The Basics

Square kilometres: 600 

Visitors per year: 4.5 million

Fall temperatures: highs 28˚C to 10˚C and lows 10˚C to -4˚C

Elevation: 3,666 to 8,726 feet

For more than 12,000 years, people have sought shelter from the sweltering desert heat in Zion Canyon. The temperature is cooler at the base, which was formed as the Virgin River cut its way through the landscape deepening the canyon each year. With so much to experience, Zion is best approached not as a single place, but as a list of destinations—most of which are easily accessed by the park’s free shuttle bus.

1. Observation Point

The hike to Observation Point, a 2,148-foot elevation snaking its way up the eastern wall of Zion Canyon, is not for the faint of heart. The adventurous will be rewarded with glimpses of mysterious Echo Canyon, close-up views of the eerie White Cliffs and, at the top, a breathtaking view that makes famous Angels Landing (currently closed due to storm damage) look small and far below.

2. The Narrows

As its name suggests, The Narrows is the narrowest part of the Virgin River slot canyon, where the towering limestone walls close in so tightly, the only way to experience its majesty is by wading through the water. Closed-toed shoes and a hiking stick are recommended.

3. Emerald Pools

Coloured bright green by microalgae, the Emerald Pools are a series of small, waterfall-fed ponds accessible by a trail that meanders along a lush streambed.

4. Weeping Rock

One of the most photographed sights in Zion is this large, arched alcove laced with lush hanging gardens fed by water leaching through its sandstone walls.

5. The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway

This 40-km drive is most famous for its nearly two-kilometre-long tunnel cut through a mountain that connects Zion Canyon with Mt. Carmel. The tunnel, built in the 1920s, is studded by a series of galleries originally designed to provide light and air.

Tips to keep you safe

Cell service may be spotty on your hike, so make sure to bring a map or download one you can use offline. Wear long, loose-fitting clothing and a hat, and apply sunscreen.
Carry about four litres of water per day and light snacks; trail mix, nut butters and energy bars. Check ahead of time if permits are needed, and always tell someone where you are going and how long you will be gone.

Read more: Things to Pack for a Hiking Trip in the Desert


[This story appears in the October 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine.]