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Hiking the Lower Emerald Pool Trail in Zion National Park

Hiking the Lower Emerald Pool Trail in Zion National Park

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Discover serene sandstone pools and an epic waterfall on the Lower Emerald Pools Trail in Zion National Park, Utah

The Emerald Pools trail is a small network of walking tracks leading to three sandstone pools in Zion National Park; the Lower Emerald Pools, Middle Pools, and Upper Pools.

Below I’ll outline everything you need to know about the shortest trail to the lower pools. However, I’ll also include an alternative, extended route that I took that leads under the waterfall in Zion National Park and up to the Middle Pool.

Lower and middle emerald pools in zion national park

Quick Things to Know About Zion National Park

Before we get into this hiking guide to the Lower Emerald Pools trail, here are some things a first-time visitor should know about Zion National Park.

  • National Parks Pass: Entry to Zion NP costs $35 per vehicle. Alternatively, you can purchase an annual America The Beautiful Parks Pass, which is valid for all National Parks within the USA for $80 per year.
  • Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Shuttle: During spring, summer, and fall, private vehicles are not permitted along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, unless staying at the Zion Lodge. Instead, visitors must take the free shuttle service from the Zion Canyon Visitor Centre. The trailhead to the Lower Emerald Pools trail begins near stop number 5: The Zion Lodge.
Zion national park

How to get to the Lower Emerald Pools Trailhead

To get to the Lower Emerald Pools trailhead, you'll need to make your way to the Zion National Park Lodge on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. If you're visiting during winter, or if you're staying at the Zion Lodge, you can make your way up the scenic drive and park right next to the trailhead.

However, if like most, you're visiting Zion during the other months, the only way to get here is via the free Zion National Park shuttle service. You can book this at the Zion Canyon Visitor Centre.

Once you arrive at the Zion National Park Lodge, pull over on your left (west side of the road), where you'll find a large parking lot accommodating the Emerald Pools trails. Below is a map pin with the exact location.

Map of emerald pools parking lot

Lower Emerald Pools Trail: Zion National Park Hiking Guide

  • Hiking Distance: 1.2-mile round-trip (1.93 km)
  • Duration: About 1 hour
  • Elevation: 69 ft/21 meters
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Map & Hike Details: My Strava

After arriving at the parking lot, make your way over the Virgin River Bridge immediately to the west. Here, you'll find information boards outlining the basics of the Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools trails in Zion.

If you're looking for a quick hike to the lower pools to see the waterfall, turn right at the fork immediately after the bridge.

Lower emerald falls trail in zion national park

From here, you're in for an easy, yet incredibly scenic hike through the Behunin Canyon to the Lower Emerald Pools. This trail seems to have breathtaking vistas and photogenic vantage points at every turn. You'll get excellent views of Lady Mountain, Mount Zion, Mount Majestic, and the Great White Throne.

While you might take longer due to all the photo stops, you certainly won't get lost.

Lower emerald pools trail zion national park

This trail is very easy to follow and is well-graded and signed. Being one of the most popular trails in the park (besides Angels Landing or the Narrows), you'd expect nothing less. However, be aware that there are several steep drop-offs and sections where falling is a possibility. With that said, the Lower Pools trail is quite wide with very little incline, making it an easy hike for most.

In fact, this hiking trail is accessible to those in a wheelchair, assuming they have assistance.

Lower emerald pools trail zion national park
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Arriving at the Lower Emerald Pools

After just over half a mile, you'll arrive at the waterfall flowing above the Lower Emerald Pools. There's a viewing area beneath the alcove where you can admire the waterfall.

Below are some photos that I took on my recent visit that I hope will inspire you to hit the trail!

Waterfall in zion national park
Lower emerald pools in winter

Waterfall in Zion National Park

The two waterfalls you see at the Lower Emerald Pools spill off from the Middle Pools, which is just above the alcove. While I did my best to try to find the name of these waterfalls in Zion National Park, the best I could find was "Lower Emerald Pools".

If you're like me and amazed by the beautiful surroundings and want to continue, I highly recommend walking underneath the waterfalls and continuing on to the Middle, or Upper Pools trails.

Lower emerald pools waterfall in zion national park
Lower emerald pools trail in zion national park, utah

Optional: Extended Route to the Middle Pools

Rather than doubling back, it's possible to continue on to the Middle and Upper Emerald Pools in Zion. Unfortunately, the Upper Pools trail was closed due to rockfall when I visited, so I instead chose to form a loop back to the parking area via the Middle Pools.

This extended route is very scenic but involves a little more incline to the ledge beside the Middle Pools. In total, the Lower and Middle Emerald Pool loop is only 2 miles, with only about 150ft of elevation. We completed this entire loop hike in winter in roughly 1.5 hours with plenty of photo stops.

The trail begins by walking underneath the alcove waterfalls and then climbing a short but steep section to a trail that now parallels the Lower Emerald Pools trail. This finishes by looping back around at a higher elevation with spectacular views over the Historic Zion Lodge, and Red Arch Mountain before a sharp descent back to the parking area.

Trail to upper emerald falls in zion
Middle emerald falls zion
Middle emerald pools zion
Middle emerald pools trail in zion national park

Lower Emerald Pools trail Zion Faqs

Which Emerald Pool Trail is best at Zion National Park?

The Lower Emerald Pool Trail is the easiest and most popular. However, if you've got an extra 30 minutes, the best pool trail would be the 2-mile loop combining the Lower Emerald Pools and the Middle Emerald Pools trails.

Can you swim in the Emerald Pools?

Due to the sheer amount of traffic this trail gets, the Zion National Park authority has requested visitors do not swim in the Lower Emerald Pools in Zion. Not getting in helps conserve the pools and trail to avoid further erosion. In fact, these trails have been closed several times due to erosion and a lot of money has gone into repair.

Do You need a Permit to hike to the Lower Emerald Pools?

Besides the National Parks permit, you do not require any other permit to hike the Lower Emerald Pools trail. However, if you are planning any overnight hiking in Zion National Park, you will require a permit.

Zion national park
Zion national park hiking trails
Zion national park lower emerald pools
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.