A Zion classic.
Built in 1926, the Emerald Pools "Trail" is a collection of short, linking loop trails and spurs across the river from Zion Lodge. The trail visits a couple of wonderful waterfalls, three small pools, and the amazing cirque where Heaps Canyon and Behunin Canyon drop into Zion Canyon. There are five distinct sections to the trail, and before descending Heaps or Behunin canyons, it is helpful to head up there and figure out the network, lest you arrive in the dark and be unable to find your way out.
The Emerald Pools area is especially beautiful in the spring, or after a thunderstorm in the summer, when water is flowing out of Heaps and Behunin and over the ledges into the Lower Pool. The area's access to sun, shade, and ample water promotes a wide variety of flora, especially around the pools.
Though the "pools" beckon hot, exhausted hikers during summer, these pools are neither deep, nor emerald, and the Park forbids swimming. Rappelling next to the lower waterfalls is also prohibited.
Easy to moderate hike
1 to 3 hours
2.1 to 3.0 miles (3.4 to 4.8 km) roundtrip
400 feet (120m) to the Upper Pool
Starts and finishes at Zion Lodge. Accessed by the Zion shuttle April - October.
Sun in the morning, shaded in the afternoon.
Sturdy hiking shoes, ample water, and food for the hike.
A waterbottle filling station is available at Zion Lodge, along with a snack bar and gift shop.
FLASH FLOOD RISK
Be very cautious crossing the Middle Trail streams if they are running more than 2" deep. The streambed surface can be very slippery.
SPRING - A great time to hike. Look for flowers and new plants along the drainage.
SUMMER - Can be HOT! Leave early to avoid the heat and make sure to bring plenty of water. This is a popular summer trail, so be prepared for crowds if hiking between 9 AM and 5 PM.
FALL - Generally a good time to hike this trail. Look for maples with brilliant color in the upper reaches of the hike.
WINTER - Ice and snow can accumulate on the trail. Yaktrax or similar traction device may be helpful.
The Emerald Pools Trail starts and finishes at Zion Lodge. Additionally, a spur trail, the Kayenta Trail, connects the Emerald Pools with The Grotto shuttle stop, one mile further up-canyon.
The trail system consists of five parts. From Zion Lodge, cross the road and then the river on a suspension bridge.
The LOWER TRAIL leads from this point north (right) along the river 0.2 miles (300 m), then west into a side canyon 0.4 miles (600 m) to the lowest Emerald Pool. This part of the trail is paved, and pretty much flat. The Lower Trail is the most popular of the trail segments.
Surprisingly, the main attraction of the Emerald Pools Trail(s) are the spectacular waterfalls. The pools themselves are rather unexciting; the waterfalls and the trails are really nice. The lower trail runs along the base of the Lamb's Point Tongue Formation cliffband, the same 100 foot (30 m) sandstone cliff over which the waterfalls plunge.
Continue along the trail around the Lower Pool and behind the waterfalls. The trail then climbs a hundred feet to reach the MIDDLE TRAIL.
The KAYENTA TRAIL proceeds east (right) from this point, then north 0.7 miles (1100 m), mostly along the top of the Lamb's Tongue cliffband, to The Grotto picnic area and shuttle stop. Where it crosses a small creek, there are often very nice columbines and other water-loving flowers. The upper and lower Kayenta Trails meet about 0.1 miles from the Middle Trail.
The MIDDLE TRAIL cuts back west (left) 0.2 miles (300 m) to the top of the first waterfall, and an area known as the Middle Pool, though in this case, the pool is more of a wide area in the stream than an actual pool.
From here, the UPPER EMERALD POOL TRAIL branches right and climbs steeply for 0.3 miles (450 m) to the upper pool, and the amazing walls of stone that surround it. The luminous 2000-foot (600 m) sheer wall of Lady Mountain soars to the south, while Heaps Canyon drops 450 feet (130 m) into the talus behind the pool. That nice, green ivy growing among the rocks is Poison Ivy, so watch what you touch. This is an awesome place to sit and watch the afternoon light on the sandstone. (Return the way you came).
Back at the end of the Middle Trail, continuing straight (south) is the UPPER TRAIL. This soon crosses the top of the second waterfall (caution!), and then follows the top of the cliffband back out to the main canyon, and eventually down a break in the
cliff to the south end of the suspension bridge.
Canyoneers' Note: When exiting from Heaps or Behunin, it is easier and faster to take the Middle Trail to the Lower Trail and hence to Zion Lodge, rather than the Upper Trail.
The top of the waterfall at the Middle Pool has been the site of a few tragedies in the past decades. Small children, straying from their parents' close supervision, slipped on the smooth rock at the stream edge and were swept over the falls. A reminder that even on the paved trails of Zion, the dangers of a natural environment are present.