“I wonder what’s around that corner?!” Famous last words…. And with that utterance, our half-day hike became a full-on, full day, 18km walk in the park. Without a lunch. Rookie mistake.
As we were coming down from Hidden Canyon, we came out on the main trail, high above the valley floor. The weather had cleared. It was no longer raining. Blue was appearing in the sky and there was a hint of sun peaking through the heavy cloud cover. A sign to keep going, perhaps?
Knowing that we were part way up the hard slog of switchbacks for the Observation Point trail, we thought we’d just head up to the shoulder, and see what the views of the other side might be like.
Well! One thing led to another and we found ourselves walking along an extremely deep slot canyon, entering a large canyon hemmed in by impossibly tall red and black streaked cliff faces, traversing a gentle stream, exploring a hidden valley, entering into the white sandstone area that floated high in the sky above Zion’s far off canyon floor, wandering up switchbacks that hang precariously from the side of the cliffs, and then finally, walking along the east rim of the main canyon itself with the most incredible views. Once we reached the turnaround point, we watched enviously as people ate their lunches at a view point that lay at the end of a rocky peninsula that hung out over the canyon.
Come along and see…
There, the Virgin River looked like a thread, far below us, and I gave Bill my last cookie. It probably seemed as miniscule as that river, compared to the size of our lunch-less appetites by that point. But I’d got us into this pickle, so to speak, with my “Just a little farther! Just a little higher! I wonder what’s around there! Isn’t this amazing?” diatribe.
[That’s true love, in case you were wondering…. Bill humouring my impulsive whims to explore and me giving up a cherished last cookie! True love, I say.]
Yup, this was the best hike we did during our time in Zion!
If you go…
Get off at shuttle bus stop #7. There are pit toilets there. Many people at this trailhead are simply going to the Weeping Wall waterfall, so the crowds will thin, somewhat.
This is a long, strenuous hike… only 13km return but with 654m of steep elevation gain that over quite a short distance, in two unrelenting bursts.
They say on the signage that this hike is 5-6 hours long. We did it, not going fast at all, making plenty of time for photo-ops, in about 3.5hrs. However, in the heat of summer, you might need a lot more time.
If you are afraid of heights, this is not the hike for you. The trail along the rim edge is very exposed on a cut ledge for quite a while. We passed some people struggling with the idea of that height, the narrowness of the trail in spots, those views and that drop off.
Take FOOD. Salty food, too, as you are going to sweat lots.
Take water. Take more than you think you need. The switchbacks are quite strenuous and seem to go on forever, in 2 very long, drawn out spots. There is no water at the trailhead.
Sunscreen up and reapply it on the hike as you sweat it off. Wear a hat and sunglasses. There is little shade on this hike.
Poles help with the downs. They save your knees and let you walk much more quickly. With most of this trail being protected with a top-coat of crude cement, it’s best to have rubber tips on your poles for this hike.
For more detail on the Observation Point Hike, pick up Zion Guru’s Hiker’s Companion for Zion National Park. Ours was provided to us by the Driftwood Lodge, where we stayed.
Trekking up a mountain’s shoulder, hiking through a flowering alpine meadow, snowshoeing through a dense pine forest, or taking in the 360 degree views from a ridge top vantage point make me feel alive. The experiences in these places give me a profound sense of space and place.
Travel does a similar thing, pushing me out of my comfort zone, exposing me to new experiences, new people and new ways of thinking; it also gives me that sense of space and place in this world.
I believe that life is lived in the contrasts: when you experience simplicity and complexity and life's ups and downs, whether they be physically in this world or mentally in your own personal inner landscape, you know that you are truly living.
The bigger they are, the more there is to explore!