The Emerald Pools, Emerald Pools Trailhead at the Zion Lodge, Zion National Park, Utah
The Emerald Pools - 3.0 miles
Emerald Pools Trailhead at the Zion Lodge
|Round-Trip Length:||3.0 miles (distance may vary by route between pools)|
|Start-End Elevation:||4,275' - 4,345' (Lower) - 4,425' (Middle) - 4,625' (Upper)|
|Elevation Change:||+350' net elevation gain|
The Emerald Pools - 3.0 Miles Round-Trip
The Emerald Pools, named for their greenish tint caused by algae growth, were formed by the compression of water through porous sandstone rock. Water permeates sandstone and, with the help of gravity and time, finds its way out through cracks.
If terrain and volume are right, it may collect. The Emerald Pools are a series of 3 connected pools formed by such an occurrence.
Water flowing through cracks makes plant growth possible in otherwise unlikely places. Hanging Gardens, The Emerald Pools' most distinguished feature, are dangling plant communities growing out of moist rock crevices.
Ferns, mosses and numerous flowering plants flourish in this rare micro-habitat, as do water-dependent trees such as oak, cottonwood and boxelder.
While pools and hanging gardens are the main attraction, visitors will have exceptional views across Zion Canyon that include Lady Mountain (6,945'), Mount Majestic (6,750') and Cathedral Mountain (6,930'), Red Arch Mountain and The Great White Throne (6,744').
A short trail network from Zion Lodge links the Lower, Middle and Upper pools. The following description provides out-and-back details, though you can improvise between the three. Note swimming and wading is strictly prohibited in all pools:
Cross the Virgin River to a split for the Lower and Middle + Upper Pools. A paved trail passes through a shaded area to Lower Emerald Pool (.6 miles : 4,345') and continues beneath the alcove and waterfall that feeds it.
Pavement ends north of the waterfall and continues on a dirt path to the upper pools.
To skip the Lower Pool all together, turn left for the Middle and Upper Emerald Pools once across the river. A short climb leads to the edge of Middle Emerald Pool (1.0 miles : 4,275'), which is actually two small adjacent pools.
Here you'll have a clear illustration of water flow connecting all pools. The pools' slippery out-flow and nearby drop-off area create hazardous conditions, so a chain is in place to prevent missteps. Views across Zion Canyon are quite good from this location.
The trail continues .5 miles on a more rugged path to Upper Emerald Pool (1.5 miles : 4,625'). Upper Emerald Pool is encased by vertical walls, large boulders and lush vegetation.
Interactive GPS Topo MapKey GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84
- N37 14.990 W112 57.400 — Emerald Pools Trailhead - Zion Lodge
- The small trail network linking the Emerald Pools is not very well-marked beyond the trailhead. A good map will help you stay on course, especially if you plan on improvising on the return.
- The short, family-friendly trail network between pools sees heavy traffic; get an early start to avoid crowds.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Permits are required for all overnight backpacking trips in Zion National Park. Permits are available at both Visitor Centers the day of or day before your trip. Permits are limited.
- $15: 1-2 people
- $20: 3-7 people
- $25: 8-12 people
Permits may also be reserved up to 3 months in advance through the online reservation system. A $5 non-refundable fee + an additional fee determined by the size of your group is required when using the online reservation system. Click here to reserve.
- Camp only in designated sites.
- Fires are not permitted at backcountry campsites or within the backcountry in Zion National Park.
- Desert water sources are scarce and fragile. Do not bathe or wash dishes in creeks or pools.
Rules and Regulations
- There's a $30 fee per vehicle to enter Zion National Park (defined as private passenger cars with 15 people or less). Passes are good for 7 consecutive days.
- $25 per motorcycle.
- $15 per person (walk or bike).
- Dogs are not permitted on trails in Zion National Park.
Directions to Trailhead
Take the Zion Canyon Shuttle to the Zion Lodge shuttle stop. Cross the bridge over the Virgin River to the Trailhead.
Zion Canyon Visitor Center
Closed: December 25
Spring: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Summer: 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Fall: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Winter: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Backcountry Info, Camping & Permits Desk (including camping in the Narrows)