Starting on Tuesday, March 24, park officials have temporarily closed Angels Landing from Scout Lookout on. This is the latest in a long list of measures designed to limit crowds in the park and promote safe social-distancing.
With the park shuttles suspended, all park campgrounds closed, and the visitor center shut down, for the time being, park visitors need to find new ways to enjoy the park until things return to normal again.
Trails like Angels Landing, Canyon Overlook, and Emerald Pools are some of Zion’s best-known destinations. But they are far from the only hiking options. If you want to practice some safe, healthy social-distancing in the fresh air and open space of Zion National Park, keep reading to learn 7 of the park’s most scenic trails.
With Angels Landing closed, thrill-seekers may be on the lookout for a new challenge. You’ll find it at Cable Mountain. This 7.6-mile roundtrip hike features a steep climb, starting at the floor of the canyon and climbing all the way to the top.
Besides incredible views, this trail is also home to some history. Along your hike, you can spot remnants of the old cable system that was once used to haul lumber from the bottom of the canyon floor to the rim far above. The system was constructed in 1901, and abandoned in 1930, after the park was already founded.
Zion National Park’s Angels Landing makes it onto lists of the world’s most dangerous hiking trails all the time. But it’s far from the park’s only unique draw.
Few visitors realize that Zion is also home to the world’s second-largest natural arch. That’s partly because it’s located in the park’s lesser-known Kolob Canyons section, and partly because the hike to get to the arch and back will take you a full day. But if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded not only with an incredible view of the arch but also a trail a mostly empty trail.
There are two spots you can start this trail; Kolob Canyons Road at Lee Pass or at the Hop Valley Trailhead. Either way, you’ll face a 7-mile one-way hike to the arch, over moderately difficult trails
If you’re looking for something a bit easier than the trek to Kolob Arch, Watchman Trail is a great choice. At just 3-miles roundtrip, you can easily take on this trail in an hour if you’re fast a walker. You won’t quite climb to the top of the Watchman, but you will enjoy some great views of the famous rock formation.
This trail may be busier than many of the others on this list, especially because it is located on the shuttle loop. But with many visitors driving into the park to destinations deeper in the canyon, this is a good trail to hit if you find crowds at other popular spots, as it’s located at shuttle stop 1. You can easily park in the visitor center parking lot and walk to this trailhead as well.
Another semi-popular trail, Hidden Canyon is a 2.2-mile roundtrip hike. It’s also located on the shuttle loop. But because it starts at the same trailhead as Weeping Rock Trail, you’ll find that most visitors take the latter loop instead.
While the hike may be short, you’ll climb 2,000 feet in elevation, making this a bit of a challenge. Besides getting your heart pounding, you’ll also enjoy views of Angels Landing, The Great White Throne, and Cable Mountain, and pass cool canyon pools, small arches, massive boulders, and more.
Pine Creek Waterfall
If you want to get away from the traffic and parking woes of the lower canyon, hop in your car and head upwards, towards the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Before you get to this architectural marvel though, you’ll make a sharp u-curve, with a small pull-off area just past it. There, you’ll find an easy-to-miss trailhead marker.
Pine Creek Waterfall Trail is 1.5-miles in length, though you’ll need to be able to climb some boulders and cross rough sections of trail to make it to the trail’s namesake. Pine Creek Waterfall is a cascading oasis that’ll leave you feeling you’ve left Zion behind for a whole new world.
Kolob Arch isn’t the only scenic and beautiful trail in Kolob Canyons. Taylor Creek is likely one of the least-known trails in Zion, as well as one of the most beautiful. It’s a good, moderate length compared to most of the trails on this list, at 4.5-miles roundtrip.
While it’s nowhere near the size of Kolob Arch, this trail is home to a different arch, Double Arch Cove.
This trail isn’t technically located in the park. But with the shuttle service currently suspended and parking filling up fast, this trail is a great alternative for anyone looking to skip the crowds.
To get to the trailhead of Coalpits Wash, skip the map, as it isn’t likely to be listed. Instead, head out of the park, on Route 9 towards La Verkin. Around 2.7 miles west of the town of Rockville and 6.7 miles east of the town of Virgin, Route 9 will cross over a bridge, with Coalpits Wash down below. On the east side of the bridge is a small parking area on a dirt road. Once you park, look for the fence marking the boundary of the national park property and follow it to a wooden gate marking the trailhead.
The trail stretches about 9 miles total one-way. But you can hike it as far as you’d like and turn around when you’re ready. You’ll trek along the open wash, which may have a small stream running through it. Lush vegetation lines the trail, and at times, you’ll climb over boulders and cross small pools.
Parts of the trail, including the parking area, are on a flood plain. So if rain is in the forecast, make sure that you’ve checked flash flood risks for the day and skip this trail if there’s any chance of getting caught in a sudden shower.
Planning a Smart, Healthy Visit to Zion
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on many of our daily lives. A visit to Zion can be a great way to get away from the stress and confusion going on in the world. Not to mention a good way to get some fresh air and exercise. But it’s up to each of us to stay healthy and safe during our visit.
If you arrive at a trailhead and find it crowded, move on to a different trailhead instead. Take care to keep your distance from other hikers and park visitors while on trails, roadways, and in other parts of the park. Check the National Park Service website or call the hotline to get your questions answered. Only seek the help of rangers if it’s absolutely necessary.
For more tips and advice on staying safe and healthy during your visit, check out this article next.