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Walking the Emerald Pools Trail in Zion

Zion National Park in Utah has a tremendous variety of trails to pick from for hikers.  However, as we aren’t experienced hikers we opted for a beautiful, and relatively easy, hike during our visit.  Plus it was sunny and extremely hot the day we were in the park, not exactly perfect conditions to be exerting ourselves on a strenuous hike.  We decided to try the emerald pools trail.

lower emerald pools

this waterfall spills from the middle pool into the lower pool

The emerald pools hike is a popular trail for visitors.  It is a 3 mile walk round-trip if you go all the way to the upper pool, which we elected to do.  However, if you want to make the hike less exerting, you can stop at the lower pool which is just over 1 mile round-trip, or the middle pool which is 2 miles round-trip.  The hike itself is considered easy up to the lower pool, and then becomes more of a moderate hike for the rest of the way.

small waterfall along the emerald pools trail

a small waterfall found on the trail somewhere between the lower and upper pools

We think that with taking breaks as needed, most tourists can make it to the upper emerald pool with no issues.  And in fact, in our personal experience, the upper pool is the only pool guaranteed to be a true pool.  In the height of summer when we visited, the lower and middle emerald pools didn’t have much water in them.  In fact, they were more like puddles than pools.

cactus flower on the emeral pools trail

a pretty pink cactus flower is found along the emerald pools trail

But even without the pools being significant during our visit, the hike was spectacular.  There were amazing views of Zion, all kinds of cactus flowers, and small wildlife crossing the trail.  We even saw some chipmunks along the way, and another hiker mentioned a snake, but we missed it.


a caterpillar makes a journey across the trail in front of us (don’t worry, we helped it along so it didn’t get stepped on)

And finally arriving at the upper emerald pool was beautiful.  Surrounded on 3 sides by sheer cliffs, there is only one way in.  Once inside the pool area, there are huge boulders to sit on and have a rest from your hike.  Find some shade and take a load off for awhile.  Bring a snack and some water to enjoy like we did.  After all the sweat, and the huffing and puffing from the hike, the pool was made that much more special and memorable.

We had made it and it was worth it.

the upper emerald pools

the upper emerald pool

You want to know the best thing about the whole hike?  Even though it is a popular trail, we found it to be a quiet and serene hike.  Sure, there were the occasional hikers that passed us chatting up a storm, but for the most part, people walked in silence taking in the scenery.  It allowed us to be immersed in nature, seeing the beauty around us, and listening to the wildlife above and below.  And the payoff in the end (the upper pool) makes it worth it.

We think that it is a perfect hike to try on your visit to Zion National Park.