A Popular Trail in Zion

When Ashton and I chose Zion National Park as the destination for our road trip, I had only two requests …  stop at the Zion Lodge and hike the trail that was accessed across from the lodge. Other than that, I left it all up to daughter. Sure, I’d offer my input, but ultimately, we’d do and see whatever she would like.Zion National Park

Back in the early to mid nineties, we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada for a few years, and it’s an easy two and a half hour drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park. While living in Las Vegas, Al and I visited Zion once with the kids in tow and later I revisited with a girlfriend. Both times, I overnighted at the Zion Lodge in one of the rustic cabins. The buildings themselves are unassuming, but the huge green lawn accompanied by a bunch of benches left an indelible impression upon me. A visitor can sit, and admire the soaring canyon walls …

Zion wildlifeAs I sat on one of those benches looking up, I remember feeling awed by the beauty around me. This former flatlander from Illinois was overwhelmed with the unique and stunning landscape.

Today, I was equally awed, if not more so. I’m not sure if it’s my age or the fact that I’m able to travel leisurely on regular basis, but there was a relaxed calmness about me that allowed me to savor the scenery along with each experience and hike I accomplished.Zion National Park

As any parent knows, traveling with small children is a huge distraction which I’m sure had an impact on my first visit to Zion. This go around was different. Instead of me, the mom, constantly concerned about the where abouts and antics of a six-year old and four-year old, my adult daughter was the one in charge and it was her responsibility to keep me (dear old mom) from getting into trouble. No easy task 😆  This new-found lack of responsibility on my part was oh so fun!

Zion National ParkAfter our Riverside Walk, we took the shuttle bus back down the canyon to the Zion Lodge and bought a couple of lattes at the cafe.

We found a bench near the large grass lawn and sat in silence while sipping our coffee. The last time my daughter and I sat here, she was four years old. Wow, how those twenty-three years seemed to have whizzed by!

Not only was I awed by the majestic landscape surrounding me, I was equally awed by the young lady sitting next to me. What a beautiful, caring and successful person my daughter has become. A mom can’t ask for much more!

With our energy boosted from the caffeinated coffees and a stop at the Zion Lodge checked off my list, it was time for a little more nostalgia. I wasn’t sure which trail hubby and I took with the kids all those years ago, but I was pretty sure the trail head was near the Zion Lodge, which meant it had to be the Emerald Pools Trail. What I do remember as the highlight of that day for our family of four was walking behind a waterfall. Thus, Ashton and I were off in search of that waterfall.

Emerald Pools Trail Zion National Park

Walking behind a waterfall – Emerald Pools Trail

Yep, I found the right trail and memories flooded back. It was every bit as entertaining during this visit as it was all those years ago, even though the amount of water falling was light in comparison.

The Emerald Pools Trail is a collection of short trails that meander past a small, lushly vegetated stream that rolls down from the cliffs and forms several interesting pools. Since the trail head is located across the street from the Zion Lodge making it easily accessible, the Emerald Pools trail is one of the most popular trails in Zion National Park. With that in mind, we weren’t surprised we encountered plenty of other hikers on the trail, but even though we had to share the trail, it was still worth the hike.

Emerald Pools

The beginning of the Emerald Pools trail hike

Emerald Pools

We did the entire hike from the lower pools to the upper pools, which is about 3 miles round trip. The last stretch to the upper pools was the most difficult, partly due to the number of other hikers on the trail and partly because of the elevation gain.

Zion National Park

Interesting scenery along the trail

Emerald Pools

Traffic jam at the upper pools. When they say this trail is popular, they aren’t kidding!

Emerald Pools Trail Zion National Park

This was a lovely hike that we enjoyed, but personally, I liked the super easy Riverside Walk Trail a little more. Not because it was easy (well, maybe) but because it offered open views of the soaring canyon walls, the rushing Virgin River, and of course, those lush hanging gardens. The Emerald Pools trail is more about the waterfalls and pools of water. The trail to the lower pool is rated easy, but as the trail climbs to the middle pool and eventually upper pool, it gets a little more difficult which is why this stretch is considered moderate.

From the Zion Lodge to the Upper Pool there’s a 350 foot elevation gain. It’s about 3 miles round trip. Plan around 2 hours – depending on photo stops.

Next up, we’re in search of more stunning scenery, and we’ll tackle the hike of all hikes … our epic hike ….

Zion National Park

Virgin River – Zion National Park


58 thoughts on “A Popular Trail in Zion

  1. Oh I remember doing that hike, I think it’s a nice introduction to the park and does not require much preparation. You get a nice overview and it’s good for every fitness level! Beautiful pictures, it brings back many memories

  2. Beautiful scenery and hikes, Ingrid. Zion is pretty high on my list, whenever we are ready for our “Western Parks Tour”. Or, whenever we have a house sit in the area. 🙂 I have to swallow at your “an easy 2.5 hour drive”. After two years in the US, I still have to get used to the long distances!

    • It is a big country especially in the west when the land is vast and wild. I love the scenery and diversity. It never gets old although long drives do 😊

  3. What an amazing time you are having with your daughter. It is really wonderful to return to a place so many years later and enjoy with your sweet daughter once again.
    The views are simply magnificent!! I’ve never been there and looked upon these views but I sure hope to be able to one day.
    I can’t wait to see what’s next!! Have fun!!

    • We had an amazing trip … one for the books! It was way too short as most vacations are. If you’ve never been to Utah, I highly recommend.

  4. It is always great to see your perspective and great photos to places we had been for that brings lots of good memories. It is a good thing that you camped within the park and thus avoid the traffic jam at the entrance.

    • Staying inside the park was awesome and I feel very fortunate we were able to snag a campsite thanks to a little creative thinking on my part 😉 We hiked observation point partly because of YOUR blog post. So glad we did!

    • We actually hiked Observation Point and looked down on Angels Landing. The view was spectacular. Stay tuned for that upcoming post!

  5. wonderful photos as usual.. visiting Zion and Yellowstone are on my list of places to visit…. this past year I came across this group More Than Just Parks and their goal is to visit all 59 parks here is the Zion video link…https://www.morethanjustparks.com/zion over spring break I was able to make it to Dry Tortugas NP and Everglades but I want to go back to Dry Tortugas and camp and that is a work on progress… thanks for the photos and enjoy your week.

    • So many amazing places, so little time! Sometimes it’s difficult setting priorities and having the financial where with all to full-fill our dreams. It sure is fun trying!

  6. Wonderful pics, as usual! Sounds like a delightful way to spend time with your daughter in a place you passed through when she was a wee one! Giving me good ideas about what to see in our limited stay there in September!

  7. Stunningly beautiful! And I see that Ashton shares your eye in capturing beautiful pictures! 😀

    • She’s my creative child and she’s just now starting to embrace using a camera instead of the iPhone. Not that her iPhone photos aren’t good, but the camera will open her creativity even more. I originally thought we would focus on photography during this excursion, but the scenery and trails quickly stole our attention. Quick snap shots on auto were fun!

  8. I’m very interested to hear more about this next hike. I think we’re going to start our tour of Utah with Zion next spring and I have been reading and watching videos about Angel’s Landing and I just don’t think I can do it… It looks incredible, but the older I get, the more freaked out I get about heights like that. Add in all the people and my lack of confidence in my less than 100% leg and… no… I just don’t see it happening. So now I am on the hunt for other awesome Zion hikes with great views….. I can’t wait to hear about what you found!

    • There are so many amazing trails to choose from that Angel’s Landing is not necessary. Our neighbor at the campground attempted to hike Angel’s Landing and said he wouldn’t have had any problem navigating (68 yr old) but it was the hoards of people on the trail that stressed him to the point of turning around.
      Our epic hike = Observation Point. It was amazing but challenging. Watch for the post next Wednesday 🙂

  9. Ingrid thank you for the great stories and the photos of Zion. We were getting ready to do Angel’s Landing (well, only up to Scout Landing really) when we had to start heading back east for a family emergency. Oh well, it will give us something to look forward to on a future visit. There will definitely be a future visit to this beautiful area!

    • Oh dear, I’m so sorry to hear about the family emergency. Having a home on wheels does make it convenient to change directions on a whim or in this case, an emergency. I know – been there, done that.
      Instead of hiking to Scout Landing (because we weren’t doing the cables) we hiked Observation Point and looked down on Angels Landing… next post, stay tuned!
      Safe travels!

  10. Beautiful pictures…brings back memories of when we hiked this area and stayed in a cabin with our daughter! I’m really enjoying your blog! Thank you

    • Thank you. She and I have talked about a return visit in cooler weather, in which case, we’d want to rent one of the cabins. It was such a joy to recount old memories while making new ones.

  11. You managed to get some beautiful photos at the Emerald Pools despite the crowd. Other than the “traffic jam” one would think you were alone. The the reflection photo at the one pool:) I am so glad our first visit to Zion five years ago was for the month of March and before Utah decided the world needed to visit Utah!! We hiked the pool at the beginning of March when there was still a little ice hanging from the first falls. We actually went over the area closed rope to see the whole trail (don’t tell). We had this entire hike to ourselves:) I don’t believe this would be possible today in any month now that EVERYONE knows about Utah’s beauty.

    • Yeah, unfortunately I’m not sure there’s an ‘off’ time any more. I’d like to go back in the fall, but the research I’ve done thus far indicates it’s pretty busy then also 😞 A cooler weather month is definitely more ideal for hiking, but ice/snow would be a concern for footing. Your secret is safe with me … I know it was awesome not having to share the trail – special treat!

  12. I love that you got to return here with your daughter. Your photos of the waterfalls, Emerald Pools, and canyon walls are all spectacular. You two look so happy in all these photos!

  13. I love that you were able to relax and be totally present in the moment this visit. It’s also wonderful that you got to revisit this place now that your daughter is an adult.

    • When we first started our full-time RV journey, I was so focused on the photo taking that I was missing out on the experience (if that makes any sense). I’m enjoying my excursions so much more with my new attitude and sharing the adventure with my daughter was extra special. She also enjoyed the tales of the past.

      • That absolutely rings true with my own experience and what you’re saying totally makes sense. My first couple years of traveling I wanted to see as much as possible. Now if much rather do one thing instead of two and just enjoy that one thing…. And then go back to the RV and cook a leisurely dinner, have a beer. Traveling with someone too has that effect and can really make the experience itself more intense provided you’re both in that mindset. Again, it’s wonderful you’re able to share such quality time with your daughter – both the new experience as it unfolded and the reminiscing.

  14. Beautiful shot of the Virgin River! You reminded me of the last time we hiked the Emerald Trail. It was a couple of years ago with Barb, our daughter Jessica and our granddaughter Kendall. It was equally as busy and I think Kendall cried and screamed the entire way. At one point I walked ahead when this younger couple walked up to me talking about how nice it was to finally be away from that crying kid. I turned to them and said….”Tell me about it!” It is a beautiful yet easy hike that everyone should do while in the area.

    • Ah yes, a screaming child does take an excursion to another level… and not a pleasant one. Hopefully, one day you’ll be able to return to the trail with Kendall as a teenager and recount her unpleasant antics. I had a great time retracing our steps and sharing tales of the past. Unfortunately, most of my photo albums are in storage or I would’ve shared the photos at Zion when she was 4. It would’ve been fun to do a yesterday and today photo comparison.

  15. I enjoyed your stories of the present and past, on the revisited trail and Zion adventure, Ingrid. The gorgeous scenery and photos are impressive, and it’s also equally as impressive that you are in such good shape to hike these challenging trails 23 years later. What an adventure for both of you~~

    • It was pretty special to have my daughter tell me repeatedly how proud she is of me and my physical abilities. I actually surprised myself on this trip as well. Wait until you hear about the next hike we did… one of the most strenuous in Zion National Park. Whohoo!

  16. Wow! Wow! Wow! This all was pretty epic to me. Fabulous flashbacks and such a special time with your daughter! Looking forward to your next epic hike!

    • I love it when people are polite and ask if we’re sisters 😉 You have a partner in crime anytime you want to go. I’d love to return to Zion to focus on photography. Someone we know has a birthday in August and that wish list at B&H is growing. Perhaps a new camera is in order and will need to be tested in the fall 😆

        • Oct 1st we’ll be back in Phoenix. But the past few weekends I’ve been visiting the kids in Phx. Prescott is only an hour or so up Interstate 17 from Phoenix. So I’m not far away 🙂

  17. Awesome photos, definitely on our bucket list. A recent “Empty Nester” myself, I treasure any gift of time spent with my adult daughter. So glad you were able to share such a beautiful spot! Thanks for sharing and safe travels!

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Since my daughter has a demanding job, I relish anytime I can get with her. She and I are already looking forward to another excursion, although I’m not sure we’ll be able to top this one.

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