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Top 7 Zion River Hikes - Cool Off on These Hikes with Water

When the weather starts to heat up in the desert of southern Utah, hiking next to or in the water is about the only way to keep cool. Luckily there are plenty of options in Zion where you can enjoy the water while you hike.


These hikes run along…or even right through…rivers and creeks, so you can splash around and cool off as you explore.......yay!!!


The Best River Hikes in Zion

Here are my favorite hikes with water in Zion to stay cool on those hot, dry days:


  1. The Narrows

  2. Riverside Walk Trail

  3. Taylor Creek

  4. Lower Pine Creek Falls

  5. Pa’Rus Trail

  6. The Subway

  7. Right Fork of North Creek to Barrier Falls

These Zion river hikes range from short and easy to longer, more challenging routes. Many include rock scrambling and boulder hopping.


1. The Narrows

The most famous Zion river hike is The Narrows, and it’s absolutely amazing! Wade through the Virgin River with cliff walls soaring above you. It’s a fantastic hike to beat the heat in the summer in Zion, but you can do it any time of year if you have the right gear.


Note: The Narrows closes during especially dangerous conditions, so be sure to check the current conditions on the Zion NPS site.


LOCATION

The trailhead for The Narrows is only accessible via the shuttle for the majority of the year. Take a 40-minute scenic ride to the last stop on the shuttle, Temple Of Sinawava. Then you’ll hike along the Riverside Walk trail to get to the start of The Narrows.


LENGTH

The farthest you can go without a permit is Big Springs, which is 4.5 miles one way. You could also choose a shorter hike and only go as far as what’s known as Wall Street, which is 2.5 miles one way.


DIFFICULTY

The main difficulty of The Narrows is in scrambling around and over the various sized rocks in the river, but overall, it’s not too challenging. It’s a pretty family friendly hike if you have good little hikers who love the water, and you can just go as far as you feel comfortable before turning around.


TRAIL DETAILS

For most of The Narrows hike, you will be wading through the knee-deep water of the Virgin River. You’ll have to cross from one side to the other depending on the depth of the river and the rock along it. Around every turn, you will be greeted by views that will take your breath away…seriously, this is such a special hike!


About 2.5 miles in, you will reach the famous Wall Street section of The Narrows, which is the tightest section of the slot canyon. You can continue on another couple miles to an area called Big Springs that has waterfalls coming right out of the walls on the west side of the canyon. That’s the turnaround point to head back because beyond this section, you must have a permit.


Check out my in-depth guide to The Narrows here!


2. Riverside Walk Trail

If you don’t want to wade all the way into the river, you can stay on the banks with a lovely Zion river hike along the Riverside Walk Trail.


LOCATION

You’ll find this trail at the last shuttle stop in the canyon - Temple of Sinawava. In the winter, you can drive to the trailhead when the shuttles aren’t running.


LENGTH

This trail is 2 miles round trip from the parking lot to the start of The Narrows and back.


DIFFICULTY

This is an easy hike that’s very family-friendly. Riverside Walk is a paved trail with minimal elevation gain, so strollers and wheelchairs can navigate this hike with no problems.


TRAIL DETAILS

Sheer red rock walls line the path as you walk along the Virgin River on a paved trail which takes you to where The Narrows hike begins. You can take a dirt trail that parallels the river on your way back or a change of scenery and fewer crowds.


For more details about this hike, read my Riverside Walk Trail blog post here!


3. Taylor Creek

Explore the Kolob Canyons area of Zion on the Taylor Creek hike. The trail runs along a small creek with Navajo sandstone formations soaring above, and the lush vegetation provides shade on a hot summer day.


***The water isn't always running on this one and can dry up in the middle of summer.


LOCATION

Taylor Creek is located in the Kolob Canyons district of Zion National Park, which is located at Exit 40 on I-15.  As you take the scenic drive into Kolob Canyons, Taylor Creek is the first hike you will come across.


LENGTH

Taylor Creek is a five-mile round trip hike out and back. If you’re bringing the kiddos, you can always turn around early for a shorter adventure.


DIFFICULTY

The trail has a short but steep descent to start (and go back up at the end), but overall, it’s not too difficult and is fairly easy to navigate.


TRAIL DETAILS

About a mile in, you will see the first of two historic homestead cabins that you’ll encounter along the trail. You can peek in the windows and get a sense of what life was like for the settlers who built these remote cabins in the 1930s.


Continue on the trail along the creek until you reach the Double Arch Alcove which marks the end of the trail. The alcove is like a massive cave, with a large wall of seeping water and lush green ferns.


The double arches are not the open arches you might typically think of, but rather closed arches set in the sandstone high above.


Find out more in my Taylor Creek post here!


4. Lower Pine Creek Falls

Find a little seclusion in the heart of Zion on the Lower Pine Creek Falls hike. Since this trail is not actually advertised on park maps, it tends to be less crowded, but it’s very cool!


LOCATION

This hike is on the side of Route 9 on the way to the Mt. Carmel Tunnel. From the Zion Visitor Center, drive 1.5 miles north until just before the series of switchbacks that take you up to the tunnel. Look for a small paved parking area to your left. If you go over a bridge, you have gone too far.


LENGTH

This hike is very short at only .7 miles round trip, but it packs a lot into that short distance.


DIFFICULTY

You’ll have to do some  stream hopping and boulder scrambling to reach the pool and waterfall at the end. I’ve done it with my kids many times, but if you prefer a flat, well-defined trail, this isn’t the hike I would recommend.


TRAIL DETAILS

While this trail starts out easy to follow, you’ll have to cross the stream a few times as you go deeper into the canyon, and the trail becomes less defined.


When you reach the first small pool, you’ll have to start climbing up and over some rocks and boulders. But it’s worth it to get to the pool at the end, where you’ll find a nice sandy beach where you can rest and enjoy the waterfall.


Check out all my tips for hiking Lower Pine Creek Falls here!


5. Pa’Rus Trail

The Pa’Rus Trail is a classic Zion river hike that is accessible for anyone. While you don’t need to get your feet wet on the Pa’Rus Trail, it runs right along the Virgin River, so you can easily take a little side path down to the river if you want to cool off and play in the river.


LOCATION

The Pa’Rus Trail starts at the Zion Visitor Center and goes along the Virgin River to the South Campground. It ends at Canyon Junction, which is the shuttle stop that takes you into the canyon.


LENGTH

The trail is 1.7 miles one way, so about 3.5 miles if you take it out and back.


DIFFICULTY

The Pa’Rus Trail is paved and pretty flat, so it’s great for hiking with the whole family…or you could bike it instead!


TRAIL DETAILS

The Pa’Rus Trail is perfect for a relaxing stroll and a great intro to Zion National Park, as it features fantastic views of The Watchman rock formation. The paved path takes you over several beautiful bridges that cross the Virgin River, and there are lots of places to stop and let the kids play along the river…and dip your toes in yourself! 


Find out more about biking the Pa'Rus Trail here!


6. The Subway

The Subway is an epic Zion river hike that is totally worth the physical and logistical challenges. This trail might not seem like much at the start, but with every step you take, it gets better and better. Trust me, you’ll be blown away by the beauty when you reach the beautiful blue-green pools at the end!


Note: You need a permit to hike the Subway, and they can be hard to get. Find out more and enter the seasonal lottery for Subway permits here.


LOCATION

This hike starts at Left Fork Trailhead, which is about 8 miles up Kolob Terrace Road. It sits basically between the Kolob Canyon Visitor Center and the Zion Visitor Center in Springdale.


LENGTH

The Subway is a 9-mile round trip hike, and I would plan for it to take most of the day (about 6-7 hours).


DIFFICULTY

This is a difficult hike that should only be attempted by experienced hikers. It requires a lot of scrambling over and around big rocks and boulders. There is also a steep descent to get into the canyon at the start of the hike (that, of course, you have to climb back up on your way out).


TRAIL DETAILS

Hiking The Subway from the bottom means that you do not have to do any technical rappelling on this route, but it’s still quite the challenge. The hike starts on a nicely maintained trail, but things start to get interesting when that trail turns into a steep and rocky descent. 


When you make it to the bottom of the canyon, take the Left Fork of North Creek stream and follow that the entire way. The whole place is magical, and you’ll encounter so many lovely spots as you make your way to the main attraction. The pools and waterfalls at the end are stunningly gorgeous and will make all your effort to get there absolutely worth it.



7. Right Fork of North Creek

The Right Fork of North Creek to Barrier Falls is less popular and doesn’t require a permit, but it’s still a great Zion river hike that takes you to one of the most gorgeous waterfalls in Zion. Prepare for an all day adventure on this hike.


LOCATION

You’ll come to the Right Fork Trailhead before you reach the Left Fork Trailhead on Kolob Terrace Road.


LENGTH

The Right Fork of North Creek is a 11-mile out and back hike, so you should definitely plan for a full day on this trail.


DIFFICULTY

This is a moderate/difficult hike that starts out fairly easy and gets progressively harder. Expect to be crossing through the creek a lot, and be prepared for some rock scrambling.


TRAIL DETAILS

From the trailhead, you’ll make your way down to North Creek then follow the Right Fork for the rest of the hike. After about 4.5 miles, you’ll reach Double Falls. As the name implies, these two waterfalls spill down right next to each other, and it’s a beautiful sight. You can continue on for another half mile or so to Barrier Falls, which stops your path and means it’s time to turn around.


***This trail doesn't get a lot of traffic and can be unclear at times. I suggest using an app that will help you keep on trail so you don't get lost. Speaking from experience.


Tips for Your Zion River Hike

  • Your choice of footwear is key for many of these hikes! For most of these trails, you’ll want shoes that you can get wet and that also have good traction for scrambling.

  • Even though you’re hiking trails with water, be sure to bring plenty of drinking water – especially in the heat of the summer. And don’t forget snacks!

  • Be aware of the potential for flash flooding in the hikes that go through canyons. Be sure to check the conditions before hiking these trails, especially when rain is in the forecast.


With all these fantastic choices available for great water hikes to cool off in the summer, I hope this list helps you add a few water hikes to your Zion itinerary!



Happy Adventuring,

Arika




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3 Comments


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5 days ago

From serene riverside strolls to exhilarating canyon plunges, these trails offer the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. Immerse yourself in nature's beauty as you hike alongside pristine streams and cascading waterfalls, creating unforgettable memories in Zion National Park.

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