The Emerald Pools trail is one of the most popular small hikes in Zion National Park mainly because it’s family friendly and easily accessible. During the busy summer months, you have to park at the visitor’s center and hitch a ride on the shuttle to gain access to Zion Canyon. During off-peak seasons, cars are allowed in all areas of the park. To find the trailhead you want to take the Zion Lodge stop. Once you get off the shuttle, look across the road and you’ll see a foot bridge that goes over the Virgin River where the hike begins.
The entire Emerald Pools trail is a bit more involved if you want to hike to the lower, middle and upper pools. Due to time contraints we decided to only hike to the Lower Emerald Pools which is 1.2 miles round trip. The trail follows along the Virgin River for a while then tucks back into a corner of a canyon where the pools are hidden. The trail is very well maintained and is a great hike for all ages. There’s a slight elevation gain to the Lower Emerald Pools, but it isn’t very noticeable. The trail is mostly shaded depending on the time of day – we were there around 9am and we managed to beat the heat and the crowds.
Once you arrive at the Lower Emerald Pools you will certainly know it. Most of the time if it’s been a wet season you will see water falling from the other two pools directly above resulting a beautiful and refreshing waterfall. The trail actually follows along the sandstone canyon behind the waterfall allowing you to walk around the back side of the pools which are guarded by a rail. The trail can get a bit slick and muddy, so be cautious.
All in all, it was a great starter hike with a very nice pay off. The views were beautiful and the rewards were great for such little effort. If you have time, I would recommend doing the rest of the trail. To see this first hand, check out the video below and share with your friends!