Observation Point (dayhike)

SA Report: Blown away

Trip Date: 5/21/2017

Location: Zion National Park

Permit/Pass: Private Vehicle: $30. Valid for 7 days. Admits private, non-commercial vehicle (15 passenger capacity or less) and all occupants to Zion National Park, including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas. Motorcycle: $25. Valid for 7 days. Admits one non-commercial motorcycle to Zion National Park, including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas. Per Person: $15. Valid for 7 days. 

Trail maps: NPSmap 

Directions: From Interstate 15 just north of the town of St. George take Utah Highway 9 east toward Hurricane (follow the signs for Zion National Park). After a bit over 12 miles, and passing through Hurricane, you reach a junction with Hwy. 17 in La Verkin where you turn right to continue on Hwy. 9 East. Continue for about 20 and a half miles to, and through, the town of Springdale (just outside of the park) and to the park's entrance kiosks. Just past the entrance there will be signs for the Visitor Center. Take this quick right turn and head down to the parking area, then walk over to the center where you'll pick up the Zion shuttle bus - the only way to reach the trailheads in the canyon. After a half-hour or so ride, depart the bus at shuttle stop number 7.

Synopsis: Observation Point is just across the canyon from Angels Landing, and the hike, though longer, harder and not quite as spectacular, is very similar. It's nearly all a steady ascent, some of it on paved paths, that results in an amazing view. A bonus this one, though, is at the top you'll be looking down on Angels Landing. Try not to feel too smug.

Trail sequence: Weeping Rock-Observation Point trail /  East Rim trail / WR-OP trail

Type: Out and back

Distance: 7.7 miles

Elevation: Min. - 4298', Max. - 6522'

Profile: (This profile is long due to forgetting to end the track before getting back on the shuttle.)

Rating: Difficult (factors: elevation gain, heat, steep sections, exposed drop-offs, scrambling)

Notes: It's possible to see a good swing in temperature on this hike. In what is often a warm environment, you are gaining decent elevation as well as traveling through a cool, steep-sided canyon halfway up. Be prepared by dressing in layers.

Track: Observation Point - Zion NP: Alltrails, GaiaGPS

Turn by Turn:

  -- After departing the shuttle, walk up the paved parking road and turn to follow the sidewalk to the south for a few yards to cross a small bridge and reach a junction with a signboard. Stay to the right to follow the Hidden Canyon/East Rim Trail up a serious of steep switchbacks to another junction at about 0.5 miles. Taking the right turn leads the hiker up to Hidden Canyon, a beautiful outing in its own right, but for this trip, continue left (northeast) to make your way to Echo Canyon. 

  -- After some more ascent you gain Echo Canyon. This is a beautiful narrow canyon with some slot-exploring opportunities (for another time). On a hot day you may want to cool off here. But there's more than another thousand feet of elevation to gain, so continue on through the canyon, climbing the left side above the slot to exit.

  -- After some fairly gentle climbing along the canyon sides you reach another junction, this time with the East Rim Trail. Stay left to continue up along more, steep switchbacks after the trail has veered to the northwest.

  -- After some sturdy elevation gain you level out along the southwest rim of East Mesa. Follow this path with steep walls on the right until it begins to circle again, this time to the west (just after passing the junction with East Mesa Trail). Continue on the sandy path as it eventually turns south to head out onto the promontory. Here you will find some low trees, a few rocks, and lovely red sandy soil framing a fabulous view. Also, there will likely be plenty of people.

  -- Having eaten or rested or just enjoyed the view, head back down the way you came, making sure not to turn east at the East Rim Trail junction or take the trail up to Hidden Canyon (though at that point you'll see quite plainly the shuttle stop below).

Photos: Flickr

Video: Youtube