Top 5 Hikes in Zion National Park for Hiking Enthusiasts

by | May 2020 | 14 comments

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Out of all the National Parks I’ve been to so far, Zion National Park is up there as my favorite of the Utah National Parks and one of my all-time favorite National Parks in general. When I visit National Parks, hiking is at the very top of my to-do list. And the hikes in Zion National Park are incredible!

The vibrant red rock towering over the green valley and Virgin River below is a gorgeous sight. With stunning scenery and so much to explore, Zion National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list to visit! 

Plus, Zion has some unique hiking trails that make it a must for hikers. If you’re planning on visiting Zion National Park, be sure to make some time for at least a few of the top trails there. Wondering which must-hike trails you should tackle during your trip to Zion? 

If you’re a hiking enthusiast and up for some awesome hikes including a few challenging trails, this is the list for you! I’m going to give you the top 5 hikes in Zion National Park ranked from easiest to hardest, saving the best for last.

Top 5 Best Hikes in Zion National Park Utah

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Visiting Zion National Park in Utah? If you’re a hiking enthusiast, these are the 5 best hikes in Zion National Park! #ZionNationalPark #UtahNationalParks #hikesinZionNationalParks #ZionNationalParkhikes #Utah Click To Tweet

Zion National Park Information

First, let’s start with some basic info about visiting Zion National Park…

Zion National Park

• Location: Springdale, UT (about a 2.5-hour drive from Las Vegas, NV)

• Entrance Fee: FREE with America the Beautiful Pass OR $35 for private vehicles and all passengers (15 or less) for 7 days.

• Shuttle System: Be aware that parking is extremely limited in Zion National Park, but there’s a shuttle system to get you around the Park.

• Hiking: You can find information for hikes in Zion National Park here. Out of the top 5 hikes, 4 of them are Zion Canyon Trails.

Zion National Park Zion Canyon Map with Shuttle Stops for Utah National Parks Road Trip
Map courtesy of NPS.gov

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Campground for Hikes in Zion National Park

If you like to travel by RV to National Parks like we do or you want to rent a cabin, I recommend the Zion River Resort in Virgin, UT. They have large, grassy RV sites, private restrooms with showers, and a pool with a hot tub. They also offer a shuttle bus to Zion National Park.

This campground is about a 20-minute drive from Zion National Park but worth it! This is one of our favorite RV parks of all the campgrounds we’ve stayed at in the country. Plus, it’s actually right by one of the best hikes in Zion National Park (see the Subway trail info below).

Zion River Resort in Virgin UT by Zion National Park
RV Site at Zion River Resort near Zion National Park

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Top 5 Hikes in Zion National Park

1. Canyon Overlook

Canyon Overlook Trail

Difficulty Level: Easy-Moderate

Distance: 1.0-mile roundtrip

Elevation: 163 feet

Hiking Time: 1 hour

Trail Access: There’s no shuttle service to this hike, so you’ll need to drive to the trailhead located by the east entrance of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel on the right side. There are very few parking spots, so be prepared to circle around as you wait for a spot to open up.

For your first hike in Zion National Park, I recommend starting with a fairly easy hike and one of my favorites: the Canyon Overlook Trail. It’s a great starting point for the hikes in Zion National Park.

The short trail features some rock-scrambling and a cool wooden bridge you cross under a large rock wall. At the end of the trail, you’ll reach a lookout point offering an incredible canyon view!

2. The Narrows

The Narrows – From the Bottom Up

Difficulty Level: Moderate-Difficult

Distance: up to 9.4-miles roundtrip

Elevation: 334 feet

Hiking Time: 1-8 hours depending on how far you want to go

Trail Access: Shuttle Stop #9 (Temple of Sinawava)

Next, I suggest hiking one of the most popular trails in Zion National Park: the Narrows from the Bottom Up! There’s also a Top Down section of the Narrows. But that requires a permit whereas no permit is needed to hike the Bottom Up section.

The Narrows is a fun and unique trail that takes you through a canyon up the Virgin River. In fact, the majority of the trail is actually in the river itself! You’ll be walking, wading, and possibly even swimming through the river.

The water is FREEZING! So you’re going to want waterproof hiking gear, such as waterproof pants, socks, and shoes. You’ll also want to have a walking stick. It will help you navigate the slippery rocks in the river and keep your balance in the flowing water. 

You can rent gear for hiking the Narrows in the town of Springdale outside the entrance to Zion National Park. But if you’re into hiking, it’s worth it to buy your own. Plus, you’re going to need waterproof hiking gear again for the Subway hike (see info below). I highly recommend the following:

• waterproof hiking boots (I use and love these ones – they’re lightweight, super comfy, and have excellent traction!)

• neoprene socks

• waterproof phone case

• waterproof pouch for small items like keys

• waterproof bag to carry all your hiking gear

There are two different routes you can take in the Narrows – from the Bottom Up or the Top Down. The Bottom Up option for hiking the Narrows does not require a permit, unlike the Top Down option.

There aren’t any particular viewpoints or special sights in the Narrows. It’s all about the journey. So you can stop at any point or keep going as far as 9.4-miles roundtrip. I made it about 6-miles roundtrip (and 4 of those miles were in the Virgin River).

Traversing the river while being surrounded by towering canyon walls was such an amazing experience! Definitely fit hiking the Narrows into your itinerary if you can.

WORD OF CAUTION for Hiking the Narrows: Be sure to check the weather forecast including the flash flood potential beforehand! If there’s a chance of rain, save this hike for another day. Flash floods are a real possibility and extremely dangerous (even deadly).

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3. Hidden Canyon

Hidden Canyon Trail via the East Rim Trail

Difficulty Level: Difficult

Distance: 2.5-miles roundtrip

Elevation: 850 feet

Hiking Time: 2.5 hours

Trail Access: Shuttle Stop #7 (Weeping Rock). The trailhead for the  East Rim Trail is located across the footbridge adjacent to the parking lot.

One of the other top hikes in Zion National Park is the Hidden Canyon Trail. This trail provides nice views of the valley below and a small arch at the end. Okay, so what’s so great about that?

Thi trail is a little longer and more strenuous with switchbacks. There are also narrow cliff ledges with steep drop-offs and chains to hold on to, giving this hike a sense of danger perfect for anyone looking for a little more excitement. It’s also not as crowded as some of the other hikes in Zion National Park.

Just a heads-up: you may want to skip this trail if heights aren’t your thing. But this trail is a good warm-up for Angel’s Landing (see below), which is even scarier!

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4. Angel’s Landing

Angel’s Landing via West Rim Trail

Difficulty Level: Difficult

Distance: 5.4-miles roundtrip

Elevation: 1,488 feet

Hiking Time: 4 hours

Trail Access: Shuttle Stop #6 (The Grotto).

Angel’s Landing is one of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park. And with good reason… the panoramic views are spectacular! But the views aren’t the only reason Angel’s Landing is on everyone’s bucket list for must-do hikes in Zion National Park. Adrenaline junkies and adventure seekers love the thrill of this daring trail.

If you have a fear of heights, you might want to skip Angel’s Landing. This hike is not for the faint of heart as it takes you up to soaring heights with steep drop-offs and chains to hold in a death grip as you navigate the narrow cliff ledges.

Some areas of the trail are so tight that you have to hold on to the chains to keep your footing. But some areas have no chains at all with sheer drop-offs on one or even both sides of the precarious trail. In fact, the trail is so narrow at times, you have to take turns letting people pass you as there’s only room for one person at a time.

And it can become very crowded, making it challenging to hold on to the chains as people pass you. But don’t let go of the chains whatever you do! People have died falling off the Angel’s Landing trail. #truestory

So be prepared to get up close and personal with the people you pass on the trail. Start really early in the morning, and try to go on a weekday versus a weekend or holiday. Hopefully, it will be less crowded then.

The Angel’s Landing trail can be pretty terrifying (take it from someone with a fear of edges who somehow managed to make it all the way). But if you make it to the end at the very top, I guarantee you’ll have a massive sense of accomplishment. And the views are worth it!

Word of Advice: If you want to hike Angel’s Landing, I recommend getting warmed up by starting with the Canyon Overlook (#1) and Hidden Canyon (#3) trails first. Keep in mind that Angel’s Landing is much scarier than the Hidden Canyon Trail.

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5. The Subway

The Subway – From the Bottom Up

Difficulty Level: Difficult

Distance: 9.0-miles roundtrip

Elevation: ~1,300 feet

Hiking Time: 6-10 hours

Trail Access: The Subway trailhead is actually located outside of the main Park. This hike begins and ends at the Left Fork Trailhead on the Kolob Terrace Road right by the campground we stayed at! It’s about 1 hour from Zion Canyon.

Map of Zion National Park The Subway Trailhead

*FYI: the Subway requires a permit to hike, which you can apply for here: Subway Permits. Make sure you bring a route description and map with you on this hike as there is no official marked trail.

I’ve saved the best (and most challenging trail) for last. The Subway hike is my favorite of the hikes in Zion National Park. In fact, it’s one of my favorite hikes of all time! 

This strenuous trail will have you scrambling over rocks, ducking under trees, and wading through the river all while trying to follow the unofficial and unmarked trail. It’s a blast! You have to work for it, but all that hard work pays off. 

There are some truly scenic sites along the hike. And as you approach the end, the mouth of the canyon opens up to an awe-inspiring geologic formation that will blow your mind!

As you approach the end of the Subway hike, the mouth of the canyon opens up to an awe-inspiring geologic formation that will blow your mind! #hiketheSubway #TheSubway #TheSubwayZionNationalPark #ZionNationalPark Click To Tweet

It feels like you’ve stumbled upon a special top-secret location reserved for only those who make the effort to reach it. For the few people who were there when we were, it felt like we were all sharing a special moment with each other.

I’m thrilled that the National Park Service requires a permit to hike this trail, limiting the number of people who get to experience the Subway. It was so incredible to be able to appreciate the quiet beauty of the slot canyon and not to have to fight crowds to get a good shot.

I could have spent all day just staring at the magical tunnel and mesmerizing pools of water, taking it all in. There’s also a small hidden waterfall at the end of the Subway through what appears to be a narrow maze. Be prepared to swim in the ice cold water to reach it though!

WARNING: There are several sections of the trail that are very slippery, especially at the Subway itself where the rock is wet and slick. Both my hubby and I went down as we walked across the floor of the slot canyon. So make sure you wear proper shoes with good traction, watch your step, and be careful!

You’re also going to want waterproof gear to hike the Subway. Again, I highly recommend the following:

• waterproof hiking boots (I use and love these ones – they’re lightweight, super comfy, and have excellent traction!)

• neoprene socks

• waterproof phone case

• waterproof pouch for small items like keys

• waterproof bag to carry all your hiking gear

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Wrapping Up Best Hikes in Zion National Park

Zion National Park is a haven for hiking enthusiasts and a must if you love hiking like I do! This list of top hikes in Zion National Park will ensure you have an amazing visit to one of Utah’s amazing National Parks.

Have you already been to Zion National Park? Were there any other hikes you enjoyed that I didn’t include in this list? If so, share them in the comments below!

Do you love visiting National Parks and want to go to as many as possible? Grab your free U.S. National Parks Checklist here!

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Best Hikes in Zion National Park Utah
5 Best Hikes in Zion National Park Utah
The Best 5 Hikes in Zion National Park Utah

Briana Nickas

Behind the Blog

I’m Briana Nickas, a part-time RVer who loves RVing, hiking, visiting National Parks, and taking photos. My happiest days are spent on the road with my hubby and our fur-baby Saucy (a 7-lb maltipoo) exploring the country and meeting fellow adventurers along the way… READ MORE

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Leave a Comment!

14 Comments

  1. Justin

    Zion is one of my favorite national parks. You’ve nailed it with the best hikes to experience for Zion. A great variety of hikes for different levels of expertise. Something for everyone to enjoy!

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks, Justin! Zion is one of my favorite National Parks too. There are so many incredible hikes there! I tried to include a good variety of the top hikes in Zion National Park. I’m happy you agree with my top 5 picks. 🙂

      Reply
  2. turno

    Needful content. Keep creating content like this! Tons of love for you

    Reply
  3. Alejandra

    Great post! I love hiking adventures.

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks, Alejandra! Me too! Hiking allows you to get out in nature and really explore the area. Isn’t it the best?! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Alycia

    Thank you for posting! I’m ready to be outdoors again and I think first on my list will be a national park. This was super helpful!

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks, Alycia! I hear ya! The outdoors are calling. 🙂 Glad you found the post helpful. I hope you get the chance to go to Zion National Park soon (or any National Park for that matter).

      Reply
  5. Katherine

    So many awesome hikes with gorgeous views! I’d have to start with Canyon Overlook and then the Narrows, and see how many more my legs could handle.

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      The views are amazing! That’s a good strategy, Katherine. 🙂 The other hikes are definitely more intense. Canyon Overlook is pretty easy with a huge payoff of a stunning view at the top. And the Narrows is just such a unique and awesome experience. If you only had time/energy to do 2 hikes in Zion, those would be great choices!

      Reply
  6. Andi

    I love Zion. I spent 2 weeks here (in the winter) off-season is GREAT. I’ve been in May but prefer winter, although that does limit some hiking. Hope to get back for a trip during autumn one year, I am sure it is gorgeous!

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Zion is one of our favorite National Parks! Thanks for the info about visiting during the off-season in winter. I probably wouldn’t want to hike the Narrows or the Subway in the winter, but it would be nice to avoid the crowds on other trails. We’ve been to Zion in the fall, and it’s lovely. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Ashley

    I’ve always thought the Subway and the Narrows were the same thing! Thanks for the info! I’ve been meaning to do, I suppose, both of them for years now. I’ve gotta get back out to Utah soon.

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Utah is one of my favorite places to visit and explore, especially Zion National Park. There are so many incredible hikes there and throughout Utah! I hope you get the opportunity to do both the Subway and the Narrows sometime.

      Reply

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