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Hiking Lower, Middle and Upper Emerald Pools, Zion National Park

Zion National Park Sign
Zion National Park Entry

The day before I hiked Zion National Park I sat in the comfort of my hotel room and watched the local news.  As I sat snuggled in with Boomer by my side I watched a news story about some hikers who were caught in a flash flood, in Zion, near the trail I was planning to hike. Needless to say I was slightly worried…

Like everything in life, however, if you let something scare you enough you would probably never leave your house. Granted flash flooding is more scary than… oh I don’t know, watching Lindsey Lohan in a serious acting role… but I did not let the potential for flash flooding scare me so much that I locked myself inside the hotel room – only to peek out the windows every few minutes to see if the rush of water was headed my way.

Zion National Park Emerald Pools
hiking Emerald Pools Trail in Zion National Park

Emerald Pools is labeled as an “easy” hike to the lower pools and an “moderate” hike to the upper pools. I decided that I would go to the lower and middle pools and then decide if I would carry on to the upper pools. The total hike is just over 2 miles (3.5km).

Lower Emerald Pools Zion
Lower Emerald Pools

Once I arrived to the trailhead for the Emerald Pools Hike it began to drizzle.  The drizzle was much more pleasant than the pelting rain I had experienced on the drive down to Southern Utah and would continue to deal with periodically throughout the remainder of my week there. I didn’t mind the rain as it would mask my sweat as I carried my fat ass up to the top. I’m a sweater… always have been and probably always will be. You will never see me hike without a hat on as I hide most of the shame under that hat.

The beginning of the hike was quite easy and accommodated even the most unprepared hiker. I saw all sorts of shoes walking on this trail and felt that my ankle high, aggressive tread hiking boots were a bit overkill. Although I do not recommend it – I even saw people in flip flops.

Lower Emerald Pools
Perhaps we can imagine the emerald green

The low hanging clouds added to the dramatic scenery as I found myself approaching the lower pools. I felt a little mislead by the name “emerald”, perhaps due to the recent rains washing the mud down into the creeks it clouded the green coloring I had seen in photos… but who knows, perhaps I was looking at a color enhanced photo.  Sometimes people go crazy with the Photoshop.

Middle Emerald Pools Zion National Park
Middle Pools “the” shot

I reached the middle pools with ease (although I’m not saying I wasn’t sweating by this point). I waited in line for “the shot” and took a short snack and water break. I exchanged knowing glances with the other less than avid hikers and thought to myself ‘if they can make it, so can I’. I loved that I was using strangers to motivate myself to keep going.

Trail to Upper Emerald Pools
Look at all those rocks just waiting to grab at your boots!

The hike to the upper pools was more challenging and the path was littered with rocks. These rocks would grab at your feet and try to yank you down to the ground. I was successful in not falling but there were a few close calls and a slightly twisted ankle. Nothing I couldn’t shake off however.

I reached the upper pools and sat peacefully off on my own. Although there were many people there it was still tranquil. I gave a few glances to the strangers I had “met” at the middle pools and we exchanged looks of “good job” to each other now that we were both at the upper pools.

Upper Emerald Pools Zion National Park
I was one of the people who couldn’t get the entire falls into one shot… sorry!

This is a fairly popular trail and I soon realized that if I was going to get the grand finale of awesomeness photo I better wedge my way in line before heading back down the mountain. It was a long wait, mostly due to people trying to capture the height of the cliffs behind their subject with a camera phone. I am pretty critical of camera phone users… I have to be as I was raised by a photographer and he would die of shame if he knew I took photos with my camera phone. If you’re wondering – yes I am that person lugging around a huge ass camera. However I draw the line at bringing a tripod while hiking. I did pass a guy on the trail who was carrying an industrial strength tripod and thought to myself “too much”.

After snapping my photos I followed the trail back down the mountain. The Emerald Pools Trail connects to Kayena Trail which leads to the Grotto. It was another two miles and if I would have been logically thinking I would have taken the Kayena Trail as it was a shorter distance back and I would not have repeated the same trail… although I was rewarded with my repeat with this guy. Freaked me out a bit – spiders shouldn’t be that big.

spiders in Zion National Park
YIKES! A tarantula out for his daily hike!!??!?!

The Emerald Pools Hike was a good introduction to the park and for someone who is out of shape and only hikes maybe once a year I felt it was challenging in a good way and also achievable for a novice hiker.

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