Zion Observation Point
This popular trail offers a long and steep climb from the floor of Zion Canyon to the rimrock that soars high above it. There are excellent views all along the way, featuring the lower reaches of Zion Canyon, a brief firsthand look at the narrow slot of Echo Canyon, and views of the cliffs above upper Echo Canyon during the final climb. Observation Point itself is perched high above Zion Canyon and is the most accessible of the rimrock overlooks that line the canyon wall.
The trail begins by zigzagging vigorously up an amphitheater carved out of the wall of Zion Canyon by the river. About two-thirds of the way up the grade, a spur trail climbs southward into the cleft of Hidden Canyon (described below).
The main trail turns north and continues to gain altitude among a scattering of ponderosa pines made possible by the relative coolness of these higher elevations. The path soon traverses a slab of slanted stone, with the sheer north face of Cable Mountain rising to dizzying heights above the trail. The path levels off as it enters the cool recesses of Echo Canyon, a hanging chasm carved by runoff. Sheer walls of fluted stone rise on all sides.
Eventually the trail embarks on a challenging ascent, zigzagging its way up the sheer face of stone that rises above. After numerous switchbacks, the trail shoots westward for the final ascent across white cliffs that drop away for a thousand feet below the pathway. Although the trail is quite wide, it hardly seems wide enough to prevent the traveler from being drawn into the yawning abyss.
The path ultimately reaches the top of the Navajo sandstone formation, where it enters a rolling scrubland of piñon and juniper that marks the top of the plateau. A level trek through deep sand leads to the tip of the promontory and an inspiring view down Zion Canyon. The Great White Throne looms to the south, and to the left the cableworks atop Cable Mountain can be picked out with binoculars. Perhaps the most intriguing feature that can be seen from here is Red Arch Mountain. A great slab of stone broke away from its face in the 1880s, leaving a lofty alcove reminiscent of a cathedral nave.
Overview: This popular trail offers a long and steep climb from the floor of Zion Canyon to the rimrock that soars high above it. There are excellent views all along the way.
Distance: 8 miles (12.8 km) round-trip
Hiking time: About 4 hours
Best season: April–October
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous
Hazards: Cliff exposure; not a good hike for people afraid of heights.
Topo maps: USGS Temple of Sinawava; Trails Illustrated Zion National Park
Finding the trailhead: The trail begins at the Weeping Rock trailhead at mile 4.4 on Zion Canyon Road, reached via the Zion Canyon shuttle.
Shuttle stop: Weeping Rock
Trailhead GPS: 37.270861, -112.938361
Hike information adapted from Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks (FalconGuides), which includes complete mile-by-mile hike descriptions and maps.