Observation Point

  • Difficulty
  • 12.7km
  • 896m
  • 4-5h

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This stunning hike brings trekkers to the most scenic viewpoint in the entire park – Observation Point. Towering above the entire Zion Canyon, this route is longer, harder, and less crowded than the famous Angel’s Landing (and truly a gem of a hike).

Getting there

Enter Zion National Park from the town of Springdale. If possible, park near the visitors centre just past the park gates. If that lot is full, park in the town of Springdale and get the free shuttle bus to the visitors centre. From the visitors centre take the other free shuttle bus into Zion Canyon. For most of the year the canyon is not open to public vehicles. Exit the bus at the Weeping Rock bus stop.

elevation

Total Gain: 896m

About

Type of Hike Out and back
Crowd Levels Moderate (Lower than Angel’s Landing)
Route Signage Excellent
Toilets At trailhead
Family Friendly No
Backcountry Campgrounds Along East Rim Trail
When to Do Spring and Fall, avoid summer heat

 Detailed Description

From the bus stop find the small parking lot on the right side of the road, which will be the same side you got off the bus. Here you will find the pit toilet and some trash bins. Cross a small footbridge to find the trailhead signs as well as a fork. Continue to the right here and begin the climb.

The first part of this hike is just pure switchbacks making their way up the canyon wall. These have been blasted into the sandstone slick rock, and it was obvious that when the trail was first created it was paved. Now the pavement is quite cracked and doesn’t detract too much from the wilderness aesthetics! This path is extremely well leveled, making the challenging ascent that much more pleasant.

You will shortly reach the first junction for Hidden Canyon, about halfway up this first set of switchbacks. Turn left here towards observation point and continue to slog upwards. Looking back you will be able to see the Big Bend in the river, as well as a fantastic aspect of Angel’s Landing (the sheer cliff-lined tower extending from the main canyon walls).

Finally you will crest a small ridge and stop climbing. You will enter a series of narrow canyons, which are typically shaded for most of the day. This is a nice place to take a break, as the area by the canyons is usually quite cool. As you continue hiking you will exit the cool shade and enter a sun exposed traverse, leading deeper into this sunken valley.

Around this point, you may come to a very unusual realization. From the bottom of the canyon, the sheer cliffs seemed to be lining mountains, and even if you didn’t express that outright, that is most likely what your brain was thinking subconsciously. After gaining so much elevation, however, you will be able to see the flat planes sweeping out from the tops of the cliffs. The reality that these are canyon walls you have been looking at all this time really hits home, and you appreciate the power of the Virgin River for having carved out this unbelievable wonder of nature.

The trail will start to veer left and switchback again. You will pass by another junction for the East Rim Trail; turn left again to stay towards Observation Point. After switchbacking for quite a distance further, you will reach the top of this set and turn left again. Here your final objective is painfully obvious – the clear point around the cirque of rock that extends around to your right. You will traverse around this cliff-lined cirque, slowly gaining a moderate amount of elevation.

Finally you will reach the sandy beginning of the point and hike the last half-mile or so of the flat trail. At the point you will have magnificent views of Zion Canyon. Most of the best photos you see of this park are taken at this very spot. Early in the morning the beautiful dawn sun strikes the right (west) canyon walls, and by 11 am or so, the entire canyon is illuminated. Angel’s Landing looks tiny from your perch, as do the shuttle buses running up and down the road. Rest here awhile, soaking in the views, then return the way you came.

Insider Hints

  • Don’t make coffee at camp before the hike; wake up early and catch one of the first buses to beat the heat and crowds, then make coffee at the top!
  • Try combining this hike with Hidden Canyon for a longer excursion.