For jaw-dropping views over Zion National Park, it’s hard to beat Observation Point. The entire hike is a beauty, but it is challenging. At 8 miles long and with 2300 feet of climbing, it is a steady climb to that final viewpoint. This is a classic Zion trail and well worth your time and effort, especially if you want views out over Angels Landing and the rest of Zion National Park.
Facts about the Hike
Distance: 8 miles
Elevation Gain: 2300 feet
Length of Time: 4 – 6 hours
When to go: Year round as long as the trail is free of snow and ice. The best seasons are Spring and Fall
Trailhead: Weeping Rock (stop #7 on the Zion Shuttle)
Hiking to Observation Point
After exiting the shuttle, the hike starts at the Weeping Rock trailhead. Almost immediately the climbing begins. It does not take long until you gain some serious elevation as you switchback up the mountain. This first part of the hike is the most monotonous and the least exciting, but it does get a lot better.
At ¾ of a mile into the hike, you have the option to make a detour to Hidden Canyon (skip ahead to learn how to do this).
After more climbing, the trail levels out in an area called Echo Canyon. This spot is amazing. Less climbing, cooler temperatures, and incredible scenery. For us, it was a very nice surprise. Enjoy this brief break…another long, strenuous climb awaits just around the bend.
Note: If you do not have the stamina or the desire to hike all of the way to Observation Point, hiking just to Echo Canyon is a nice option. It’s a neat place to explore, with canyon walls looming above you, fun hiking trails, and scenic views. You can explore and climb through the slot canyon, although it is filled with stagnant, chilly water.
After leaving Echo Canyon, the climbing resumes. The East Rim Trail will break off to your right, heading out to the eastern section of Zion National Park.
Once again, you will zig zag up the mountain. The switchbacks are tighter and steeper here than at the first part of the hike. The terrain is much different too, with yellow and white sandstone rocks, patchy vegetation, and the occasional evergreen tree. As you climb higher, the views get better, and you will start to get your first glimpses out over Zion National Park.
Finally, just when it seems like the climbing will never end, the trail levels out. Now, it is just small ups and downs for the next mile until you reach Observation Point. Off to your left is the river valley of Zion, with teaser views of what is awaiting you at Observation Point.
In this photo, if you follow the tree line on top of the white cliffs, Observation Point is the farthest point to the left.
The View from Observation Point
Tim and I loved the views from Observation Point. It seems like all of Zion is stretched out in front of you. From this point, you can look down on Angels Landing and the Virgin River snaking its way through the valley.
Have fun exploring the numerous viewpoints, take your selfies, and enjoy the view.
Looking down on Angels Landing, including the entire spine you hike to get out to the final viewpoint.
Looking out over the western portion of Zion National Park.
You can even see where you came from. The large zig zags to the left are the trail to Observation Point. The narrow zig zags and the trail on the cliffs to the right take you to Hidden Canyon.
To finish the hike, follow the trail the same way down the mountain. This descent can be hard on the knees and hiking poles are a good idea here to take some of the strain off of your legs.
How to Have the Best Experience
Take One of the First Shuttles of the Day
To avoid the crowds and the midday heat, you should start this hike early. Most of the trail is exposed to the sun and this hike can be brutal during the summer months. Get an early start so you can reach Observation Point before temperatures start to soar.
Consider the Side Trip to Hidden Canyon
We combined the hike to Observation Point with the hike to Hidden Canyon. Both hikes start at the Weeping Rock trailhead and both hikes share the first part of the trail. At ¾ of a mile the trail splits. Go left to continue climbing to Observation Point. Go right to climb to Hidden Canyon.
We hiked Hidden Canyon first. After a series of switchbacks, the trail levels out, but now the trail becomes very exposed. The trail becomes a ledge that clings to the canyon wall, with drop-offs to the valley below. There are chains to keep you safe. This part of the hike is similar to the vertiginous drop offs of Angels Landing, but since it is not nearly as popular, you will have less crowds to deal with.
The trail ends at the mouth of a small canyon. From here, you can continue your exploration of the canyon, climbing up and over the boulders and fallen trees.
This hike is pure fun. It’s more about the thrilling section on the ledges and exploring the quiet canyon, than having an amazing view.
This side trip adds 2 to 3 miles of hiking and 1 to 2 hours, depending on how far into the canyon you choose to hike.
Consider Hiking to Weeping Rock
Weeping Rock is a large, sandstone rock that drips water and is surrounded by a lush garden. This short, fast hike also starts at the Weeping Rock shuttle stop.
What to Bring on the Hike
Hiking Shoes. Hiking shoes are preferable, however, running shoes with good support and good traction are sufficient.
Water. Bring plenty of water, especially if you will be hiking midday or during the warmer months.
Sunscreen. There is very little shade on the trail.
Hiking poles (optional). As I have gotten older, I am having more problems with my knees, especially on hikes with a large descent at the end. Hiking poles are my new favorite hiking gadget and I highly recommend them. They take about 30% of the weight off of your legs as you descend, easing knee pain and other symptoms. I use Black Diamond Distance Z poles and love them. They easily collapse down to fit in your luggage and hiking backpack, plus they are extremely lightweight. The poles come in several sizes, so make sure you pick the right length based on your height.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Springdale, one of the best Holiday Inn properties we have seen. It is located along the Springdale Shuttle route, so you can get around town and into Zion National Park without a car. On our next visit to Zion (we loved it so much we can’t wait to go back!) this will be our first choice hotel.
Post updated June 2018.
Have you been to Zion? What is your favorite hike? Comment below!
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