Southwest Road Trip! Day 6, Zion Nat'l Park

Photographer Andy Austin's visual diary of a classic spring break trip

Andy Austin

The Middle Emerald Pools are a lush oasis along the Emerald Pools Trail, a classic Zion National Park hike.

Day 6 of my Southwest road trip brought me to Zion National Park. The lush greens, fed by spring storms, the Virgin River and its many tributaries were a welcome break from the more barren landscapes of Arches, Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon. The heart of Zion Canyon is closed to private vehicle traffic in order to keep the air crisp and pollution-free, so visitors who want to venture even as deep as Zion Lodge must park their cars and catch one of the regularly run shuttle buses. I hopped a shuttle, because I wanted to take the short hike to Emerald Pools, which begins from the lodge.

The hike is three miles roundtrip to Upper Emerald Pool, and one mile roundtrip to Lower Emerald Pool. The main attraction of this trail is walking behind waterfalls that spill over the cliffsides and cascade into the various tired pools, each of which acts like a desert oasis. At the Lower Pool, a refreshing mist sprays from twin waterfalls—fed by the Middle Pools up above—creating a small, lush Garden of Eden that's perfect for relaxing on a hot day. Farther up the trail, you can see the Middle Pools. Of course, if you want to see any of the waterfalls in their full grandeur, it's best to visit during or directly after a rainstorm, when they're flowing nicely. My visit was on a hot, dry day, so the water wasn't flowing rapidly but was nonetheless breathtaking amid the desert landscape. I snapped this photo of the Middle Emerald Pools, looking out over Zion Canyon and just above Lower Pool.

Photo Details: Canon 6D and 16-35mm f/2.8 at 16mm f/8 ISO 100 Shutter: 1/125sec

Tomorrow I’ll be waking up at the crack of dawn for sunrise at the Tower of the Virgin, so stay tuned!

To see all of my images from the Southwest (updated daily) visit

Click here for:  Day 1  |  Day 2  | Day 3  |  Day 4  |  Day 5  |  Day 7


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