I spent the past weekend on (yet another) getaway to Zion National Park and as always, it was magical. Originally, it was supposed to be a trip to run the Snow Canyon half marathon in St. George, but due to all the traveling I ended up doing at the end of the summer, I didn’t have time to train properly so I called off that plan and turned it into a Zion National Park in the fall + a secret waterfall trip. Plus, we ended up hiking upwards of ten miles anyway, so it was basically the same thing as running, right?
This was my first time really experiencing Zion in the fall, and it was the best. I’m not sure why I haven’t taken advantage of this time of year there before, but better late than never! (Although, disclaimer: my favorite time of year at ZNP is still winter. Amazing.)
I met up with my friend Marissa in a tiny town about 40 minutes from the park, and we set off. Our goal was to hike Observation Point in decent time – it’s an 8 mile hike – and then fit in a little more sight-seeing before the sun set.
It was my second time hiking Observation Point (you can read about my first time + lots more details at the link) and it’s one of my favorite hikes in the park. We took the shuttle to Weeping Rock, where the trailhead begins, and set off. We had perfect cloudy weather and I was amazed to find almost no one on the trail. The switchbacks were rough but soon we wound our way into a little canyon where we found fall leaves. It was such a surprise and so pretty!
We made it to the top in about three hours, just as the sun began to come out and warmed us at the higher elevation. The view was every bit as incredible as I remembered. The fall breeze ruffled our hair and yellow leaves poked out from unlikely places.
5 Reasons to Visit Zion National Park in the Fall
1. No crowds! The shuttles were running, but they weren’t packed. The lookouts were peaceful and not teeming with tourists.
2. Changing colors. This was such a welcome surprise since the mountains near me in northern Utah have already passed their peak. I was stoked to see a few more orange leaves before fall is officially over in Utah!
3. Perfect weather. It was the perfect balance between cold and hot. Enough to keep us from getting too sweaty on the way up, or getting chilly on the way down.
4. Easy parking. This is a big deal, okay? You can actually park your car near the Visitor’s Center and not have to walk half a mile before you even start hiking.
5. Wildlife. It’s not uncommon to spot a deer in Zion Canyon, but I saw so many more this time, and even a buck! I guess the animals are fans of less people and cooler weather too.
When we made it back to the bottom of the trail, we realized we had finished about an hour and a half before the sun was supposed to set, so we rushed off to one of my favorite secrets in Zion: a little waterfall located off the road between Big Bend and Temple of Sinawava. I don’t even know the name of this waterfall – I tried to look it up and couldn’t find it – but it’s so different from the normal scenery you see in the park, so it’s worth stopping by.
How to Get to Zion’s Secret Waterfall
• Get off the shuttle at the Big Bend stop.
• Walk up the road toward the back of the canyon and the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop.
• After about 0.5 to 0.6 miles, the road will widen to create space for a pull-off and the path to the waterfall will be on the right side of the road. It’s hard to spot, but you should see some handrails and stairs leading up to the falls.
• Enjoy this little secret!
The waterfall isn’t big or that impressive, but when you’ve been gawking at red rock all day, this little green beauty is made all the more beautiful. It’s such a peaceful spot, and in the fall when the trail is framed by changing leaves and drooping branches, it’s almost like you’re stepping into a different world.
We drove out of the canyon as the light slipped behind the peaks, illuminating the Watchman and the Virgin River as our tires spun past. Another sun had set on Zion, but it won’t be the last one I see there.
Have you ever been to Zion National Park? What’s your favorite place to visit in the fall?