Hiking Zion’s Emerald Pools
The trail to Emerald Pools is a Zion National Park signature hike and a must for any first time visitor. It’s just across from Zion Lodge and can get very crowded during summer months. Thoroughly blessed with stunning scenery, I could see myself coming back to the area year after year despite the heavy tourist traffic. Waterfalls splash serenely into crystal-like mossy green pools while canyon tree frogs sing their chorus in the background. The trail to the Lower Emerald Pool is paved and very popular with families and tour groups. It is about a half-mile to reach the alcove of the lower pool. Looking up, I can see that there’s a spring seeping from high above the sandstone cliff. The wind turns the falling water into sprays on to lush hanging gardens lodged tightly in cracks within the rock. The trail dodges behind two waterfalls, which spill from a terrace wich houses the middle pools. I’m told that the waterfalls swell in early spring from snow melt, and are reduced to a trickle by summer – a good enough reason to visit in any season.
Beyond the alcove, the trail gets more difficult and steps up and around to bring you on top of the cliff that you just walked under. Up a few switchbacks and winding around monolithic boulders, the trail lead to the middle pools, which are actually shallow streams that cross the trail and go on to form the waterfall for the lower pools. At the higher of the middle pools, there are more canyon tree frogs than we can count. I could spend all day here, practicing water photography while frogs serenade me, but it’s very crowded here with tourists so we didn’t linger over long.
The final leg of the hike is hard, but my reward is the final pool with a 300-foot cliff pouring water from above. I find a nice shaded boulder to relax and have lunch. The hike up is a bit rough and fewer people are willing to brave it in full sun. The pool is framed by colossal cliffs on three sides. I notice that people come in waves, so I might have a chance at a good photo shot.
On our way back down, I’m am stunned by a beautiful view of Red Mountain Arch framed by Lady Mountain on the south and The Spearhead to the north. We take a side step to the lower of the middle pools, hoping to take the Middle Trail back to the Lodge, but its washed out. But before we head back we enjoy the overlook down to the lower pools and Zion canyon itself.
We exit Zion National Park’s Emerald Pools area via Kayenta Trail, which leads northward deeper into Zion and towards The Grotto. This trail runs along the west canyon wall of Zion and provides a great view of the Virgin River. Another easy hike, but it has the kind of views you normally saw on Zion postcards. The trail leads down to a bridge which you can cross toward The Grotto, or you can go further north and on to Angel’s Landing. Meant for the fit and stout of heart Angel’s Landing Trail, is high up with narrow points near steep drop-offs. One day I’ll go, but for now, we head back toward The Grotto and The Lodge.