Bunny Does Zion National Park’s Easy Hikes
Bunny visited Zion National Park in early spring, shortly after some unexpectedly severe weather had hit the region. As a result, many of the popular hiking trails in Zion were closed. While Bunny initially lamented this (and Mr. Bunny secretly rejoiced), they ended up enjoying a number of very scenic hikes - most of them rated easy - during their 3-night stay in the park.
Read below about Bunny’s hikes and get her general tips for visiting Zion National Park in Utah.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is one of Utah’s Mighty 5 - five stunning national parks stretching across southern and central Utah.
In the heart of Zion National Park lies the 15-mile long Zion Canyon, a beautiful, deep gorge that offers spectacular scenery. In Zion, there are majestic sandstone cliffs, narrow slot canyons, impressive sheer cliffs, raging waterfalls and beautiful riverside paths.
Zion National Park is located in southwestern Utah, less than a 3-hour drive from Las Vegas. The South Entrance and its excellent Zion Visitor Centre are located next to the town of Springdale while the East Entrance is further along Highway 9.
The entrance fee to Zion is 35 USD per vehicle and is valid for seven days.
If you are planning to visit more than two national parks during the year, buy the America the Beautiful Annual Pass, Bunny says.
Where to Stay
There is one lodge, Zion Lodge, and three campgrounds inside the park. If you don’t manage to snag a spot there, stay in neighboring Springdale.
Springdale has a number of hotels, B&Bs and inns to choose from. Bunny stayed at La Quinta Inn & Suites which, while not fancy, was perfectly fine for her needs.
Springdale also has some restaurants that serve decent food. Bunny’s favourite was Thai Sapa, specialising in delicious homemade Thai curries.
Zion National Park has two separate shuttle bus lines that run daily from March through to late November. The Springdale line takes visitors from the town of Springdale to the South Entrance of the park in a matter of minutes. There is absolutely no need to drive - even if you are American and allergic to public transportation.
The second line, Zion Canyon line, connects the Visitor Center with nine different stops along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Both lines operate free of charge.
Private vehicles are allowed on the Scenic Drive only in winter, when the shuttle buses no longer operate. In fact, the free shuttle bus system was introduced to alleviate worsening traffic and congestion in the park.
Bunny’s Hikes in Zion National Park
Bunny visited Zion National Park with the intention of doing as many hikes as possible. In the end, she did manage to tackle most of the trails that were open during her visit. Admittedly, however, these were mostly Zion’s easiest hikes.
But hey it wasn’t Bunny’s fault that the tougher trails were closed due to unsafe spring thaw conditions.
This is such an easy trail that it can barely be called a hike, Bunny says. It is worth doing though, because of the impressive waterfall, the Weeping Rock, that greets you at the end.
The trail is only 0,4 miles long (roundtrip) and takes less than half an hour to complete. The Zion shuttle bus stops right at the start of the trail.
Watchman Trail was one of Bunny’s favourite hikes in Zion. It is a relatively easy, 3-mile roundtrip, that has spectacular views to the surrounding mountain peaks. You will also get a good bird’s eye view of the Visitor Centre and even Springdale further away. Keep an eye out for a short extra loop trail at the end of the Watchman Trail that’s worth doing.
If the queue to the shuttle bus upon entering Zion seems overwhelming, skip it and start your day with the Watchman Trail. Morning is the perfect time to do this lovely hike, and, most importantly, you can easily reach the trail by foot right from the Visitor Centre.
If the famous Narrows is closed during your visit (as it was for Bunny), or the prospect of doing it seems too daunting to you, you can always go on the pleasant Riverside Walk along the Virgin River. The Riverside Walk doubles as the beginning section of the Narrows hike, so you can get a little taster of what it entails.
Riverside Walk is an easy stroll of a little over two miles (roundtrip) on a paved trail. You will need an hour to complete the trail which also offers a good opportunity to admire the famous hanging gardens, vertical plant communities growing around seeps and springs, of Zion.
Riverside Walk is very popular with families so be prepared for strollers, Bunny says. There are plenty of nice picnic spots on rocks along the way, so pack a picnic for this delightful and easy hike.
It is good to fuel up at the Zion Lodge between hikes. The food is not exactly memorable but it beats the option of leaving the park for lunch and then queueing to get back in again. Alternatively, pack a good picnic lunch and enjoy it somewhere with a view or just on the large comfy grassy area in front of the Lodge.
The Emerald Pool Trails start a stone’s throw from Zion Lodge. During Bunny’s visit, both the Upper Emerald Pool and Kayenta Trail were closed due to recent rock falls. Bunny had to settle with the Lower Emerald Pool Trail which is just over a mile roundtrip and takes less than an hour to complete.
The whole trail is paved and pretty popular, so be prepared for crowds. This is not what Bunny would call wilderness hiking. The Lower Emerald Pool at the end of the trail is pleasant enough and you can also walk behind the waterfall for some interesting pictures and a faceful of mist.
Bunny’s first hike in Zion was an attempt at Angels Landing. While this cannot be considered an easy hike by any stretch of the imagination, it was the psychological toll, rather than the physical one, that proved Bunny’s downfall.
Angels Landing is the most iconic hike in Zion National Park. It is also considered one of the scariest hikes in the world. A number of people have died on the trail in recent years and there are plenty of safety warnings along the way.
Bunny started the hike around noon, which was a mistake. The beginning of the trail, the tough ascent to Refrigerator Canyon, was busy but manageable. The famous Walter's Wiggles - a set of many compact switchbacks (think zigzagging trails) - was also OK. It was the scramble onwards from Scout Lookout where the crowds really turned from an annoyance to a real danger.
Nevertheless, Bunny was determined to go all the way to the top to witness the famous lookout with her own eyes. She posed confidently in front of the warning sign at Scout Lookout, cheerfully noting that no Bunny fatalities had been reported to date.
However, after about 30 minutes of teetering on the narrow, slippery trail, battling the crowds and hanging on to a chain rope with both paws while facing a sheer drop of 1000 feet on both sides, Bunny began to have second thoughts. It was actually Mr. Bunny (god bless his sensibility) who first suggested turning around. Bunny was all too happy to oblige. Only once back at Scout Lookout did Bunny feel like she could breathe again.
The final climb to Angels Landing looks and feels insanely dangerous, especially when busy, and Bunny cannot really recommend it to anyone with a desire to live. That said, there were plenty of foolish (mostly young) people completing the trail seemingly without a worry. Each to their own, Bunny says.
West Rim Trail
For mere mortals, Bunny recommends continuing on the West Rim Trail that turns left at the Scout Lookout, instead of right to Angels Landing. It is a reasonably taxing trail but the scenery is superb. And, most importantly, the hiking is much less hair-raising, despite some impressive drops.
West Rim Trail is a serious, 14-mile hike in total and Bunny only hiked a part of it. She went far enough to find a nice picnic spot and enjoyed a well-deserved breather.
West Rim Trail also offers nice views of Angels Landing and the daredevils making their way to the top. Just remember to bring your binoculars, Bunny says.
Canyon Overlook Trail
Of all the hikes Bunny did in Zion, the Canyon Overlook Trail was the only one where Bunny needed her own car. The start of the hike is off Highway 9, so if you are staying in Springdale, you will first have to follow Highway 9 through the park, towards the East Entrance. The Canyon Overlook Trail starts just after the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel.
Canyon Overlook Trail is just one mile roundtrip but is rated a moderate hike. The trail crosses slick rock slabs and there are some scary parts that might not be suitable for people afraid of heights. Though it’s nothing like Angels Landing!
The viewpoint to the main canyon was stunning but Bunny went in late afternoon which was a mistake. The sun was shining directly into her eyes, making photography very challenging. Be wiser than Bunny and go earlier in the day if you want nice photos.
Bunny’s Tips Before You Go
- Zion National Park is the fourth most popular national park in the entire US, with over 4 million visitors annually. In other words, it gets insanely busy. It is best not visited during school breaks and national holidays. It really dampens your experience if you have to spend hours queueing to get in and then battle crowds on the hiking trails.
- Stay at the Zion Lodge inside the park if you have the chance. It books up months in advance so some planning is required (Bunny failed on this front). Staying inside the park will give you an opportunity to enjoy the stunning scenery early in the morning and late in the evening when the crowds are gone.
- If you are keen to hike the Narrows, do so at the first available opportunity. Bunny missed the experience because she foolishly thought she could leave it for another day. When the day came, she found the Narrows closed due to high water levels. This can happen at a moment’s notice.
- If you plan to hike the Narrows, don’t worry about the equipment. You can easily rent all that you need at Zion Outfitter, located at the south Zion entrance, right next to shuttle bus stop #1. Everything from neoprene socks to chest-high dry bibs and even walking sticks are available to rent.
- Don’t skip Zion even if you’re not a hiker. Thanks to the shuttle bus system, it is very easy to enjoy Zion’s stunning scenery without walking much at all.
- It is easy to combine a visit to Zion with Bryce Canyon National Park which is located less than a 1,5-hour drive north. But don’t even think about doing both in one day, Bunny says. It wouldn’t do either park justice.
Zion National Park in southwestern Utah is a prime hiking destination for hikers of all ages and levels. There are plenty of short, scenic hikes as well as epic trails that require both physical and mental prowess.
Although Bunny was initially disappointed by the many trail closures that plagued her visit to Zion, she ended up enjoying the park’s easy hikes tremendously. She plans to return one day and complete the famous Narrows, and perhaps even try another attempt at Angels Landing.