The Emerald Pools Trail – along with the adjacent Kayenta Trail – is one of the classic and most popular hikes in Zion National Park. At about 4 miles long with an elevation gain of around 400 feet at the uppermost pool, the route I took is moderate and also included the Grotto Trail connecting that picnic area with Zion Lodge.
After leaving the lodge parking area and crossing over the bridge over the Virgin River, the trail nudges upward, giving great views of the river, before turning west into the canyon. The trail continues to climb steadily about 150 feet until you reach the Lower Emerald Pool at the bottom of two waterfalls, which the trail skirts under, although the rails help you through the wet and slippery area.
After circling the lower pool, the trail turns into a quick climb to the source of those waterfalls – the Middle Emerald Pool. The final leg of the trail shoots up about 200 feet in half a mile and leads to the Upper Emerald Pool, with a majestic waterfall dropping hundreds of feet into the pool that is hemmed in on 3 sides by cliffs.
From the middle pool, you can return to the trailhead via the Middle Emerald Pool Trail. I chose to return via the approximately one-mile long Kayenta Trail, which crosses the Virgin River at the Grotto picnic area. The quick and easy Grotto Trail – just over half a mile with negligible elevation gain – connects that picnic area with Zion Lodge.
Directions: If in high season, use the Zion Lodge shuttle stop. Walk across the main road and over the footbridge over the Virgin River to access the trailhead. If driving during the offseason, there is a small parking lot on the left side of the main road that fills up quickly. You can also park in the Zion Lodge parking lot. There is a fee for entering Zion National Park.