Angels Landing. The Narrows. Emerald Pools. The Subway. Observation Point. With so many show-stoppers in Zion, and with so little time to see them all, you would be excused from not straying off the beaten path (or the beaten riverbed) while you execute your ambitious hiking agenda. But if you want to sneak in a few gems before you share the summit of Angels Landing with a hundred of your closest friends, consider this idyllic waterfall tucked into an easily reached canyon right off of Highway 9.
Lower Pine Creek Falls is actually one of several waterfalls within the deep crease of Pine Creek Canyon. Most people know this tributary canyon as the road with all of the tunnels carved directly into the side of the cliff. The upper reaches of the canyon offer technical canyoneering options, but the lower portion has few significant obstacles, making this short trip to the falls easy enough for almost everybody.
The informal trail to the falls starts from a small parking area on the first curve after Highway 9 turns east at Canyon Junction. Follow the informal path through Great Basin sagebrush toward a woodland of oaks, cottonwoods, junipers, and pinyons on the north bank of Pine Creek.
After passing through the trees, the path brings you to a creek crossing. Hop over the gentle trickle of Pine Creek and work your way through a small space between two large sandstone blocks on the right bank to drop back down to the creek. Once past the boulders, the right bank becomes impassable. A gently sloping sandstone bench on the left bank offers fairly easy passage toward the waterfall just ahead. Watch your feet on the sandstone since it can be a little slippery.
Just beyond the sandstone, you’ll cross back over the creek to the right bank again. One last obstacle remains as you have to climb up and then crawl over a large boulder with an even larger boulder propped above it. Once through this tiny tunnel, you will find yourself at the sandy base of Lower Pine Creek Falls.This waterfall spills in two parts over a sandstone shelf into a cool, shaded pool. This is a relaxing spot to sit and enjoy the sound of falling water. On hot days, hikers may take a dip into the pool. Periods of rainfall bring the falls to life, although the creek’s flow may become too high for people to make it to the waterfall.
If it’s an active thunderstorm day, or storms are forecast to occur in the near future, avoid the canyon. Flash flooding could make this short, simple trip fatal.
This path to the falls is informal and umaintained, but relatively easy to follow. There are a few creek crossings, a couple of short scrambles, and one off-trail traverse over a sandstone shelf.
You can backpack on this route, and there are several campsites atop the mesa. Otherwise, your nearest camping areas are Zion Canyon and the Watchman Campgrounds
From I-15 north of St. George, Utah, exit on Highway 9 and drive east toward Zion National Park. After passing through Hurricane and La Verkin, you will arrive at Springdale before the entrance to Zion National Park after 40.4 miles. Enter the park, paying the entrance fee, and continue beyond the Visitor Center for another 1.4 miles to the junction with Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Keep right for another .6 mile to a turnout at the first switchback on Highway 9.
With recent wildfire damage and ongoing waves of COVID-19 infections and restrictions, National Forest, National Park, and other public land closures, restrictions, or social distancing guidelines may be in-effect.
If infection rates are on the rise, please do your best to remain local for your hikes. If you do travel, please be mindful of small gateway communities and avoid as much interaction as you can. Also remember to be extra prepared with supplies so you don't have to stop somewhere outside your local community for gas, food, or anything else.
Please be sure to contact the local land management agency BEFORE you head out, as these conditions are likely to change without enough notice for us to fully stay on top of them. Thanks, and stay safe!
Click here to read the current CDC guidelines for traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.