While there is technically not a “bad” place to hike in Zion National Park, many of the park’s signature hikes present a number of challenges. Angel’s Landing, for example, tests an individual’s fear of heights. The Narrows, as yet another example, tests an individuals willingness to wade in cool to chilling water. Further complicating Zion’s hiking is the fact that as one of the National Park service’s signature - and most popular units, hiking in the main areas of Zion requires additional planning, from parking one’s vehicle outside the park, and riding the shuttle to a number of areas in the valley. While some of these issues can be avoided by going in the off-season, or into other areas of the park, the fact remains that some of the best views in the park can be found outside of the main valley of Zion at the Canyon Overlook with little to no effort.
The best example of this is that at every National Park, there is at least one trail that is accessible to all, and provides a great experience and introduction to nature and that specific park. These trails are gateways to nature – literally – as they allow all parties the ability to experience something that they would not otherwise experience. For Zion National Park, that trail, or trail system is the Emerald Pools Trail network.
Don’t go any further, you’ll die. Today’s quiz, hotshots, is what you would do if you heard this phrase on the trail. Would you turn around, or would you keep going? It’s also a statement that’s led me to pen this mini-diatribe. Before I go any further, I can already hear you asking, “Wait – what’s the situation? The terrain? The temperature? I can’t answer this question until I know these things.” Fair enough, let me give you the relevant background details: it was a partly cloudy day in Zion National Park. The cloud deck was resting at around 7,000 feet, and the ambient temperature at the Weeping Rock Trailhead (Information here) was around 20 degrees, although it could have been slightly colder as there were intermittent wind gusts of around 10 mph. For the last two days it had been snowing down to approximately 4,500 feet, but at the lower elevations there had been some melting and re-freezing. These were the conditions I found when I arrived at the trailhead one Sunday in mid-December of 2012 at around 7:30 a.m.