Observation Point: Our Favourite Zion Hike

“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.

IMG_5954As 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…

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Up and over that “I wonder what’s it’s like over that” rise, around “that” corner, we were greeted by these spectacular views!
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Soon we were walking alongside a deep slot canyon.
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Peering down into the slot. The boulder wedged down there is about the size of a man.
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A short crossing of the small stream that was carving out that deep slot, and we were entering another world!
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THIS is the incredible canyon into which we’d walked! The walk up to Echo Canyon alone is worth the initial switchback slog, and is a worthwhile turn-around point if you don’t feel you have the grunt and suffer-fest effort of the full-on hike and elevation gain in you.
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It was a massive place. It’s incredible, that with a bit of sand, the water becomes liquid sandpaper and carves out places like this at a rate of about 1″ every 450 years (apparently that’s fast for erosion!)! This place is ancient and STEEPED in geologic history.
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Slowly, cracks widen as the water finds a way to erode its path.
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We emerged into a hidden valley on the other side of the canyon, and it is into this that we hiked.
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We were heading to Observation Point. The other destinations on this sign are for the permitted back country campground hikers.
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In no time we were heading up again. This time, the switchbacks clung to the cliff’s side and rose relentlessly up, ever up.
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Looking back on the trail we had taken through the hidden valley. The sun was out now and the day was glorious.
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Soon we were crossing from the golden sandstone to the white sandstone that marked the top of Zion Canyon’s rim. Can you see the white sandstone up above?
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It was incredible up there, with views down and into the valley, from far above the site of our Hidden Canyon hike.
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We walked along the rim of the canyon with steep drops down the side. The rim walk was about 1.5km long (one way).
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At the end of the trail, we came out onto a point that gave us spectacular views on three sides of Zion Canyon. It was incredible!
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We’d made it! It felt like we were standing on the edge of the world!

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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.]

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Look how thin that ridge line is!
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Soon it was time to head back down from the white sandstone, into the red.
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Our switchback trail was in shadow now, giving us some respite from the strong sun and the heat of the day.
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We hiked back out through the hidden valley.
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We entered that remarkable canyon, once more!
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There, the shadows deepened the colours of the sandstone and lay in stark contrast to the cliffs that caught the sun, towering far, far above us. We were happily swallowed up and spit out the other side, to plod our way down the second set of switchbacks and head back to the shuttle bus.

Yup, this was the best hike we did during our time in Zion!

IMG_1572If 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.

    Read More About our Time In Zion

15 Comments on “Observation Point: Our Favourite Zion Hike

  1. Thanks Sheri, I’ve taken note of this hike. I may be down that way this summer -southern Utah and AZ… and southern CA/eastern Sierras. Enjoy the cooler weather up in the Canadian Rockies/Canmore areas. I enjoyed these posts!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks, Mike. There’s two more posts from our time in Zion coming… one that’s a hike you should do, and one that you really shouldn’t…. I hope they also give you good ideas for the time you’ll spend that way this summer. The next series to come is on Red Rocks… and then back to Utah with Moab. Will you be heading Moab’s way? The canyons there are spectacular (Dead Horse Canyon, in particular).

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wouldn’t miss Moab -if I’m within a few hundred miles! Zion would be close enough… although with Arches and Canyonlands along the way, it might take me a few days or weeks to get there! Actually, I’ve camped in Dead Horse Canyon SP… quite the story goes with the name!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I know!!! That story gives me the shivers. I was horrified reading about it as I looked out over the fin of land they used to corral those horses. But it is a spectacular place. I’d love to know the story behind Horse Thief Canyon… I can imagine what it is about, but do you know it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Can’t recall Horse Thief Canyon, but it’s been a few years… however I can about imagine the storyline. I’ll have to check it out too. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this hike!! It’s so cool
    To wander through so much terrain and see everything isn’t it?! The views from the overlooks are beyond amazing! Your pictures are so fun and make me want to go back!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I follow a lot of blogs, but these photos are by far the most beautiful! Almost makes me think I might overcome my fear of heights just to see it in person. Almost…..

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You know that when you get repeated “Incredibles” from someone frequents the Canadian Rockies that you’re on to something. (Likewise, that might be why they suggest 5-6 hours of trail time – maybe that’s for flatlanders.) I’d have to agree though, that does look pretty incredible.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Wow, I can see why this is your favorite Zion hike! Beautiful views! I’ve done Angels Landing so I’ve seen the canyon from the top of the other side… it’s amazing how similar yet different it looks from Observation Point.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think that’s one of my favourite things to do in a landscape… get to know it from many vantage points. It’s what we do at home in the Rockies too. Each time it’s slightly different. It’s the same place, and yet it’s like deepening a friendship… getting to know the place more intimately, one step at a time.

      Liked by 2 people

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