The Pa’rus Trail is a mostly flat, paved trail that is accessible for hikers, bikes, and pets on leashes. The trail follows and crosses the North Fork of the Virgin River and offers spectacular views of some of the peaks and temples in the lower canyon. Most visitors to the park would overlook this trail in favor of more grand adventures, but don’t be fooled by its easy access. Some of the best views of the towering features of the lower canyon are found along the Pa’rus Trail. Take one of the many river access points and find a quiet sandy beach to relax on or take a dip in the cool waters of the river. The Pa’rus trail is a great cool down hike at the end of the day or a route around the long shuttle lines at the Visitor Center.
Getting to the Pa’rus Trailhead
The Pa’rus Trail can be accessed in two different locations. From the Visitor Center, walk past the shuttle stop to the road that leads to the Watchman Campground. Cross the bridge, then cross the road to the start of the Pa’rus trail. This end of the trail begins at the South Campground. From the Canyon Junction shuttle stop (Stop 3), the Pa’rus Trail begins on the west side of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. There is also a dirt access trail at the south end of the parking lot for the Human History Museum.
History of the Pa’rus Trail
The Southern Paiute were the most recent native peoples to live in and around Zion Canyon. Many places in Zion still bear Paiute names. In fact, before it was renamed Zion, this canyon was called Mukuntuweap, meaning “Straight up land.” The word Pa’rus, meaning “bubbling water,” was the name the Paiute people gave to the North Fork of the Virgin River. It’s easy to understand why bubbling water came to mind when you hike along the Virgin River. Along the trail, hikers will walk through the South Campground, once the site of an early pioneer ranch. Another historic site is the abandoned diversion dam on the north end of the trail. This dam once fed water to the settlers of Springdale. Visit the Human History Museum for more information on the early years of Zion National Park.
3 Best Day Hikes Near the Pa’rus Trail
The Pa’rus Trail is a great way to start or end the day. Check out some of these other fantastic hikes near the Pa’rus Trail.
|Court of the Patriarchs Trail||150 ft||30 ft||Easy||Out and Back|
|Watchman Overlook Trail||3 mi||500 ft||Moderate||Out and Back|
|Emerald Pools Trail||1-3 mi||50-400 ft||Easy-Moderate||Out and Back, Loop, or Thru-hike|
1. Court of the Patriarchs Trail
The Court of the Patriarchs Trail is a short trail of about 150 feet. The trail leads to a scenic viewpoint at the top of a moderately steep hill. This viewpoint offers some of the best views of the three peaks known as the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of the Old Testament. These soaring peaks of white and pink sandstone were named by Frederick Vining Fisher, a Methodist minister who visited the park in 1916. This trail is a great stop if you need a cool-down hike after seeing some of the other sites in the park. It also makes for a terrific sunrise hike. It is short and early birds can watch the sun light up the three patriarchs.
2. Watchman Overlook Trail
The Watchman Overlook Trail is a hidden gem in Zion National Park. While most visitors are scrambling to get to the iconic Angel’s Landing and Narrows hikes, the Watchman Overlook Trail is largely overlooked. If you are looking for a dirt trail and a little peace and quiet, this is your hike. The trail is 3 miles round trip with about 500 feet of elevation gain and is suitable for almost everyone. Hikers are quickly swept away into a quiet little side canyon headed by massive cottonwood trees, a trickling spring, and cattails. Take the loop hike out to incredible views of Observation Point and Angel’s Landing 6 miles to the north. Don’t forget to turn around and get the best views of the Watchman as he stands silent guard at the mouth of Zion Canyon. Guide’s tip: This trail makes an unforgettable sunrise hike.
3. Emerald Pools Trail
Whether you are looking for a short stroll for the whole family or a moderately strenuous loop hike, the Emerald Pools Trail has it all. Start at the Zion Lodge and hike the half mile trail to the beautiful falls of Lower Emerald Pools. If you’re in for a little more adventure, continue up to the top of the falls at Middle Emerald Pools. Still not satisfied? Then stair climb your way up to the sublime Upper Emerald Pools nestled at the base of sheer-walled Lady Mountain. The nearby Kayenta Trail offers the option of making this trail a loop hike. Whatever size adventure you are after, the Emerald Pools Trail is a fantastic showcase of Zion Canyon’s stunning diversity. The Emerald Pools Trail can be quite crowded later in the day, so it is best to hike this trail early.
Maximize Your Visit to Zion National Park on a Hiking Tour
Guided day hike tours and multi-day packages allow visitors the opportunity to make the most of their time in Zion National Park and to do it hassle-free. Guided tours include gear (backpack, trekking poles, crampons in winter), meals, accommodations on multi-day tours, local transportation, and a professional Utah hiking guide. Through their knowledge, stories, and personal passion, guides can bring a place to life in a way that’s much more difficult to do on your own.
Join a Guided Zion National Park Trip
Joining a backpacking tour near Zion National Park is a worry-free, adventurous way to experience Southern Utah. With your gear, meals, local transportation, permits, and fees taken care of for you, you can travel light and focus 100% on enjoying the hiking experience, while the guide company takes care of everything else. Also, by going with local experts you’ll enjoy a greater level of safety and gain a much better understanding of the history and ecology of this remarkable region. Read more about a guided backpacking trip near Zion National Park.
When to Hike and Seasonal Considerations
The Pa’rus Trail can be hiked year round, but should be avoided in the middle of the day during the summer months. There is very little shade along the trail and summer temperatures often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Additionally, the pavement on this trail could be dangerous for sensitive paws if hiking with your furry friend. Sunrise and sunset can be sublime times to hike the Pa’rus Trail. If you’re up for a nighttime stroll, the Pa’rus Trail is an easy way to get away from the campground lights for some stellar stargazing.
Day Hike Permits
No permits are needed to day hike the Pa’rus Trail
Permits are required for all overnight trips in Zion National Park. Hikers can apply for permits 3 months in advance on the 5th of each month. There is a $5.00 non-refundable fee for an online calendar reservation, and there is an additional charge for a permit that is determined by the size of your group. About one third of backcountry permits can also be obtained the day before or day of a trip by walk-up only. For more information on Zion National Park’s permit system, click here.
Suggested Packing List
Day Hike Packing List
- 2-3 liters of water (more in summer)
- Salty, calorie-rich snacks
- trekking poles
- crampons (in winter)
- wide-brimmed hat
- sunscreen, sunglasses
- cotton t-shirt (spring-fall)
- non-cotton t-shirt (winter)
- rain jacket
- warm non-cotton layer
- 1st-aid kit
Please Respect Our National Parks – Leave No Trace
We strongly recommend abiding by all Leave No Trace ethics guidelines and practices so that our national parks and public lands are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations and for the people and animals who call these places home. Simple things like packing out your trash, obeying national park rules, and respecting the peace and quiet of our national park trails is a great start. If you’re going on a backpacking trip, you can read about more about the 7 Leave No Trace Principles.