Distance: 1.2-mile round-trip loop to the Lower Pool; 2-mile round-trip visit to the Middle and Lower Pools; 2.5-mile round-trip hike to all three.
Hiking time: About 1 hour
Best season: March–November
Difficulty: Easy (Lower Pool); moderate (Middle and Upper Pools)
Hazards: Small drop-offs
Topo maps: USGS Temple of Sinawava, Trails Illustrated Zion National Park
Finding the trailhead: From the Zion Visitor Center, take the Zion Canyon shuttle to Zion Lodge. The trailhead and parking area are on the west side of the road opposite the lodge.
Shuttle Stop: Zion Lodge
Trailhead GPS: 37.249766, -112.957328
Outside of Angels Landing, it doesn't get much more classic than the Emerald Pools of Zion National Park. This striking desert oasis is directly across from the Historic Zion Lodge, which means easy access and plenty of traffic. The trail follows a small, verdant stream that collects in a series of "pools."
There are three Emerald Pools — Upper, Middle, and Lower — in Zion National Park and visitors may choose from as many trails: a short, 1.2-mile round-trip loop to the Lower Pool; a 2-mile round-trip visit to the Middle and Lower Pools; or a 2.5-mile round-trip hike to all three. The paths to the Lower and Middle Pools are wide sidewalks and easily traveled. The Lower Pool is accessible to people in wheelchairs if they have assistance. The trail from the Middle Pool to the Upper Pool is more difficult, with its uneven sand and rock surface and moderate to strenuous grade.
The Middle Pool occupies a large, open area surrounded by slickrock. Pools of water have collected from the trickles above. At the edge of the main pool is a long drop-off leading down to Lower Emerald Pool. From this vantage point visitors can look out over canyon bottoms filled with a lush deciduous forest. The Upper Pool itself is surrounded on three sides by sheer cliffs and closed in on the fourth side by a boulder foothill. Maple trees shade this natural amphitheater, making this one of the most peaceful day-hike destinations in Zion Canyon.
While visiting these pools bear in mind that the National Park Service has spent considerable funds to restore and protect these pools. Contribute to this effort by refraining from bathing in or walking through the water.
Hike information adapted from Best Easy Day Hikes Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks (FalconGuides), which includes mile-by-mile hike descriptions and maps.