Our (mostly) one-way hike was a collection of short trails that began from the Lower Emerald Pool Trailhead across from the Zion Lodge. After visiting the lower pools we ventured up to the Upper Emerald Pool, and then proceeded down the Kayenta Trail to The Grotto area, the next stop along the shuttle system.
The hike to Lower Emerald Pool is very easy. I don’t know if it’s technically considered a box canyon, but the trail leads into a canyon that’s surrounded by three walls.
Much of the paved trail is shaded by boxelder and cottonwood trees. Along the way we heard quite a bit of “chirping” coming from the trees, and at nearly the same time, came across a small frog hopping across the path. Shortly afterwards we came to a trailside exhibit that explained that canyon tree frogs are very common in this area, and like to make a lot of noise.
Emerald Pools is essentially an oasis in the middle of the desert. Year-round seeps and springs fed pools and waterfalls that flow down the canyon walls. The two waterfalls at Lower Emerald Pool drop roughly 100 feet. Although the flow was quite sparse during our visit, water thunders over the alcove during rainstorms and the spring snow-melt.
The trail up to the Upper Emerald Pool is fairly steep and rugged, and ends at a small oasis at the base of a sheer cliff wall. Although the oasis was a nice place for a picnic, I wasn’t terribly impressed, and didn’t really think it was worth the effort to get there.
Once we returned back down to the Middle Pool area we took the Kayenta Trail to The Grotto. Although the park paper states that this trail has long drop-offs, at no point did I feel any intimidation. The trail walks past towering canyon walls, and provides great views of the Virgin River as it meanders through Zion Canyon. We also saw several lizards along this section of the hike.
Trail: Lower and Upper Emerald Pool Trails / Kayenta Trail
Total Distance: 2.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 270 feet
Max Elevation: 4800 Feet
Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks covers 56 hikes in the two parks, as well as the surrounding areas, such as Cedar Breaks National Monument.