Lower Emerald Pools Trail, Zion National Park, Utah: A Warning
The Lower Emerald Pools trails is one of the most popular trails at Zion National Park. The paved path starts across the road from the National Park Lodge, crosses the Virgin River on a pedestrian bridge, and leads to a waterfall where it passes underneath.
The Lower Emerald Pools trail is not recognized by the NPS as an accessible trail although there used to be a wheelchair accessibility sign on the pedestrian bridge at the trailhead. A Zion shuttle bus driver suggested that this writer try the Lower Emerald Pools trail because the reviewer was using a “sporty” manual wheelchair and that the trail was paved and mostly flat. This turned out to be a dangerous proposal for the writer and points how uninformed individuals may try to be helpful but may be otherwise.
The view from the wheelchair
Even though it is paved, it is narrow, has several steep hills up to 24 % grade and 19% cross slope. Even the trailhead bridge has an arched grade of 16% while a 10% slope would be difficult for some. Cross slope typically slopes toward the river canyon below with no guard rails, a precarious position for manual chair users. The pavement is sandy and slick on the steep downhills, even with knobby tires. The reviewer found that it is dangerous for users of manual wheelchairs in braking on sand-covered, steep slopes.
Recently, a person using a powered chair on the Lower Emerald Pools trail lost control, fell off the edge of the trail, and was critically injured. His chair landed on top of him. He had to be air lifted out of the park for medical attention. The NPS has since removed the wheelchair sign on the bridge.
Consider this trail with caution.
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