Upper Emerald Pool
Rather fewer people continue to the upper pool - another half mile along a steeper, rockier trail with an additional 280 foot elevation gain. Beneath a high cliff of colorful, streaked Navajo sandstone lies a large pool, deep enough for swimming most of the year, a practice once allowed but now prohibited to protect water quality and aquatic life. During winter and spring a powerful waterfall cascades down the rock face though in summer this dries up completely. The waters originate from Heaps Canyon, a long drainage with many narrow passages, waterfalls and deep potholes - probably the most demanding of Zion's technical slot canyons, this flows for 10 miles across the high country above, ending with a drop of 150 meters into the upper pool.
The Return Path
From the cliff edge in front of the lower pool there is a fine view over the wooded Virgin River valley, and such landmarks as Red Arch Mountain, the Great White Throne and Lady Mountain. The alternative return route to Zion Lodge (the Middle Emerald Pool Trail) stays level for a while, traversing the cliffs back towards the main canyon with more sweeping views, then switchbacks down to the river. A round trip, including a visit to the Upper Pool, takes about 2 hours. There is another option, for a longer loop hike, which is to take the path branching northwards from the lower pool; this is the 1 mile Kayenta Trail that descends back to the Virgin River, crossing on a bridge then joining the park road by the Grotto picnic area. The original trailhead is then half a mile south, reached either by taking the park shuttlebus or walking along the Grotto Trail - see the Zion Canyon map