Riverside Walk accesses the notorious narrows north of Zion Canyon, making it one of the most popular trails in Zion National Park. To the end of the trail (at the start of the narrows) and back is a 1.8-mile hike over a level walkway bordering the Virgin River. Those looking to escape the Utah summer heat can leave the trail at any of several river access points to take a refreshing swim.
Riverside Walk begins from the Temple of Sinawava, where 3,000-foot rock walls form an amphitheater at the north end of Zion Canyon. The wheelchair friendly paved trail gains just sixty vertical feet as it follows the east bank of the Virgin River. Enjoy views of the passing water (and reflected orange sandstone walls) on the way to a small pool on the right. Maidenhair ferns form a hanging garden on the rock face, resembling a miniature Emerald Pools.
Beyond the pool, march up a short rise and continue up the narrowing canyon. The ingress squeezes between sheer rock walls and elegant bends in the river.
Most who hike Riverside Walk do not stop at the end of the trail, and press on through water than can be waist to chest deep. By trail’s end, the canyon is just a hundred feet wide. Those who venture farther upstream can see that it become narrower still. The gap between the thousand foot tall canyon walls shrinks to just twenty feet.
If you are continuing another two miles to Orderville Canyon, or trekking deeper into the narrows, be prepared for river hiking in potentially dangerous conditions. Flash flooding does occur. Those serious about hiking the narrows may prefer the 17.5-mile one-way descent through the narrows from Chamberlain’s Ranch to the Temple of Sinawava (at the start of the Riverside Walk), an epic backpacking excursion.
After exploring as much of the narrows as you wish, return down the Riverside Walk. This trail is easy, with nice scenery and crowds. A fee is required to enter Zion National Park, but the park shuttle to the trailhead is free. No permit is required to hike Riverside Walk, but a wilderness permit must be obtained to backpack through the narrows.
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, take the park shuttle to the final stop at the northernmost end of Zion Canyon, Temple of Sinawava.
Trailhead address: Floor of the Valley Road (Zion Canyon Scenic Drive), Zion National Park, Springdale, UT 84767
Trailhead coordinates: 37.2852, -112.9477 (37° 17′ 06.5″N 112° 56′ 51.5″W)
|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.
|Angel's 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.
|Emerald Pools |
This 2.4-mile loop visits three tiers of enchanting pools by incorporating the Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools Trails.
|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.
|Watchman Trail |
This 3.5-mile lollipop loop reaches a panoramic overlook on the side of Zion Canyon.
|Canyon Overlook Trail |
This one-mile round trip hike visits a scenic viewpoint looking west over 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.