Best Day Hike in Zion National Park: Observation Point Trail

Submitted by: Terry Tyson, A Hiking Fool and his Photo Log

Impressions: The Grand Canyon may touch your heart with its massive grandeur, but Zion National Park touches your soul. Unless you venture beyond the rim of the Grand Canyon, it’s likely to remain as humbling and impressive as the beautiful prom queen you admired, but never dated in high school. But Zion demands a personal connection because there is no other way to experience the canyon other than to be physically immersed in its beauty and wonder.

“Zion” in Hebrew, refers to a place of refuge, a holy sanctuary. It’s easy to understand why this special place was named Zion for it does provide you with a sense of spiritual solace.

There are many “classic” hikes within the canyon, each with their own special characteristics and charms. But for me, the best of the “classic” hikes is to Observation Point. It’s likely the most difficult of the classics, but the payoff for your efforts are many.

Tips: Park your car and take the shuttle. The park shuttle will take you from the front gate to the end of the canyon and back. The cost of the shuttle is included with your entrance fee. It’s handy, comfortable and allows you to enjoy the place without worrying about traffic.

The town shuttle (aka “Springdale Shuttle”) is also handy. It will take you from the front gate to the end of town, dropping you off at convenient locations near eateries, shops and hotels. It’s also a bargain because it’s free.

Both shuttles run from early April to the end of October.

Oh yeah, don’t forget to bring a lot of water on any hike you do in the park. Natural water sources are unreliable and may not be safe to drink.

Must-sees: If you even of moderate stamina, don’t miss Observation Point. The hike is longer and higher than its more well-known cousin, Angels Landing, but provides more incredible visual treats. Echo Canyon, a hanging, hidden canyon about 1/3 of the way up is a stunning surprise. It’s mentioned sometimes only in passing in some guides, but the first time you encounter it will be one of the reasons you’ll want to return.

Because it’s a more challenging hike, you’re likely to see fewer folks on the trail. But be prepared to gain elevation fast as the trail presents not only the entire canyon to view, but also the less seen East Mesa portion of the park.

When you do reach Observation Point, take a moment to look down upon the Big Bend of the Virgin River, Angels Landing and the entrance to The Narrows from this lofty perch. Bring a map so you can identify all of the landmarks within the view.

Echo Canyon; Observation Point Trail

East Mesa from Observation Point Trail

View from the top: Observation Point

Terry Tyson also had this to say: Zion gets busy during the summer, despite the heat. The best time to visit is in the spring or fall. If you’re wanting to hike in The Narrows, it’s best to wait until late summer or early fall when the water level is lowest.