Emerald Pools and Kayenta TrailZion Canyon National Park, Ut
Waterfalls, Desert Oasis, and Pools
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Length: 1.2 – 3.4 mi
Elevation Gain: 70 to 620 ft
Approximate Hiking Time: 45 min to 4 hr
Features: Desert Oasis
Nearest Town: Springdale, Ut
Emerald Pools is a desert oasis tucked into the heart of Zion Canyon. The lower Emerald Pools trail takes you behind a waterfall fed by the Middle Pools and streams above. From the Middle Pools climb to the Upper Pools and relax in the shade of the canyon. Visit one, two or all three!
- Trail Condition 95% 95%
- Usage 100% 100%
- Trail Head Easy to Find 100% 100%
- Kid Friendly 100% 100%
The pools are teeming with life! Take some time to watch life unfold in the pools before you. Just remember: no swimming and no touching.
During certain times of the year and after rains the pools are fed by/create waterfalls. On the Lower Emerald Pools trails you get to walk behind one of the falls.
3. Kid Friendly
The Emerald Pools is a great hike for the whole family to enjoy. Kids will love watching the life in the pools and the various waterfalls.
Start the trail at the Emerald Pools parking area or Zion Lodge, stop 5 on the shuttle or the Kayenta Trail from the Grotto, stop 6 on the shuttle.
If you are planning on only visiting the Lower Emerald Pools, we’d highly recommend starting from the Emerald Pools parking area, stop 5. Otherwise, you’ll basically walk to the Middle Pools before dropping back down to the Lower Pools anyway.
Start the hike from the Grotto, stop 6 on the shuttle if you are looking to complete the full Emerald Pools hike including the Kayenta Trail. The full loop is around 3.4 miles.
Lower Emerald Pools Trail from Zion Lodge/Emerald Pools parking area, stop 5
If you are only planning to see the Lower Emerald Pools, turn right at the bridge and follow the trail out and back to the Lower Pools and waterfall. The trail to the lower pools is hardpacked and easy to follow. It ends with a walk behind the waterfall from above. This area can be slippery so watch your footing.
Upper, Middle, and Lower Emerald Pools Loop Via Emerald Pools Trail from Zion Lodge/Emerald Pools parking area, stop 5
Personally, I like to start a hike with the climb to get it out of the way, but you can do this hike in either direction.
From the Emerald Pools parking area cross the bridge and turn left heading towards the Sand Bench Trail. After about 0.1 mile turn right to take the trail up to the Middle Pools. It’s pretty well signed so follow the signs and arrows up. The trail is quite steep for the first 0.2 miles, but then starts to flatten off a bit before climbing again.
There are a couple of informational signs on the way that are worth the stop to read, learn, and catch your breath. The trail is really pretty through here, but does have some steep drop offs.
It passes a natural spring along the wall and drops in through some trees before opening up to a ledge where water flows over the edge to the Lower Pools below.
Before reaching the Middle Pools, you’ll have an option to hike another 1.0 miles out and back to the Upper Pools. It is about a 300ft climb up a pretty rocky trail, but it ends at an alcove with a waterfall (depending on water quantity), the Upper Pools, and an old rock slide area.
Follow the trail back down once you are done exploring the area and continue on to the Middle Pools. I love to stop at the Middle Pools and watch the life inside. It is such an incredible ecosystem to withstand the heat of the summer and the cold of winter. Yet life marches on in the pools. Remember to stay out of the pools! No swimming!
From the Middle Pools continue down the trail to the viewpoint of the Lower Pools and finally descend to the Lower Pools where you’ll get to walk behind the waterfall pouring over from above. The kids especially love this part of the hike! Depending on how much water is coming over you might get a bit damp, but the mist feels cool which is amazing on a warm day.
Finally, follow the trail back up and out to the bridge.
Upper, Middle, and Lower Emerald Pools Loop Via Kayenta Trail from the Grotto, Stop 6
Starting at the Grotto trailhead, cross the bridge and turn left. Many people get confused here and take the wrong turn. If you take the wrong trail you’ll be heading to Angel’s Landing. The trail climbs towards the Middle Emerald Pools with beautiful views of Zion Canyon and the Virgin River below.
Once you are done admiring the Middle Pools continue down the trail until you reach the turn for the Upper Pools. Follow the rocky trail up to the Upper Pools, a small waterfall, and boulder area. The trail to the Upper Emerald Pools is 1 mile out and back.
You’ll do some backtracking to get to the Lower Emerald Pools from the Upper Emerald Pools. First return to the Middle Emerald Pools heading back down towards the Kayenta Trail until you reach the trail fork that drops towards the viewpoint of the Lower Emerald Pools. There are a couple of benches and rocks at the viewpoint that make it a great area for a break.
From the viewpoint continue to follow the trail down to the Lower Emerald Pools where you’ll walk behind the waterfall. This is always a favorite highlight for the kids! Watch your footing as this area can be wet and slippery. Continue to follow the trail back to the Emerald Pools trailhead, stop 5.
If the shuttle is running you can catch it here. Otherwise, walk along the Grotto trail which is a flat trail along the Virgin River. The Grotto trail will bring you back to the Grotto trailhead and parking area.
Why is this hike rated easy to moderate?
The hike to the Lower Emerald Pools is easy with only 70 ft elevation change and 1.2 miles length on a hard packed trail. Completing the entire loop of the Emerald Pools is rated as moderate due to the increased elevation change ~620ft and length. The Upper Emerald Pools trail is quite rocky.
More Hikes to Choose From
Check out this and more hikes in and around Zion Canyon National Park and Springdale.
Length: 7.6 mi
Elevation Gain: 466 ft
Sand Bench Trail is a less travelled trail offering some of the best views of the west side of Zion National Park.