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Zion National Park is an immense area of wild canyon country in southern Utah. Much of it is largely impenetrable mountain wilderness, but most visitors come only to Zion Canyon, probably the most immediately spectacular of the many wonders in Utah.
Lower Emerald Pool Trail is a perfect short and easy hike for first-timers to Zion and that was what we did during the first day of our visit in late September 2007. It was a beautiful day, with clear light and not too hot. There was no crowd back then (sadly that is no longer the case). The water flow during early autumn is usually quite light, unless you are visiting during a rainstorm. Spring provides the most water; occasionally the trail is closed in winter due to falling ice. Summer is now very crowded (going early in the morning is a good idea, as it can also be very hot). The Emerald Pools are located at the base of a beautiful streaked red rock cliff.
The trail crosses the Virgin River via a footbridge and leads up a gentle gradient (you only gain 21 m elevation) running beneath large cottonwood trees. It ascends to a wide overhang beneath the curving cliff face, where several elongated waterfalls flow from above into the pools below (Heaps and Behunin Canyons are the sources of the water). The path passes behind the water, which can create rainbow-like patterns if the light is right. Finally, a short climb completes the 1 km walk. The lower trail is well suited for young children, baby strollers and people in wheelchairs (with some assistance).
You can do the trail to this Zion classic and return in only two hours, but photographers probably will spend much more time at the Pools than that! I took well over a hundred images in 90 minutes, varying the framing and shutter speed to best capture the back lit water and the red rock; this image turned out the best.