Hiking Zion National Park in the Winter
Last weekend I had a chance to visit a handful of Southwestern states that I have never been to. I flew in to Las Vegas, Nevada (the one place I have been) to meet a friend, and we planned a road trip that would take us to the Grand Canyon (Arizona), Zion National Park (Utah), Antelope Canyon (Arizona), and into New Mexico where I'd fly home from Albuquerque.
As we were on a schedule and only had a couple hours to spend in Zion, we decided to hike to the Emerald Pools since we both had heard so much about them. The first thing we noticed was the vibrant blue sky that created a stark contrast against the orange and red rocks surrounding us. If you choose to do this hike in the winter, I would definitely recommend wearing layers, as the first half of the hike is exposed to the warm sunshine while the second half is covered in shadow and there was a lot of ice when you approach the pools. Overall, the hike itself was not difficult. There were no steep slopes or unpaved path, and the trail is easy to follow since it is paved and also has a railing in some areas.
You start by parking in the lot designated as the parking lot for the Emerald Pools. When we went, the lot was under construction and taped off with a sign directing vehicles to the next lot which will provide access to the Upper Falls loop. We decided to park across the road at the lodge instead, since we weren't sure if we'd have time to walk the entire loop.
Once you start the trail, you almost immediately approach a bridge that will take you across the Virgin River to begin the Emerald Loop Trail. The trail forks with a sign indicating that the Emerald Pools will be to the right.
We followed the trail that curved around some large rocks and overlooked the river we had just crossed. It didn't take long for us to walk out of the sunlight and into the shadow of the mountain that we would walk alongside until we reached the pools.
As we approached the pools, my confidence led me to walk a little too quickly down the slope that looked out over the pools, and I almost immediately slipped on ice. Luckily this area had a railing and I was able to catch myself before I fell. Once I composed myself and stopped laughing at my stupid confidence, I carefully walked down the icy slope and made it to the pools.
This is where I think I'm a little spoiled by the Pacific Northwest, because I was a little underwhelmed by the pools and lack of greenery. But I did find that I enjoyed the rock walls a lot more than the actual pools themselves. We headed up the slope and sat on the ledge that overlooked the waterfall and then headed back on the same trail we had arrived on.
This is a fun and easy hike to do if you're short on time or aren't looking for anything too intense, and I'm sure the landscape looks a lot different in the other seasons. I wouldn't say it's not worth going in the winter as I think the ice adds a fun touch to the trail, but I would like to see what the pools look like in the summer before I recommend this hike as the primary focus of a trip through Zion.