Thunder Mountain Trail, Red Canyon, UT


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" . . . this wide, paved trail (Pa'rus) skirts the Virgin River in the flat and open lower    
section of Zion Canyon and ends at the Canyon Junction. This trail 
is great for a leisurely stroll at sunrise or sunset."
"The Riverside Walk is a wonderful little hike on a fairly level paved trail that affords
great views of the Virgin River and wonderfully lush hanging gardens
and trees surrounded by tall weeping walls."

If your time is limited in the park and/or you want a relatively short, easy hike, either of these trails will give you some great views of the Virgin River and colorful cliffs in Zion Canyon.

The Pa'rus Trail is paved and starts at the visitor center/campground area near the west (south) gate of the park.

Gorgeous scenery along the Pa'rus Trail

You can get to Riverside Walk, which is ten miles north of the visitor center, on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive via the free shuttle bus system.

Riverside Walk is in a much narrower canyon by the river.

This afternoon Jim rode his bike from our campground just outside the west gate of the park to the pedestrian entrance, got on the Pa'rus Trail, hopped on the scenic drive at Canyon Junction and cycled to the end of the road at the Temple of Sinawava.

Round trip out and back to our campground was a total of 18 miles. He got another six miles cycling in Springdale with Casey on the Walky Dog attachment.

Zion Canyon by bike

I walked about 3/4 mile from our campground through the pedestrian entrance to the park, past the visitor center, and found the beginning of the Pa'rus Trail. I followed it a little less than two miles to its end at Canyon Junction.

Then I hopped on one of the free Zion shuttle buses and rode it about eight miles to the end of the road at the Temple of Sinawava turnaround. Jim knew I'd get there soon after he did on his bike, so he waited for me.  

Bus stop/turnaround at Temple of Sinawava

After we talked for a little while Jim rode his bike back to our campground and I hiked the Riverside Walk to its end at the beginning of the Virgin River Narrows. When I was done hiking I rode the bus back to the visitor center and walked home.

We both had fun later in the afternoon comparing notes about what we each did and saw today.

One of several bridges over the Virgin River on the Pa'rus Trail

This entry focuses on scenes along the Pa'rus and Riverside trails. Because of the number of photos, it's on two pages.

I'll show scenes from my own bike ride out and back on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in another entry; I didn't have a bike to ride until I got a new one at the end of the week. (My Specialized Tricross cyclo-cross bike was stolen earlier in April while I was hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail.)


This mostly-flat, paved trail runs for about 1 miles, mostly close to the Virgin River, from the park visitor center to Canyon Junction. It is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers and rated "easy" in difficulty.

This is a map section from the park's online pdf. guide that shows the Pa'rus Trail, which I highlighted in yellow:

Joe Braun has excellent topo maps for this and other trails in the national park on his website. Since they are copywrited, I'm using the public photos from the park service's website here so I don't get sued. Joe also has detailed trail descriptions that are good to read before hiking Zion's trails.

Because of its location near the visitor center and campgrounds, the Pa'rus Trail stays busy. In addition to lots of foot traffic with often-distracted pedestrians, cyclists are also encouraged to ride on this path instead of the main park road from the west (south) gate to Canyon Junction because the road is so congested with passenger vehicles and shuttle buses.

Near its beginning just past the visitor center the path arcs around South Campground as it follows a curve in the Virgin River:

The Virgin River is on the right as you're heading north
on the Pa'rus Trail from the trailhead near the visitor center.

Tents and RVs in the South Campground

I highlighted five people in front of me -- three walking,
two riding bikes (including a very young child).

Dogs are also allowed on this trail -- the only " trail" in the park they can use.

So with all these different obstacles, ya gotta be patient and cautious on this multi-use trail. Don't expect to be able to run or ride a bike fast here. Be courteous and enjoy the scenery!

I took the rest of these pictures as I hiked north on the Pa'rus Trail. As you can see, it is mostly exposed so it's most pleasant in the cooler months or earlier/later in the day when the sun isn't as hot or direct.

I had fun watching several white domes that look sort of like smokestacks as I walked toward Canyon Junction. They are partially hidden by other mountains on the west side of Zion Canyon.

They are barely visible in the next two pictures but more clear in the third one where I zoomed in on them:



The path crosses the Virgin River several times:




Jim caught up to me on his bike before I got to Canyon Junction. I had turned around to take a picture and saw him coming, somewhat ruining his surprise!



The trail goes under the main park road (Hwy. 9) at Canyon Junction and ends shortly after that on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive:

At Canyon Junction I waited at the shuttle bus stop for a little while until the next bus came,


then rode it to the end of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. I got off at the last stop, Temple of Sinawava, and found the trailhead for Riverside Walk.

Continued on the next page:  scenes from Riverside Walk to The Narrows

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2016 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil