A detailed hiking guide to the Lower Emerald Pools Trail in Zion National Park, Utah. Discover serene sandstone pools and an epic waterfall in this short and easy hike!
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.
In this quick and easy guide, 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 which I took that leads under the Emerald Pools waterfall in Zion National Park and up to the Middle Pool.
- Quick Things to Know About Zion National park
- How to get to the Lower Emerald Pools Trailhead
- Lower Emerald Pools Trail: Zion National Park Hiking Guide
- Optional: Extended Route to the Middle Pools
- Lower Emerald Pools trail Zion Faqs
- More Southwest USA Hiking Guides
By Olly Gaspar, traveler, travel blogger & photographer for 5+ years with 600+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
This trail is very easy to follow and is well-graded and signed. Being one of the most popular trails in Zion National 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.
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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
The two waterfalls you see at the Lower Emerald Pools is 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.
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 higher elevation with spectacular views over the Historic Zion Lodge, and Red Arch Mountain before a sharp descent back to the parking area.
Map & Hike Details: My Strava
Lower Emerald Pools trail Zion Faqs
Q. 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.
Q. Can you swim in the Emerald Pools in Zion?
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.
Q. 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.
More Southwest USA Hiking Guides
I hope you've enjoyed this quick but useful hiking guide to the Lower Emerald Pools trail in Zion National Park, Utah.
While you're here on my blog, make sure to check out some of my other articles. I've got great travel, road-trip and hiking resources that will help you on your own adventures in the great Southwest USA!