The Emerald Pools are located on the west side of Zion Canyon near Zion Lodge. A stream of water descends from the canyon rim down to the Virgin River, passing through three tiers of pools. The popular pools enchant visitors with their falling water and hanging gardens. Lower Emerald Pool is the easiest to reach, but it is possible to see all three levels of pools by hiking a 2.4-mile loop.
A network of trails provide access to the pools, leaving visitors with a few options. From the trailhead near Zion Lodge, the 0.6-mile Lower Emerald Pools Trail goes to the bottom pool, and ascends just seventy feet. The one-mile long Middle Emerald Pools Trail goes to the middle pools, ascending 150 feet. A connecting trail on the north side of the pools goes between the two pools, so you can easily take a different trail to and from the Emerald Pools. Additionally, Upper Emerald Pools Trail starts at the middle pools and travels 0.4 miles and 200 feet up to the highest pool. Another trail in the mix is the 0.9-mile long Katenta Trail, which starts at the Grotto shuttle stop and heads south to the pools. How you incorporate these trails is up to you.
The shortest route to the pools is Lower Emerald Pools Trail, and this is a good way to begin. From the Zion Lodge Shuttle Stop, walk southeast past the lodge to the bridge crossing over the Virgin River to the trailhead. Turn right to take this level wheelchair-friendly paved trail to the pools. The short walk follows the bank of the river before crossing through a mixed forest to arrive at Lower Emerald Pools. The year round water supply provides for abundant vegetation, some that grows directly on the vertical rock. These hanging gardens thrive on water passing down the sandstone, and give the pools an alluring appearance.
The trail crosses an alcove below a rock overhang where water drips down from the middle pools above. Beyond the alcove, enjoy a great perspective of the pools as the trail ascends to a junction. To the right, Kayenta Trail continues for 0.9 miles to the West Rim Trailhead at the Grotto Shuttle Stop (the trailhead for Angels Landing). To the left, a connection trail heads up to Middle Emerald Pools, leading to a junction with Upper Emerald Pools Trail. This 0.8-mile round trip extension ascends a rocky slope to a recess in the canyon rim where water seeps out of the sandstone into the biggest pool of the series, located just beneath the vertical canyon wall.
To return to Zion Lodge via the Middle Emerald Pools Trail, head south atop the rock overhang crossing alongside the pools. This trail takes course along the top of a ledge on the side of Zion Canyon before dropping down to the trailhead. This loop of the Lower, Upper, and Middle Emerald Pools is 2.4 miles long with 350 feet of elevation gain. The Kayenta Trail is another nice option, and thanks to the park shuttle system, you do not have to worry about starting and ending at the same point.
To get to the trailhead: Between May and October, access to Zion Canyon is restricted to shuttle traffic only. From the Zion National Park Visitor Center, hop on the park shuttle and take it to the fourth stop, Zion Lodge.
Trailhead address: Floor of the Valley Road (Zion Canyon Scenic Drive), Zion National Park, Springdale, UT 84767
Trailhead coordinates: 37.25095, -112.9580 (37° 15′ 03.4″N 112° 57′ 28.8″W)
|Court of the Patriarchs |
This 0.1-mile walk heads up a short rise in the center of Zion Canyon to offer a nice view of the surrounding sandstone peaks.
|Weeping Rock |
This 0.4-mile hike visits an alcove in the sandstone wall of Zion Canyon where water seeps out of the rock, nourishing hanging gardens and plentiful vegetation.
|Hidden Canyon |
This 3.3-mile hike ascends the east rim of Zion Canyon above Weeping Rock, and then crosses dramatic cliffs to reach a hanging canyon housing a small natural arch.
|Riverside Walk |
This level walkway follows the Virgin River to the bottom of the narrows north of Zion Canyon, a popular place to hike and swim.
|Angels Landing |
This 5.2-mile hike takes an incredible route up the east rim of Zion Canyon ascending to a towering slab of sandstone jutting into the center of the canyon. The expansive views and thousand foot drop-offs have made this trail world famous.
|Canyon Overlook Trail |
This one-mile round trip hike visits a scenic viewpoint looking west over Zion Canyon.
|Watchman Trail |
This 3.5-mile lollipop loop reaches a panoramic overlook on the side of Zion Canyon.
|More trails in Utah |
Explore other hikes in Utah outside of Zion National Park.
|Zion Campgrounds |
There are two large campgrounds at the south end of Zion canyon and another near Kolob Canyon.