Zion Canyon Overlook hike wins among many other popular trails in the park. It’s jaw-dropping, easy, and can be done in an hour or less.
Introducing Zion Canyon Overlook Hike
Hidden in the eastern part of Zion National Park, the Canyon Overlook Trail has all for a memorable hike. It’s short, easy to get to, and features some of the best natural landmarks of the park. But above all, the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail culminates your hike with breathtaking views over the canyon. Agree, with such a plethora of advantages, the path certainly worth a try.
And if it’s not enough to convince you to hike along the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail to one of the scenic vantage points in the area, think again. The path is surrounded by ample unofficial and more challenging trails (we hiked one of them, and, honestly, it was the highlight on our Zion hiking adventures). Compared with them, the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail is a piece of cake.
You can hike it alone, with friends, family, and even kids. Some obstacles wait for you on the way up. Yet none of them are too insurmountable. Hikers of all ages and ability levels confidently reach to the top of the Zion Canon Overlook Trail and come back to the trailhead as easily.
Why Should You Do Zion Canyon Overlook Hike?
If you’ve ever googled Zion National Park, images of the astonishing canyon photographed from above come at the top of the search page. While the park allows to admire the iconic views from different vantage points, the area at the end of the Zion Canyon Overlook hike often wins among all other trails. What is its secret? We’ve outlined a few reasons why you should hike along the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail.
1. Some of the Most Astounding Views of Zion Canyon
The first why is easy. The vistas from the viewing platform at the end of the Zion Canyon Overlook hike are gorgeous. The expanse of the canyon, its giant rock formations, zigzagging Route 9 with passing on it vehicles that look like toy cars… An unimaginable natural masterpiece opens up, unfolding vistas you’ve only dreamed of seeing. If all other reasons to hike to the Zion Canon Overlook fall short, this should be the one to keep you moving all the way up.
2. Incredible Views of Other Zion’s Landmarks
To be honest, you can’t stray away from the narrow Zion Canyon Overlook Trail and hike to the nearby sections of the park from here. Feasting your eyes on the splendid natural landmarks along the way is inevitable, though. In fact, for many hikers, it’s another reason to hit the trail and hike to the very top of the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail.
Once at the viewing platform, keep an eye on such formations as Bridge Mountain, known as the highest peak on the left side of the canyon.
Have you seen “windows” while passing through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel on your way to the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail? Aren’t they look mysterious? If you look closely to the left canyon wall, those same tunnel “windows”, peaking through the gigantic cliff wall, might still astound you.
Last but not least, Pine Creek Canyon, swirling below, rewards the hikers with additional views and epic photo opportunities along the way.
3. Admire Switchbacks on Route 9
The zigzagging Route 9, the only way to get to the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail while driving from the South Entrance, unfolds at the bottom of the canyon. Its switchbacks might have given you hard time while driving up. From the top of the canyon, though, they look astonishing.
Nature and humans seem to cooperate to create a space that is well balanced and harmonious. Truth be told, Route 9 complements the canyon, but you won’t see to what extent until you hike all the way to the Zion Canyon Overlook.
4. Drive through the Epic Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel to Start Your Canyon Overlook Hike
Ok, I admit, it’s probably not the most valid reason to hike to the Zion Canyon Overlook. You can drive through the tunnel back and forth without slowing down and attempting to tramp to the vantage point. The paved pathway carved out of the mountain certainly deserves all the fuss and attention. On the other hand, since you’ve made all the way to the eastern side of the park, a hike to the Zion Canyon Overlook is almost mandatory at this point.
5. One of the Iconic Places to Photograph in Zion National Park
The views from the top leave your speechless and offer outstanding opportunities for photographers that can shoot here any time of the day. Yet if you hike to the Zion Canyon Overlook before sunrise or sunset to capture the first or last sun rays of the day, you can consider yourself to win a lottery. At least as far as it goes in Zion’s terms.
6. Hike to Zion Canyon Overlook with Kids or Elderly
The trail is relatively easy and suits most hikers regardless of their age or fitness level. Not all Zion’s official paths with remarkable views at the top offer such accessibility.
When to Hike to Zion Canyon Overlook
Here come even better reasons to hike to the Zion Canyon Overlook. The trail is open all year round and welcomes nature enthusiasts whether it’s sunny or gloomy outside. Some caution and common sense, however, should alway accompany you while hiking in this area. The path gets muddy during the rainy season. In winter, ice may bind several sections of the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail.
TIP: Additionally, giving the difficulty of finding an open parking spot near the trailhead, it’s best to hike to the Zion Canyon Overlook early in the morning or later in the afternoon. And since we’re touching on the best time to avoid the crowds, if it’s feasible, skip hiking to the Zion Canyon Overlook in summer or during school breaks. One of only a few official trails in this part of the park, the trail can remind you of a zoo.
Where to Start Your Hike: Location and Directions
The Zion Canyon Overlook Trail nestles in the Upper East Canyon section of the national park and is inaccessible by park’s shuttle. Thus, driving or biking is required to get to the trailhead.
From Springdale, follow Route 9 for nearby 1.5 miles to the South Entrance with the Zion Canyon Visitor Center on the right. Once you present your America the Beautiful pass or pay entrance fee, continue on along Route 9 toward the East Entrance for almost 6 miles. The road zigzags up the mountain and eventually passes through the 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.
The parking lot for the Zion Canon Overlook Trail greets you on your right as soon as you exit the tunnel. The spaces are limited, though, and get packed fast. An overflow parking lot with a ranger station and restrooms is located farther down the road on you left.
TIP: If you don’t have luck in neither if these parking lots, look for an open spot by the side of the road.
Zion Canyon Overlook Hike: Stats
- Distance: 1-mile, round-trip trail
- Difficulty Level: easy to moderate
- Elevation Gain: 187 feet
- Time: 1 hour or less
Zion Canyon Overlook Hike: Trail and More
The Zion Canyon Overlook hike feels strenuous at the beginning of the trail. A few sets of uneven stairs climb higher and higher, gaining elevation speedily. Once you’ve hiked through this section, the uneven dirt trail becomes more gentle, gradually climbing all the way to the Zion Canyon Overlook from here. In some areas, the path remains mostly flat. The views down into Pine Creek Canyon, however, can frighten at this point.
Basically, you hike to the Zion Canyon Overlook along the narrow path, carved out of the cliff walls. While the gigantic stonewall protects you and gives you moral support on your right, to your left, the trail is wide open, amusing or frightening you – depending on your tolerance of heights – with the beautiful views into the abyss.
TIP: The most exposed sections of the trail have railings. Yet it’s recommended to stay as closed to the stonewall as possible.
What to Expect on the Trail
On top of the nerve-racking views on your left, the Zion Canyon Overlook hike spices up your adventure with a few obstacles, a moist grotto, and shaded alcoves. Kids can’t pass the latter without stopping here and building their versions of balancing rocks. On a few parts of the trail, you need to conquer the rocks and giant tree roots. Yet none of these hurdles are insurmountable even for the children.
TIP: Furthermore, a planked boardwalk connects several separated sections of the path. Hike this part of the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail with respect to other visitors. People with intense fears of heights might walk extremely slowly here. Wait for them to pass, without rushing them or trying to squeeze in front of them. Traversing the narrow path to the popular overlook surely tests not only your hiking skills but also patience.
Once you’ve successfully completed your ascent to the Zion Canyon Overlook, the narrow path opens up to a wide “amphitheater” with railings at the far end. Pat yourself on the back, you’re reached the top of the Great Arch.
Next Step: The astounding views into the canyon as well as its towering walls on both sides are the best rewards for braving the gigantic cliff walls and heights for the past 30 minutes. Half of the Zion Canyon Overlook hike is done. Turn back and follow the same route once you’ve had enough of the wondrous views surrounding you.
Canyon Overlook vs. Observation Point
Despite the popularity of the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail, it’s not the only hike to embark on to admire the gorgeous panorama of Zion. Observation Point offers equally impressive vistas and scenic surroundings on the way up. Those who have at least two days to spend in Zion National Park should do both hikes.
If time is, however, limited, pick the one that suits you best. Here’re a few things to consider before going on the hike to the Zion Canyon Overlook or Observation Point.
Zion Canyon Overlook Hike
The Zion Canyon Overlook Trail is the shortest hike in Zion National Park to get you to the most gorgeous views above the canyon. Furthermore, the path takes into account the different activity levels, providing a reasonable difficulty environment for almost every visitor of the park. Once you pass the stairs, the hike turns into more of a leisurely walk with a few insignificant hurdles near the end the trail.
Observation Point Hike
The Observation Point Trail allures mostly advanced hikers, eager to go far and conquer greater obstacles to reach the famous overlook. Unlike the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail, a hike to Observation Point can take from several hours to half a day. This applies first of all to the outdoor adventures that start from the Weeping Rock trailhead. In this case, the trail runs for nearly 4 miles one way, steadily climbing up until you reach the viewpoint.
Another popular trail to Observation Point start from the East Mesa trailhead. This hike is easier, but nowhere close to the one along the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail. Overall, the path runs for 6.6 miles out and back and takes from 3 to 4 hours to complete. To top it off, significantly fewer hikers stick to this route, for some reasons preferring to wander to the vantage point from the Weeping Rock trailhead.
Note: We were unable to hike to Observation Point last April as Weeping Rock and the Observation Point Trail were closed until further notice due to a massive landslide.
Who Can Hike to Zion Canyon Overlook?
If you can walk and climb the stairs, the Zion Canyon Overlook hike is for you. Ranking as the easy to moderate-difficulty trail, it fits the beginners and advanced hikers, the elderly nature lovers, and the kids. Yet if the fear of heights makes your heart drop, walking near the edge of the cliff with no other barriers but a few sporadic railings, separating you from the great abyss, can be challenging.
You either need to steer clear from the Zion Canyon Overlook hike or face up to your fear. The views from the top certainly deserve a shot. The drop into Pine Creek Canyon on your way up is, however, startling.
TIP: As the trail runs up the stairs, wheelchairs or strollers can’t be used during the Zion Canyon Overlook hike.
Tips for Hiking to Zion Canyon Overlook
- Wear good hiking shoes. While the hike to the Canyon Overlook passes through some stairs and relatively flat surface, you will still need to conquer several bigger obstacles along the way. Thus, make sure to wear good, non-slip shoes when walking up to the vista point.
- Bring hiking sticks along. For most people, the hiking sticks are optional on this trail. You can easily hike up and down the cliff without any additional equipment. Some hikers, however, use the hiking sticks for extra support. Do what feels right for you.
- Protect your skin from sun. Most of the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail runs trough an open area where sun shines brightly, undisturbed by any trees or shrubs. Furthermore, as you hike along the last stretch of the trail and eventually reach the Zion Canyon Overlook, there’s no places to hide from the merciless sun. Protect your skin by wearing hat and using sunblock.
- Don’t go to the very edge of the cliff. No instagram photos are worth it. You can get insanely stunning views and pictures (oh, social media world) from a safe distance.
- Pets are not allowed on the trail. Many national parks limit the number of trails where you can bring your dogs along. The Canyon Overlook hike is not an exception.
- No permit is required. The 1-mile trail doesn’t require any specific skills. Therefore, you don’t need a permit to hike to the Zion Canyon Overlook.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail kid-friendly?
The children can hike along the entire Canyon Overlook Trail. Yet you still need to be careful and keep a watchful eye on the young hikers especially along the exposed sections of the trail. Moreover, don’t let your kids get too close to the cliff edge at the overlook.
How long is the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail?
Zion Canyon Overlook is a 1-mile, round-trip trail, with a steep ascent via a number of stair sets at the trailhead. The farther you go, the smoother the trail gets.
Is the Canyon Overlook hike difficult?
The Canyon Overlook Trail is considered a moderate difficulty hike. The most challenging section of the trail includes climbing the stairs right at the trailhead. A few challenging stretches emerge as you get closer to the Canyon Overlook. Overall, most hikers can successfully complete the Canyon Overlook Trail in about one hour.
Can you drive to the Canyon Overlook trailhead?
Yes. Driving or biking is the preferable way to get to the trailhead. The park’s shuttle doesn’t operate in this section of Zion National Park. The trailhead sits on the east side of the tunnel across the road from the parking lot.
Final Thoughts on how to Hike Zion Canyon Overlook Trail
This completes our guide to hiking to the Zion Canyon Overlook. If you still debate whether you should slog along this narrow trail, I’d say just trust your gut feeling. If the fear of heights is too great, skip the Canyon Overlook hike and don’t regret it. Otherwise, there’re no other excuses to not challenge yourself to eventually feast your eyes of some of the most epic vistas in the park.
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