The Lower Emerald Pool is an easy hike along a paved walking trail to an emerald pool of water being fed by a waterfall. After crossing the Virgin River on a fun half-moon bridge, the trail begins to climb slowly up the side of the mountain through a well-treed patch of forest.
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There are lots of rocks for your kids to climb on, but beware the steep drop-offs down the side of the mountain.
The hike ends in dramatic fashion at the multi-stream waterfall, which falls into the pool from a rock ledge above the trail. The trail continues along the rock wall and actually takes you behind the waterfall. Prepare to get wet; your kids will think this is awesome!
The pool below the waterfall wasn’t emerald as advertised, but the hanging gardens surrounding the pool make this a special place and one of the best Zion hikes. It’s a great place to come to escape the hot Zion National Park weather.
Lower Emerald Pool Trail Stats
Distance: The round trip distance of this short walk is 1 mile / 1.6 km.
Elevation Gain: The Lower Emerald Pool Trail has a mild incline the entire way, but overall has very little elevation gain. Over the course of 1 mile, we only gained 69 feet / 21m in elevation.
Difficulty: This trail is short and flat enough to be ranked easy. Our 3 & 5 year old kids easily did the entire hike themselves, even after walking the entire Riverside Walk themselves.
Duration: Hiking to the Lower Emerald Pool with kids took us 1.5 hours to complete, which is a little slower than our usual pace. There were lots of large rocks along the side of the trail for our kids to climb on, which made for some pretty slow going at times.
Lower Emerald Pool Location
How to Get There: To find a Zion National Park parking spot, you’ll need to arrive quite early in the day, especially during peak times. We got there at 8am on a Sunday in April and the lot was nearly full.
If you aren’t an early riser, you can take a free shuttle bus from many spots in the town of Springdale to the park gates. There are plenty of paid parking spaces in Springdale, but these too fill up early during peak times.
Between spring and fall, there are no private cars allowed on Scenic Drive within Zion National Park. The park operates a free shuttle bus service instead, which takes you to the major spots within the park. The Lower Emerald Pool trailhead is located across the street from the Zion Lodge (Shuttle Stop 5). To find it, walk away from the Lodge, follow the crowds and you’ll find it no problem.
Lower Emerald Pool Highlights
There are several special viewpoints on this hike:
- At several spots along this hike, there are breaks from the dense forest trees, providing an opportunity to enjoy some pretty amazing vistas of Zion Canyon. Our kids liked to stop and look at the views of the canyon with the binoculars we brought along.
- As mentioned above, your kids will love getting wet as they walk behind the waterfall. Even for adults, the opportunity to walk behind a waterfall is pretty rare and is a fun experience.
- You can see some of Zion’s famous hanging gardens clinging to the rock face around the waterfall.
Hiking Lower Emerald Pool Trail with Kids
- There are bathrooms and a water filling station for your hydration packs near Shuttle Stop 5 (Zion Lodge).
- This trail is paved the entire way. You can wear just about anything you’d like on your feet for this hike, but flip-flops may be a bit uncomfortable for this slightly uphill walk.
- This is a good hike to escape the heat at Zion National Park. The trees along this trail provide a decent amount of shade, so be prepared for cooler temperatures than the forecast calls for.
- This trail is stroller accessible, but the vast majority of parents hiking this trail had their kids in a backpack carrier.
- No dogs are allowed on this trail.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
There weren’t many spots we could see along the trail to comfortably have lunch. The area near the waterfall is quite pretty, but if you want to stop and enjoy the view, you’ll need to stand and share space with a ton of other people.
We’d recommend just having a snack by the waterfall and wait to have lunch when the hike is done. The Zion Lodge has a cafeteria with outdoor seating. If you pack your own lunch, the Lodge has a huge grass lawn to sprawl out under a massive tree and enjoy a picnic with amazing views.
- The sun can get intense in southern Utah, so bring more water than you think you will need. Hydration backpacks were very popular with hikers in the park.
- There are some dangerous drop-offs on this trail without handrails, so watch your little ones closely.
What to Bring
Other Zion Canyon NP Hikes
Other more-challenging, yet very do-able family-friendly Zion Canyon hikes you may enjoy are:
- Enjoy the cooler air and pine forests while hiking Northgate Peaks Trail
- Break a sweat for some incredible views on the Watchman Trail
If you have an adventurous parent in the family, consider treating them to a day without kids while they hike Angel’s Landing, while the other parent spends an enjoyable day with the kids doing some of the easier hikes in the park.
Zion National Park with Kids
For more Zion National Park things to do with kids, family friendly Zion hotels and campgrounds, visit our Zion National Park with Kids post.