautiful walk in the canyon that you can’t miss!
Hop off at Shuttle Stop #9 and you can’t miss it. This is also how you enter the Narrows if you’re lucky enough to visit when they’re open! Wind your way along the river, even get up-close and personal with spots off the trail. Watch out for extremely friendly squirrels who may try to get into your backpack for snacks!
This trail is crowded because it’s accessible for everyone, but it was still enjoyable. It’s shaded, which is nice in Utah’s summer heat, and it’s amazing to walk next to the mesas and look up at them towering over you.
Travel Tip: On your way to the River Walk, if you get off the shuttle at stop #8, you can see people hiking up to Angel’s Landing!
After lunch there’s one more hike you should check out. The Watchman Trail is 3.3 miles with 368 ft in elevation gain, so it’s a moderate hike at the park.
I enjoyed this one because you get to hike up one of the mountains, but it’s a very gradual climb. There aren’t many switchbacks or steep parts, making it very manageable, even in the heat. Bring lots of water and sunscreen because there’s no shade on this trail! Once you get to the top there is a great landing where you can look out over the park, and even a quarter-mile loop. I thought it was a great way to end the day.
At the end of this day, even though you didn’t tackle Angel’s landing, you’ll have hiked 7 miles and seen the diversity of this park!