Overview - Date/Time: March 28, 2017/ ~ 1:00 p.m - Weather Conditions: Clear skies, warm - Time Duration: 2 hours - Distance: 4.5 miles roundtrip Difficulty: moderate
If you are looking for a nice and easy stroll of a more intimate part of Zion National Park, visit the Emerald Pools to experience an enclosed trail with forestry and to get up close to the canyon walls along the way. Whether you want to have a nice picnic at Zion and you want to have a nice scenic view of the Emerald Pools along with your meal, there are plenty of places along this trail that you can sit back and relax. There are three parts to this trail: the Lower, Mid and Upper Emerald Pools. Note though, if you plan to hike this right after Angel’s Landing, you may have some struggles going up a brief incline with stairs that may give trouble to your legs, but only briefly.
To reach this trail, normally you would take the shuttle bus to Zion Lodge and hike along the Lower Emerald Pool Trail and go all the way towards Upper Emerald Pool Trail. However, when we visited the park, a flash flood occurred the day before, and caused a rock slide down Lower Emerald Pool Trail. The alternate route that we had to take to get to Emerald Pools was to take Kayenta Trail, which accessible from the Grotto stop and at the same path route as Angel’s Landing. Once you cross the bridge to the dirt trail at the Grotto, instead of turning right into Angel’s Landing, head up the stairwell to enter Kayenta Trail.
For the majority of the Kayenta Trail you are walking alongside the Virgin River at a higher view point. The trail is well paved out, varying with some up and down slopes and a decent number of shade from encroaching trees that you can rest under in on a hot day. The overall scenery is very pleasant, yet the view is fairly consistent with the dirt road and on and off greenery.
Down the road you eventually will catch a glimpse of two small waterfalls cascading down a rocky cliff: that is the Mid Emerald Pool. In order to get a closer look at the falls, you will encounter a set of stairs leading to a narrow corridor that forks into two paths, the left side going downward and the right side going slightly upwards. You will take the left path to get that view of the falls, and if you follow that path, you will find yourself in front of the falls at Mid Emerald Pool. Additionally the path will also lead you to the Lower Emerald Pools trail, but it was closed due to the flash flood that was mentioned earlier.
To proceed further to the Upper Emerald Pools you will head back up to the narrow corridor and you will take the right side path to continue onto Mid Emerald Pool Trail. You will eventually reach the top of the waterfall cliff, where you will find small ponds that stream the waterfall. This is one of the places you can rest and eat, as there are many places in the pond area that you can find and sit.
Climb up a set of large boulders to find the path to Upper Emerald Pool Trail. After some incline trails and stone steps, you will reach the end of the trail with the Upper Emerald Pool, which lies at the bottom of the canyon wall with a small waterfall that starts at the very top of the wall. As you approach the wall, you notice the canyon plateau getting bigger and bigger, and the size of the wall becomes shade from the sunlight at mid-day. It comes to show just how massive the mountains inside the park really are and how close you get to be once you reach the Emerald Pool. Note that there will be a very large crowd of tourists at the pool so be prepared to fight for a good spot to take photos.
It is a fairly leisurely stroll and after a strenuous hike like Angel’s Landing, the more exposure to the shade and being closer to the ground is always appreciated and Emerald Pools gives that experience. Even though we went through an alternate route and not the traditional trail sequence, both routes are still noteworthy to take in their own right.
In my honest opinion, I thought the color of the water would be emerald, since the name of the pools is “Emerald Pools;” if you look up pictures of Emerald Pools, you can see where the emerald comes from. However in person, it had a dirty greenish color to it as the result of the sand and dirt that the water touched as it flows through the rocks and cascades down. Thus, I would think that either people go hay-wire with the editing recently, or that the emerald gleam has dissipated due to the build up of the dirt and sand. Let us know if the Emerald Pools was intended to be an emerald color and what happened to it if it was the case, we would love to learn a lot more about how this works!
What catches my eye though is how extensive that stream of water travels through before reaching the Virgin River and how amazing the waterfall at the Upper Emerald Pool falls down from the top of the canyon walls, which towers over a thousand feet above the pools. And once you realize this place is only a small portion of the entire park, you got to wonder just how many more treasures lie within the valleys and forests in Zion.