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Best Short Hikes in Zion National Park: That Don’t Risk Your Life

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Zion National Park is known for some pretty magnificent, but also extremely challenging hikes. However, you don’t have to be a strong hiker or risk your life to enjoy Zion National Park.

In this post we’ve picked the best short hikes in Zion. All of them take 2 hours or less and are graded easy to moderate.

ion National Parks Best Short Hikes

Canyon Overlook Trail

Pink sky sunrise from Canyon Overlook Trail, Zion National Park, Utah

One of our favorite short hikes in Zion National Park is not in the main canyon. To reach the Canyon Overlook Trail you’ll need your own transportation. The trail is on the east side of the park, near the Zion – Mt. Carmel Tunnel.

There’s a bit of an elevation gain over a short rock scramble right at the start. After that, it’s a relatively easy hike. From the top are rewarding views of Pine Creek Canyon.

Length: 1 mile round trip

Time:  1 hour out and back (plus time to enjoy the view)

Difficulty: Moderate

Read why the Canyon Overlook Trail is the best hike for sunrise in Zion.

Riverside Walk

Looking up the Virgin River, Riverside Walk, Zion National Park Stop 9
Pathed path of the Riverside Walk, Zion National Park Stop 9

One of the easiest short hikes in Zion is also one of the best. The Riverside Walk is a paved trail that mostly follows alongside the Virgin River through the narrow canyon. However, if you want to get closer to the river, there are tons of branch trails and it’s almost impossible to get lost. 

Length: 2.2 mile round trip

Time:  1.5 hours out and back

Difficulty: Easy

Shuttle Stop: #9 Temple of Sinawava

The Riverside Walk ends at the start of The Narrows, a much more involved hike which requires wading through the river. If you plan on continuing, you’ll need to be prepared, and check for flash flood risk.

Emerald Pools Trails

View of cliffs from Upper Emerald Pool, Zion National Park, Utah
Rock reflected in Upper Emerald Pool, Zion National Park, Utah
Large split rock on Emerald Pools Trails, Zion National Park Stop 9

Technically, there are three Emerald Pool Trails: a lower, middle, and upper.

The trails start by crossing the bridge over the Virgin River near the Zion Lodge, Stop #5. We suggest following the trail right. This goes to the lower pools which has the easiest incline.

From the lower pools, continue to the Upper Emerald Pool Trail. Then come back via the Middle Emerald Pool Trail. There are a few stairs to climb along the route, but nothing excessive.

If we are honest, the pools are not so “emerald,” or that spectacular, but the views are. Especially as you make you way back along the Middle Emerald Pool Trail where you get elevated views across the canyon. Well worth it.

Length: 3 miles full circuit

Time:  2 hours full circuit

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Shuttle Stop: #5 Temple of Sinawava

Pa'rus Trail

This short, paved hike is the only one in Zion National Park that allows bikes and leashed dogs. The trail follows the Virgin River from the Visitor Center to Canyon Junction. 

Length: 1.75 Miles one way (3.5 round trip)

Time:  1 hour one way (2 hours round trip)

Difficulty: Easy

Shuttle Stop: #1 Visitor Center to #3 Canyon Junction

*Fall/Winter 2021 – The museum connector trail to the Pa’rus trail is closed as the museum is being refurbished. It is expected to reopen March 2022.

*Buses are currently not stopping at Canyon Junction, so plan to do the round trip. 

Watchman Trail

View of The Watchman mountain, Zion National Park Stop 9

The viewpoint on this moderate trail provides excellent elevated views of the Temples and Towers, Zion Canyon, Watchman Peak, and the town of Springdale. At the very end, there’s a little loop worth doing. 

Length: 3.3 round trip

Time:  2  hours round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Shuttle Stop: #1 Visitor Center

Timber Creek Overlook Trail - Kalob Canyon

View from Timber Creek Overlook Trail, Zion National Park Stop 9

If you make it to the Kolob Canyon side of Zion National Park, follow the road to the very end. Here you’ll find a small parking lot and a short hike with some big views.

We caught it with a dusting of snow, which made for muddy trails but a nice view.

Length: 1 mile round trip

Time:  0.5 hour round trip

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Lambs Knoll Climbing Site - BLM

rock formation at Lambs Knoll Climbing Site, BLM, Kolob Canyon Zion, Utah
Lambs Knoll Climbing Site, BLM, Kolob Canyon Zion, Utah

We debated and debated on whether to include Lambs Knoll. Technically, it’s not in Zion National Park, nor technically a hike, but it is short and interesting.

Taking the Kolob Terrace Road from the town of Virgin leads to a remote area of Zion National Park called Lava Point on the West Rim. Before reaching Lava Point, Lambs Knoll is one of the areas along the Kolob Terrace Road, managed by The Bureau of Land Management. There’s a sign and a small parking lot, so you’ll know you’re in the right place.

Lambs Knoll is popular with climbers. Once you see it, you’ll understand why.

A few quick warnings about this one.

1) As a hiker, it’s a short easy walk to the rock formations. There are paths everywhere, so keep track of where you are so you can find your way back, as it’s not sign posted.

2) Eventually you’ll get to a point where you may find it too strenuous to continue, or you need climbing gear. Just walking around the area is easy to moderate. We enjoyed wandering the nooks and crannies, and watching the climbers.

3) This area is known for snakes, so watch where you step and put your hands. 

Length: 1 mile round trip

Time:  0.5 hour round trip (plus exploring time)

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Continue with our First Time Visitor’s Guide to Zion National Park.

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