Easy off-trail adventure in a gorgeous side canyon of Zion National Park.


Analysing terrain data

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The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.

Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.

Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.

Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.

Extreme ExposureSome trail sections are extreme exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.


The route known as Many Pools in Zion National Park is not an official trail, but a short cross-country adventure that is easily accessible and suitable for families with children.

It follows a steep drainage of slickrock warped by time and pockmarked by falling water.

It’s named for the numerous potholes that dot the slope and hold water for most of the year, making habitat for frogs, tadpoles, and bugs that you’re likely to find along the way. The hike is also an up-close tour of Zion’s geology.

You will hike among many shades and textures of sandstone.

In the walls that tower on all sides of this narrow valley, you can see striations cutting back and forth in patterns.

These are the footprints of winds that blew sand around eons ago, piling them into dunes that later froze in time.

To find Many Pools, park at an obvious pullout on the outside of a curve, 2.3 miles east of the Mt.

Carmel Tunnel exit and 0.8 miles east of the second, smaller tunnel.

From there, walk about 100 yards farther, around the curve, and look for a faint path on the left leading down from the road.

Follow this and begin hiking up the dry wash into a steep valley that soon unfolds ahead. When the sand and gravel of the wash gives way to solid rock, keep hiking onward and upward.

It gets steep, so take your time and look closely around you.

The first pools are reached in less than a quarter mile.

If these do not hold water, some deeper ones farther up may, so keep going.

Approach each slowly for a chance at spotting canyon treefrogs before they leap into the water and hide.

You may also see frog larvae, diving beetles, or even a crazy critter called tadpole shrimp, a kind of crustacean that looks like a miniature horseshoe crab, that thrive in these ephemeral pools. In about 0.7 miles you will reach a vertical alcove that is usually dry, but turns into a trickling waterfall after recent rain or snowmelt.

Many turn around here, but there is more to see beyond.

Getting past the alcove requires a short rock scramble, then continued steep hiking alongside more potholes and deep water grooves.

The perspective grows better and better as you leave the canyon floor behind and the East Rim comes into better view.

It is possible to reach the rim in a little over 2 miles one way, but the going only gets steeper and brushier.

Expect bushwhacking, loose surfaces, and some route finding if you aim for the rim.

Whenever you’ve had enough, simply retrace your steps back down to the road.