Zion – Many Pools Hike

Virgin, UT

Since area schools are on spring break, Zion NP has been a bit crowded this week.  This has caused a severe shortage of parking in Zion Canyon, the main attraction of the park.  Next week the park will ban driving in the canyon and begin bringing tourists in by shuttle, eliminating the need for parking.  But for this week we concentrated on hikes in the eastern  portion of the park, as it is less crowded.

Yesterday we decided to hike what is known as the Shelf Canyon, just east of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel.  According to the site Joe’s Guide to Zion National Park, this is a short hike of about a half mile over some rocks and boulders before entering a narrow canyon.

Climbing down into the wash from the road

The hike up the canyon began fairly benign on sliprock.


It quickly flattened out for a short distance

But we quickly reached a point where some boulder scrambling was necessary.

Then the boulders became larger and more numerous.

We then hit a point where we just couldn’t climb the boulders blocking our way.  John climbed a path up the side of the canyon looking for a way around the rocks.

But it looked like we would have to push our way through the bush along the canyon wall for quite a ways.  This was not part of the description for this hike so we began to think that we may be in the wrong canyon.  So we turned and retraced our steps to the Jeep and drove further down the road to try our “plan B” hike to the Many Pools.  This hike fit the description from the web site, and we didn’t have to crawl through the brush.

We soon learned why they called this area Many Pools, as we passed many, many small pools in the rocks left as the stream dried up.

Apparently the water slide is closed for the season

Since we had already hiked into one canyon before this hike, by the time we went very far up the trail it was time for lunch.  So we looked around for a place to gain some altitude with a nice spot with a view.

Climbing the cliff for a lunch spot

It wasn’t long before we found a great spot with a view!

After lunch we continued up the dry stream bed, passing many small pools as we ascended.

While most were very shallow, some were very deep.  In the pool pictured below the stick we used to take a depth reading never hit the bottom.

We continued to pass pools as we hiked along.

At some points the severe drop offs required some complicated rock climbing

OK, full disclosure.  We didn’t climb the rocks pictured above.  Instead, we took a fairly easy hike around them.  We could have climbed the rocks, but we just didn’t want to!

After climbing up the stream bed for about an hour we came to a sandy mesa area  that appeared to continue for a while.  We decided it was a good spot to take a rest, then begin the return hike down  the rocks.

For the return hike, we stayed up on  the rocks overlooking the stream bed below.

About half way back to the road the canyon narrowed and we needed to scramble down a fairly steep wall to the stream bed below.

A nimble hiker carefully makes her way down the canyon wall

Looking back up after we made it to the creek bed

We then easily hiked back to the end of the trail and climbed out of the canyon.

Returning to the Jeep we noticed many vehicles on the road slowing down and pointing cameras at the nearby hill side.  When in a national park, this means wild life in the area.  We scanned the hill and spotted the cause of their attention, a heard of Big Horn Sheep.

A herd of at least fourteen sheep were enjoying a meal and observing the human activity below them.  We watched the sheep for a bit, then drove back to the motorhome.  The sheep provided a great ending to another great day.

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15 Responses to Zion – Many Pools Hike

  1. Erin says:

    That is indeed a great way to end a hike. That rock you didn’t climb reminds me of a scramble we did in Bermuda. Thinking back on it, I don’t know what we were thinking to even attempt it … oh yeah; we weren’t thinking 😉

  2. Amanda says:

    How cool that you got to see so many sheep! The Many Pools hike sounds like a good one with some amazing views. I’ve been studying Joe’s Guide in anticipation of our upcoming Zion visit. Thanks so much for the link. Of course, I am also taking close notes on all the hikes you post about here. You’re creating your own mini guide to hiking Zion!

    • placestheygo says:

      You really need another guide for hiking other than the park’s guide. The park hikes are either very steep and extremely long (lots of backpacking) or way to simple. Joe’s guide has tons of middle of the road hikes. So very glad I hit on ti when looking up other hikes in Zion. He’s all you need! The east side has so many great hikes with very few people…so nice!

  3. Another excellent hike. Are the trails especially on the rocks visible or you make your own? Beautiful photos!

    • placestheygo says:

      There are usually enough patches of sand with footprints to give us a trail. Joe also gives very specific directions on his website if you are hiking on just rock. But at times we are winging it and hoping for the best, especially on the return trip. John never seems to follow the route we took in which can be good but usually more dangerous!!


  4. Lisa says:

    Looks like another fabulous hike! Wish we were there too!

  5. Nan and John says:

    What stunning photos! That looks like a hike that we would enjoy. Thanks so much for the post.

  6. Southern Utah is one of my all time favorite places. Love the massive rock formations. Last time in Zion I had a bad knee going on so our stay was cut short & we missed hiking some of those great trails you did. Nice photos:))

  7. Gay and Joe Taylor says:

    OH my, the sheep….what a real treat! They sure didn’t seem to be frightened. The picture that shows you looking up from the creek bed is way pretty. It’s amazing all those trees can grow there on the rocks. You always find the best places for lunch!

  8. Marsha says:

    That wash looks like a rough one. You probably didn’t know how to walk when you got to the flattened area.
    Great shot of you, Pam, scrambling up that rock. Your poor little legs got a workout.
    That is the coolest sliding board John is on. The water doesn’t look too deep. Go thing he didn’t decide to skip the slide and just dive in.
    You better tell us the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If he climb that ridge of rocks, I would have to remember to smack you both the next time we see you.
    Those sheep are wonderful. Anther fantastic hike. I just can’t get over how beautiful the rock are. The swirl of the colors and layers are terrific.

  9. LuAnn says:

    You seem to be finding some fabulous hikes in the park. What a treat to come across the big horn sheep. 🙂

  10. Great Photos! Your so lucky to see big horn sheep 🙂

  11. Doris says:

    Any issues with snakes in Zion?

    • placestheygo says:

      Doris, we haven’t seen any or heard of any. I think the nights are still too cold in the higher elevations.

      • Doris says:

        Thanks, your Zion blog and pictures have really inspired me. I’m from Pa (Bucks Country) and need a break from winter, looks like Zion might just do it!

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