Beyond the busy tourist attractions of Zion National Park, there are many hidden secrets to discover. It may surprise you that it’s possible to escape the crowds and discover some of the park’s lesser-known treasures.
However, if you’re looking for quiet, enchanting vistas and secluded wading pools, don’t waste your time searching guidebooks for them. The majority of park visitors will also be looking at those same books.
Join us as we explore the secret gems of this popular national park so you can have a little slice of paradise all to yourself.
Let’s dive in!
About Zion National Park
Zion National Park is a desert oasis of unparalleled beauty. The Virgin River meanders through stunning sandstone canyons, creating remote waterfalls and scenic vistas.
Congress established Zion as Utah’s first national park in 1919. It’s located in the southwestern corner of the state, a four-hour drive north of the Grand Canyon.
Hikers, rock climbers, and campers all find opportunities for adventure here. The unique geological features of the area make it a photographer’s dream. Clear, expansive night skies draw in stargazers and astrophotographers.
But Zion National Park holds many secrets for its visitors. We’ve compiled seven of our favorites for you to check out.
#1 Double Arch Alcove
Water carved out this large concave structure over millennia, bubbling up from beneath its base and slowly eating away at the sandstone.
This trail is five miles roundtrip and usually takes three to five hours to complete. However, the terrain isn’t particularly strenuous, so it’s an excellent hike for the whole family. Along the way, you’ll pass two historic log cabins that date to the 1930s.
Hikers will cross the Middle Fork of Taylor Creek, which usually flows very lightly. There are also some large boulders to traverse, but overall it’s a pretty easy hike.
#2 Secret Petroglyphs
Petroglyph Canyon is one of the most mysterious attractions in Zion National Park. While we know that Anasazi, Paiute, and Fremont tribes inhabited this area for thousands of years, archaeologists still don’t know when these petroglyphs were made or what they symbolize.
This site isn’t exactly hidden, but it’s also not well-marked. The canyon is on Highway 9, two and a half miles east of the Mount Carmel Tunnel. There’s no designated parking, but you can pull off the side of the road and make the easy quarter-mile trek to the site.
Petroglyph Canyon holds many secrets of Zion National Park. These mysterious artifacts leave many questions unanswered. We may never know where they came from or what they mean.
Pro Tip: Be careful if you plan on going on any of these 3 Most Dangerous Hikes in Zion National Park.
#3 East Mesa Trail to Observation Point
The East Mesa Trail offers an alternate route to the popular Observation Point. While most hikers use the main Weeping Rock Trail to get to the overlook, visitors in the know often opt for this scenic choice.
This trail is in the general vicinity of the Zion Ponderosa Ranch. From Highway 9, keep an eye out for signs directing visitors to the East Mesa Trail. Be aware that the trailhead is located amongst private property, so use good judgment when looking for a place to park your car.
In addition to Observation Point, the East Mesa Trailhead also leads to the Mystery Canyon canyoneering route.
#4 Secret Pools
The Secret Pools of Zion, also known as “The Twins” and “The Root Canals,” are one of the park’s best-kept secrets.
These pools are drainages from a higher elevation. Water collects in the nooks and crannies of the canyon, creating spectacular photography subjects.
There’s no signage or maintained trail, but there’s a small turnout along Highway 9 where visitors can park.
Because it’s not an official site, you can expect a quiet hike to this pristine location. Visitors are few and far between, but those who do venture to the pools are greeted by stunning scenery.
#5 Kolob Arch
The Kolob Arch holds the title of the second largest natural arch in the world; the first is the Landscape Arch in Arches National Park. While you might expect such an attraction to get lots of visitors, it’s actually one of the secret spots in Zion.
Unlike the Landscape Arch, the Kolob Arch isn’t freestanding but rather attached at its base to Gregory Butte. While it may not provide the same photographic quality as its counterpart, it’s still a humbling sight to behold.
#6 Shelf Canyon Trail
If you’re looking to escape the crowded hotspots of the park, its eastern side is where you want to be. Shelf Canyon Trail is one of the secret hikes of Zion National Park. It leads visitors through open terrain and ends at a hidden slot canyon.
This trail takes one or two hours to complete, depending on how much time you spend exploring the canyon. You’ll have to navigate some slippery boulders and sandstone to reach your destination, so attempting this with young children could be dangerous.
Shelf Canyon is a secluded gem. You can find relief from the swaths of tourists in this shaded, quiet corner of the park.
#7 Secret Waterfall
A rugged half-mile hike is all that separate’s the masses from one of Zion National Park’s secret waterfalls.
The Pine Creek Trail is short but includes obstacles like mud, sand, and massive boulders. However, those who choose to make the journey find an inviting waterfall and wading pool to cool off in.
Canyoneers can follow the trail past the waterfall and enter another hidden slot canyon. This canyon continues for one and a half miles and includes a dozen rappels, the last of which drops climbers into a grand sandstone cathedral.
Pro Tip: If you want to visit Zion National Park, statistically this is The Best Time to Visit Zion National Park.
Secrets Abound in Zion National Park
Zion National Park holds countless secrets within its borders. Beyond the popular tourist attractions, hidden gems can be found around almost every corner.
If you venture off the beaten path, you’re bound to find secluded corners of the park where you can enjoy its majestic scenery in solitude. While Zion is Utah’s most-visited national park, you can still find some corners away from the crowds.
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