Beginner’s Guide to Hiking Zion National Park

Beginner’s Guide to Hiking Zion National Park

When you move to St. George, history surrounds you. While man-made historic buildings have their own beauty, nothing compares to the area’s natural wonders. Thousands of years in the making, red rock mountains give St. George its unique landscape that makes visitors return year after year. Now that you live here, you should take time to take full advantage of these mountains.

Just a few minutes to the northeast sits Zion National Park, one of the premier national parks in the country. In a previous blog, we gave you an overview of some of southern Utah’s outdoor sites, but we will delve more deeply into this mountainous gem. Read on to learn how to prepare for a safe outdoor adventure and which of Zion’s hiking trails to try first.

Safety Measures

Before venturing on any hiking trail, you need to take a few precautions. Use the following tips to keep yourself safe so you can enjoy the scenery without worry.

Bring Extra Provisions

As you hike, you lose energy. Even short walks will work your muscles and make you sweat more than you may expect. To replenish your fuel, take plenty of food and water in a backpack. The pack may feel heavy at first, but it will lighten as you consume the contents. Remember to bring a few salty snacks or a sports drink for hikes that last longer than about 30 minutes. Items to pack before you head out include:

  • Crackers or pretzels
  • Dried fruit
  • Beef jerky
  • Trail mix
  • Protein bars
  • Water
  • Sports drink

Even if you don’t eat and drink all your provisions, you can give them to your fellow hikers who haven’t prepared as thoroughly as you have.

Keep People Informed

Never go hiking without informing people where you are going and when you will return. If you ever saw the movie 127 Hours, you already know the reason for this precaution. Zion is a large park, and some trails are more popular than others. If you should fall or get hurt along an empty trail, you must depend on friends or family back home to tell park rangers where to find you. Better yet, bring a companion with you as you hike.

Wear Proper Shoes

Shoes should match the types of hiking you want to tackle:

  • Light hiking:  If you plan to spend a few hours on a couple of trails, you should hike fine with standard running shoes. Make sure they have a flexible midsole so your arches don’t strain as you travel.
  • Full-day hiking: Outdoorspeople who wish to hike for a full day or even an entire weekend should find mid-cut boots that support their ankles in addition to their arches. You will need to break them in a few days before wearing them on the trail.
  • Backpacking: Some full-day hiking boots do not offer the support you need if you want to carry a heavy backpack. Instead, choose high-cut boots with a stiffer midsole.

Stay Away from Wildlife

Southern Utah has bounteous wildlife, from black bears to California Condors. If you encounter any of these creatures, give them plenty of space. Take pictures from a safe distance, but never approach them. Remember that “wild” is the important thing to remember about wildlife. You do not know how they will react, and you shouldn’t risk your health to find out.

Understand Altitude Concerns

Most people don’t think about elevation—that is, they don’t think about elevation until it changes. As you summit a peak, you may find it difficult to catch your breath or find your equilibrium. If this occurs, take a moment to rest on the trail. Enjoy the canyon views as you sip some water and acclimatize to the altitude.

Zion’s Must-See Trails

Now that you know a few ways to stay safe as you hike, choose from Zion’s must-see trails. For your convenience, this list starts at the beginner- and family-friendly trails and gets progressively more advanced.

  • Canyon Overlook Trail: One of the first trails you pass as you enter the park is one of the best. Take this short, relatively level path to see a sweeping panorama of the entire canyon.
  • Emerald Pools: Take this popular trail to see three levels of pools that contain waterfalls and streams. Come early to avoid dense crowds.
  • Many Pools: If you want a later start but don’t want to deal with many people, take the Many Pools trail. The path is not as well maintained as the Emerald Pools, but the level hike follows along a canal that has shaped a distinctive slot canyon.
  • The Subway: Take a full day to hike along (and in) a shallow river to see a subway-shaped gorge the water has formed through erosion. Ask the park ranger for a permit to take this hike.
  • Angels Landing: One of the most dangerous trails in the United States, Angels Landing will take between three and six hours to complete, but the views are worth it.

These five hikes are just a few of the wonders Zion National Park holds for you and your family. Once you unpack your new home’s belongings, find your hiking gear and get to know the nearby landscape. 

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