Things to Do in Zion National Park
Deep in the backcountry of the northwestern section of Zion National Park, Kolob Arch is a natural wonder that’s worth the all day hike. Spanning 287 ft. Kolob Arch is the world’s second longest naturally occurring arch—and only three feet shorter than Landscape Arch at Arches National Park. The arch is an iconic symbol of the park that encapsulates its rugged beauty, although reaching the arch requires 14 miles of hiking through isolated wilderness. Despite the length of the total journey—which can often take up to 12 hours—the hike to the arch is a revered pilgrimage for backcountry enthusiasts and hikers. Should you choose to hike to Kolob Arch, be sure to pack along plenty of water and be comfortable with hiking at the high altitude. The trailhead begins over 6,000 feet, and spring and fall are the best months for comfort and milder weather.
Even though the Zion landscape was carved by rushing waters, there are a couple of places where the water gathers in crystalline, turquoise pools. At the aptly named Emerald Pools, the iridescent dollops of fresh water create a refreshing contrast to the earthy red cliffs that explode throughout the park. Multiple trails lead up towards the pools from the canyon’s scenic drive, with the half-mile, paved trail to the Lower Pool being the shortest and most accessible. For those seeking a bit more adventure, the Middle Pools trail and the Upper Pools trail climb farther into the backcountry, with the Upper Pools Trail being three miles, round-trip, and gaining 350 feet in elevation. Along the hike, watch as waterfalls spill their way over the slick surface of the rocks, and marvel at the colors and serenity of the pools as they float beneath the cliffs. For fresh views throughout the hike, return along the Kayenta Trail to complete a wilderness loop.
It doesn’t take long to be completely moved by Zion’s natural beauty, and The Court of the Patriarchs is a just a few minutes up the canyon’s scenic road. At this roadside pullout (and 4th shuttle stop), three multi-hued pillars of sandstone erupt from the valley floor, and create an iconic symbol of Zion that encapsulates the rugged beauty. Named after the biblical figures Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the formation is a favorite with photographers, climbers, and early-morning visitors. Just after dawn, when the sun is first rising, the towers are bathed in morning light and cast a red, radiant hue. The best viewpoint for admiring the spires is up a short trail from the roadside shuttle stop that leads above the trees. Other peaks, such as the red Mount Moroni, also spring from the landscape, and there is even a chance you could see climbers scaling on Isaac’s vertical walls.
If you’re a daredevil, an adrenaline seeker, a photographer—or a bit crazy—then there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with the trail to Angel’s Landing. Along with the Narrows and the hike to Kolob Arch, Angel’s Landing is a backcountry pinnacle that offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That said, the trail to the top of Angel’s Landing is as controversial as it is beautiful, as the steep drop-offs and uneven footing create a hazardous trail that winds its way up to one of the best lookouts in the park. On the trail’s final half-mile, hikers must navigate a narrow ridge that has vertical drops of nearly 1,000 feet. Thankfully, there is a comprehensive system of anchors, chains, guardrails, and handholds that aid in climbing the ridge, but it’s imperative when hiking to watch your step and have solid footing at all times.