Reopening Middle Emerald Pools Trail

Funded: $890,000

Zion’s iconic Middle Emerald Pools Trail has been closed since 2010 due to extensive rain events that caused alluvial landslides. More heavy weather events caused similar damage on the Lower Emerald Pools Trail in 2016. The Lower Pools Trail was closed, and sections of the trails were temporarily repaired and reopened for visitor use.

This project will fund the repair and reroute of both the Lower Emerald Pools and Middle Emerald Pools Trails and will reopen an abandoned historic section of trail to extend the visitor experience and to help disperse hikers. Completing this project will restore visitor access to the full Emerald Pools Trail complex for the first time in nearly a decade.

This project provides visitors a chance to re-experience a historical trail complex and allows interpretive programs in this area to resume. Over 2 million visitors will directly experience the trail while all of Zion’s 4.5 million annual visitors will feel the effect of the reopened trail by dispersing visitor use in this section of Zion Canyon.

The work in the field includes all of the Emerald Pools Trails complex to maintain historic character and fabric, reduce future maintenance, and ensure construction techniques, materials and aesthetics of the trail construction are consistent. The new design will meet all current technological requirements and provide best practices to ensure structural soundness and sustainability while conforming to the historic craftsmanship of Zion National Park facilities.

The resulting improvements will provide visitors a loop hiking trail experience in Zion Canyon. Hikers will have access to stunning scenery and resources distinct from any other area in the park and the ability to walk historic trail routes. Trail directional signage and wayside exhibits will be studied for inclusion into the project as funding allows. The project is slated to begin in early 2019 in conjunction with the park’s 100th anniversary.

Successful outcomes for this project include:

  • Reopen the Middle Emerald Pool Trail
  • Improve visitor hiking experience
  • Improve the aesthetic of the trail complex
  • Develop trail construction details for potential use in other locations
  • Improve maintainability of the trails
  • Develop a maintenance/repair manual for next generation trail stewards
  • Maintain the dialog on how to solve problems with the interdisciplinary team that can benefit the entire trails system of the park

Following extensive analysis, this project alternative was selected because it:

  • Provides improved recreation and education opportunities
  • Provides more space to disperse visitors in a high-use, front country trail
  • Future plans may consider a trail connection for a longer loop
  • Reopens Middle Emerald Pools Trail
  • Increases efficiency of maintenance at Lower Emerald Pools trail through drainage, trail and wall improvements
  • Provides 0.5 miles of new trail at Middle Emerald Pools with 80% on historic trail grade
  • Future plans may consider minimizing equestrian/ pedestrian conflicts

Funding for the initial phase was provided by the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, the Centennial Cost Share Challenge Grant, the National Park Foundation, and the Zion Forever Project.