Julie United States 18 Comments

The Canyon Overlook Trail is a gem of a hike in Zion National Park. It’s short, it’s fun, and it takes you to an awesome viewpoint overlooking Zion Canyon. This is a hike that is perfect for all ages and ability levels. So if this is your first, or even your second time in Zion, put the Canyon Overlook Trail on your list of things to do.

Hiking Stats

Distance: 1 mile round trip
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Elevation Gain: 150 feet
Length of Time: 1 hour
Trailhead: Highway 9, just east of the tunnel

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

The Canyon Overlook Trail

Getting to the Trailhead

To get to the trailhead you will need a car. This hike is not accessible using the Zion Shuttle.

From the Visitor Center, take Highway 9 northeast towards the east entrance of Zion National Park. You will drive on a series of switchbacks. From this section of the road, you can see the Great Arch looming over you. The Canyon Overlook viewpoint is on top of this arch. Yes, you will be standing up there!

Great Arch Zion

Drive through the Mount Carmel Tunnel. The parking lot is immediately past the exit of the tunnel. Turn right into the car park, and if you are lucky, there will be a parking spot. It can get crowded during the summer months and this is a very small lot. If there are no spots, continue east on Highway 9 to a second overflow parking area just a little ways down the road. But not to worry, from either parking lot it’s just a short walk to the trailhead.

Parking Map

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Because it can be tricky to find a parking spot, it is best to do this hike early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

The trailhead is located right on Highway 9, near the ranger station for the tunnel.

Hiking to the Viewpoint

You gain some elevation immediately, climbing the steps that take you from Highway 9 up onto the trail. And then it is a mostly flat hike out to the viewpoint.

The trail is carved out of the sandstone walls, so for part of the hike, a giant, stonewall will be on one side of you and to the other side you will have views into the Pine Creek Narrows. At several of the more exposed sections there are railings for safety.

The Trail

On the trail

One of the best parts of this hike is walking through the cool, hidden cave. This is a nice place to take a break, if you need it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was someone here selling snacks or ice cream or margaritas?

Cave

There are a few obstacles along the way, just enough to keep things interesting. The kids we saw on the trail loved climbing over the rocks and giant tree roots.

Obstacles

Hiking Canyon Overlook

Once you reach the viewpoint, the narrow trail opens up to a wide area that overlooks Zion. This is the end of the trail. Now you are standing on top of the Great Arch and below you are the switchbacks of Highway 9. And if you look closely, you will be able to see the windows carved out of the side of the Mount Carmel Tunnel.

Canyon Overlook Viewpoint

For kids, this is a fun place to explore, to a point. Just remember that you are on the edge of a cliff, and getting too close to the edge could be disastrous.

Canyon Overlook

This photo was taken from the viewpoint, looking back at the trail.

Return to your car the same way you came.

Want to Explore More?

After this hike, continue east on Highway 9. The scenery in this part of the park is stunning, with white, orange and red striated sandstone mountains. We got lucky and saw a small herd of mountain goats.

Mountain Goat

Goats in the Park

Zion Park

Making this detour can take an hour or longer, depending on how much you want to explore.

What to Bring on the Hike

Hiking shoes. You can get by with a good pair of walking shoes or running shoes for this hike but hiking shoes are ideal.

Water and snacks. Bring at least 1 liter of water in the summer.

Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses. There is very little shade on this trail.

Camera. Even a smartphone will do.

If you are new to hiking or are curious about what you should bring on a hike, check out our Hiking Gear Guide. Find out what we carry in our day packs and what we wear on the trails.


If you have any questions about how to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information about Zion National Park

For more information about Zion National Park, click here to read our Guide to Zion National Park. Get important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.

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Canyon Overlook Trail Zion

 

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Comments 18

  1. Our home base is Las Vegas and planning to Zion and Bryce for one day in May 25. We’re novice hiker. We got the 1pm shuttle. How should I plan my itinerary? I heard about the parking situation. Which is better? Go to Bryce first or Zion and vise versa? Thank you

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      Author

      If you have a 1 pm shuttle ticket, plan on spending the morning in Bryce Canyon and the afternoon in Zion. Parking most likely will be an issue since you need to be in Zion midday for your shuttle reservation. I would check the national park service website for advice on parking at that time of day. You do not need shuttle tickets to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail, since this trailhead is not on the shuttle route. If you want to hike this trail, you can so on the drive from Bryce Canyon to Zion (but this will shorten your time in Bryce) or after visiting Zion along the shuttle route. There are numerous other hikes you can do from the shuttle route, such as Angels Landing and Emerald Pools.

      To do this, you will have to leave Vegas very early in the morning to visit Bryce before Zion, giving you only a few hours in Bryce. But if you want to hike one of the Zion trails that are along the shuttle route, you will need to be at Zion at 1 pm because of your reservation. Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi Julie,
    First of all thank you so much for your vlog! I have used it a few times for Sedona hikes and so very helpful!
    I was checking out alltrails app and saw some comments about people looking for shuttle tickets and not sure how reliable will that be.
    We will be going there tomorrow (will have one and a half day to spend), we are novice hikers—- will you kindly suggest itinerary that won’t need to go through the shuttle system? Thank you so very much for all your help to us new to trekking:)

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      Author

      Hello Mei. For Zion, there are just a few hikes that you can get to without using the shuttle. Those would be the Canyon Overlook Trail and the Watchman Trail (this starts near the visitor center so you can park in the visitor center). You can hike to Observation Point from the E Mesa Trail (accessed outside of the park, on the east side, for the trailhead put “East Mesa Trailhead” into Google maps). But hikes such as the Narrows, Angels Landing, Emerald Pools, and the Riverside Walk will all use the shuttle. It’s possible to walk to these trailheads, but you are looking at an additional 5 to 7 miles one way. You can get tickets one day in advance (which would be today for your visit tomorrow). If you can, try to get shuttle tickets for your second day, so you can get into the park. Tomorrow you could hike Canyon Overlook and the Watchman Trail. Or check at the visitor center to see if shuttle tickets are still available. Good luck! Cheers, Julie

      1. Thank you so very much! I so appreciate your reply! for some reason I let go control of the itinerary for Zion (let my husband be in charge) and didn’t research enough until I started reading about it today. Will make the best out of this and thank you for the well wishes!

  3. Does anybody know if this trail is still closed?? I saw on AllTrails that it was closed in the spring and probably through the summer, but the latest few reports say open…. anybody been recently?

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      Author

      From what I have read, the Canyon Overlook Trail is currently closed. On the Zion National Park website it is not listed as an open trail. You can see the list here. Cheers, Julie

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          Author
  4. We are healthy 60s seniors. Do you think doing the trail for sunset is safe? Would we just need a flashlight to get back safely to our vehicle? From you pictures, it looks like we walk along Highway 9 to/from the trailhead. We are going in a few days (March). Thank you.

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      Author

      Yes, you can do this at sunset. Most of the trail is on a graded path and easy to follow. It’s just the last section to the overlook where the terrain gets rough and uneven. But even after sunset it should still be bright enough to find your way back to the path. Flashlights or headlamps are a good idea. Cheers, Julie

  5. hi Julie! Great blog, its helping me a lot for my trip. I will be travelling this March. I dont have a complete day for Zion, but i think i can spend one morning on my trip from Bryce to Las Vegas. Do you think I can do this trail during the morning?

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      Author

      Yes, you should be able to do this hike. It’s a great choice, because you will drive past it on the drive from Bryce to Vegas. Plus, you don’t have to get on the Zion shuttle for this hike, so it’s very convenient. And it’s quick and easy with a very nice view. The most challenging part will be finding a parking space, so try to get there early if you can. Cheers, Julie

  6. Hi, is this hike really an hour round trip? Google maps tells me 10 minutes each way. Have you allowed for lingering with a view for a while or is it 30 minutes each way?

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      Author

      Yes, it’s one hour round trip but it can be done in much less time (30 minutes is very doable). I give extra time in our estimates for photos, kids, slower hikers, etc. Cheers, Julie

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      Author

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