National parks are designed to preserve our nation’s unique natural wonders so that everyone can enjoy them. While it’s easy to get distracted by challengings hikes or the draw of backwoods camping, the core nature of our national parks is that anyone, regardless of their ability levels, can plan a visit and experience the parks.
Zion National Park is actually one of the most accessible parks in the nation. While the steep climb to Angels Landing or the trek through the Virgin River that is The Narrows might not be ideal for young children or older visitors, other parts of the park are far more accessible.
The Zion Canyon Shuttle is one of the park’s greatest assets. It allows visitors to easily ride from one overlook or attraction to the next. Another great asset is the many easy or even accessible trails that visitors can choose from. Keep reading to learn the best trails for all ability levels.
One of the most accessible, as well as one of the most popular trails in the park is the Pa’rus Trail. The full 3.5-mile out-and-back trail might be too long for some hikers, especially on a hot summer day. But the trail is relatively flat and paved for the entire length. It’s also the only trail in the park that is open to bicycles, making it a great choice for those who get along better on two wheels than on two feet.
On the Pa’rus Trail, you’ll wander along the Virgin River, with some shade from the trees that thrive in the wet environment. During the spring and early summer, the trail is lined with brightly colored wildflowers. The water also draws wildlife, and especially mule deer. Your best chance of spotting one is to go early in the day or right before sunset. Besides bicycles, this trail is also open to dogs. It’s the only spot in Zion where your four-legged friend can join you for a hike!
While the hike is easy, it’s still important to pack plenty of water. Because stretches of the trail aren’t undercover, it can get very hot and sunny. Wear sun protection, and make sure to take breaks if you need to.
Weeping Rock Trail
If you’re looking for a shorter, but equally accessible trail, head to Weeping Rock. Because it’s just a half-mile in length, this trail is accessible to very new hikers or those with limited endurance. The entire length of the trail is paved, though it can be a bit steep, which may make pushing wheelchairs or strollers more difficult.
Despite the trail’s short length, you’ll see plenty of scenery on your way. The trail is named for the large alcove carved into a sandstone cliff on the trail. During the spring, summer, and fall, plants hanging over the edge of the cliff create a “weeping” garden. There’s a platform at the end of the trail that allows visitors to climb under the alcove. Getting onto the platform does mean climbing a few stairs.
At the very end of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, where shuttles and personal vehicles turn around to head back out of the canyon, there’s an accessible trail that is another of the most beautiful in the park. Riverside Walk, as the name suggests, follows the Virgin River. At first, you’ll be heading upriver, towards where the canyon begins to narrow. You’ll quickly see why the road stops where it does, as the red rock canyon calls draw closer together on either side of the river.
The stunning, steep cliff faces on either side, with slim waterfalls in some spots during wet conditions, as well as the babbling river alongside, makes this trail relaxing and picture-perfect. At the end of the trail, before you turn back, you’ll also have access to the start of The Narrows trail. While you’ll need to take a few steps down, you can peer into the narrowing canyon and watch as wader-wearing hikers start their upriver trek.
At 2.2 miles roundtrip and offering more shade than most other trails in the park, the Riverside Walk is accessible for many hikers. But it does have a few steeper portions, and while it is paved, it may be difficult for some wheelchairs to travel on.
Canyon Overlook Trail
This trail is a bit more difficult than the others on this list. It isn’t paved, it has several sections of stairs, and it does involve some elevation change. But for those who are up for a bit more of a challenge without anything that is too difficult, this easy to moderate trail is a good choice.
Canyon Overlook Trail is only a mile in length. The trailhead is located just past the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel when you’re traveling towards the east entrance of the park. The trail offers some incredible views of the park. If you aren’t up for the hike to Angels Landing, this is the next best trail for getting a good view of the canyon.
Choosing the Right Trail for You
Choosing the right hiking trails for you means considering your own personal abilities. The last thing you want to do is take on a hike that’s too difficult. Luckily, Zion offers plenty of options for every ability and endurance level. Planning to try one of these hikes this winter? Make sure you have the gear you need to stay safe in the park.