Emerald Pools, Utah

Location: Zion National Park, Utah 
Access: Park at the main entrance visitor center at the mouth of Zion Canyon just past Springfield, Utah. Catch the free shuttle to the Weeping Rock trailhead. 
Map: USGS Quad: Temple of Sinewava
Trail: From The Grotto to Emerald Pools and on to Zion Lodge is an easy walk of about 2 miles, with 150í elevation gain. 
Fees: $25/car/week park entrance fee 
Dogs: Not allowed on trail 
Weather: National Weather Service Forecast

April 27, 2009

As the day in Zion Canyon wound down, I figured I had time for one last hike. So, instead of hopping back on the shuttle at the Grotto to head back to the campground, I walked south on the Kayenta Trail towards Emerald Pools. In contrast to the busy trail to Hidden Canyon, I had this trail mostly to myself, and I enjoyed the silence. The sun had sunk low on the horizon, and the entire Zion Canyon was shaded. The Kayenta Trail paralleled the Virgin River for a bit, then turned westward and began to corner into Heaps Canyon. One section of the trail wound through a very narrow corridor between very large boulders, and was pretty cool. 

Closer towards the Emerald Pools, I began hearing voices of people at the pools. I encountered a group of about 10 people led by a ranger, and the ranger was explaining about the geology of the canyon. I was tempted to stop in and listen, but my urge to continue moving kept me moving. I came first to the lowest of the pools, and the greater attraction is the multitude of seeps and falls that cascade down the overhang where the trail sits, into a series of small, flat pools below. The pools themselves were not emerald, but clear, and hence the color of the reddish sand in the bottom of the pools. The moss on the rocks was emerald, however, so I guess the name isnít complete fantasy. The pools were railed off by a long steel pipe, which seemed very out of character for a national park. Iíd prefer a more natural look, but perhaps too many tourists were lost in the shallow water, so the park service had to do something. I walked the path under the overhang, then headed up higher to more pools on the ledges and then I took a trail up to the highest pool, a seep-fed body of water sitting at the base of an enormous cliff, surrounded by trees. About 2 dozen people milled about this small lake, picnicking, napping, talking. I didnít stay long, but returned the way Iíd come, splitting off when I got to another set of pools midway down. These were quiet, shallow tarns near the edge of a cliff that overlooks the lower pools. Itís a straight drop down 30 feet or more. I chuckled at the sign bolted to the rock at the cliff edge that read: Danger Ahead. From this perch, I could see down this side canyon all the way to the Virgin River, and the cliffs on the east side of Zion Canyon, still slathered in cloud-filtered sunlight. I pushed on down the trail, and enjoyed a nice, pleasant stroll back to the Virgin River, across a bridge, and into the Zion Lodge parking lot where I caught the shuttle for the park campground. 

The park campground was perfectly suitable for a quick sleep. I didnít find it particularly charming, as campsites were stacked as close as physically possible. I opted for one of the walk-in sites by the river, which at least afforded 50 feet between my pad and the next. The walk-in was an extremely strenuous 80 feet, but I managed. As the sun set, I enjoyed Ramen noodles with chicken at the picnic table and the sounds of happy campers in the twilight. 
 

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
Desert varnish on cliffs above the highest of the Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
Looking down Heaps Canyon

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
Isn't there danger beyond every point?

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
Looking down towards the Virgin River 
from the Middle Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
The Virgin River in Zion Canyon from the Emerald Pools Trail

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
Looking down on the Virgin River from the Kayenta Trail

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
Kayenta Trail

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
Quiet sections of the Kayenta Trail

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
An interesting passage through tight 
boulders on the Kayenta Trail

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
The Lower Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
Water cascading down in the lower Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
Lower Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
Water fall into lower Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
Middle Emerald Pool
 
Emerald Pools Hike, Zion National Park
The Virgin River


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Page created 12-13-09
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