Zion Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park is one of our favorite hiking trails. This 1-mile roundtrip trail begins just outside the east entrance to the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel. It ends at an observation point on the edge of a sheer cliff overlooking lower Zion Canyon. At the end of Zion Canyon Overlook Trail you will be rewarded with a magnificent high elevation view of the canyon and its rugged surroundings.
The trailhead begins by climbing steps that have been carved into the sandstone. There’s a railing along this area but you won’t find one everywhere along the trail so be careful while hiking and especially be watchful of children.
Canyon Overlook Trail is located in Zion National Park. Zion, located in southern Utah, borders the town of Springdale and can be reached by Utah SR-9. The trail begins just outside the east entrance to the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel, pictured below. Follow the steps up the trail which is located across the street from the parking area by the ranger booth.
As you climb the trail you will have a view of the entrance to Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel. This 1.1 mile tunnel, completed in 1930, was originally constructed to provide direct access to Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon from Zion. There are restrictions on oversized vehicles entering the tunnel. Be sure to check with the park service if you will be traveling in a large camper, RV or bus. The bridge spans Pine Creek Canyon, a popular canyoneering route in Zion.
The trail continues along a dirt path leading to a picturesque alcove lined with maidenhair fern. The shady overhang and water seeping through the sandstone provide the fern with the environment they need for a healthy existence. It’s also an enjoyable resting point for hikers!
Some sections of the trail wind close to the cliff edge. The sandstone can be slick or covered in sand so watch your footing while in these areas.
The long, windy slit in the rock is Pine Creek Canyon, a favorite of canyoneers. We could hear the canyoneers talking and even screaming as they entered the cold water in the canyon. They literally have to swim in some sections of the canyon. An overhanging walkway constructed along this section of the hike is used to connect a small portion of the trail.
The scenery, as you can image, is outstanding along Canyon Overlook trail. The trail will take you over slickrock with views of interesting hoodoos (strange rock formations) that can be seen in almost every direction.
The twist and turns of the famous Zion Switchbacks, similar to the swithchbacks we drove on the Moki Dugway in Utah, can be seen at the trails end. The switchbacks are located at the west entrance to the tunnel. This winding road that doubles back on itself has been known to be thrilling to some while scary to others. However you regard the drive you’d have to agree the surrounding vistas are magnificent.
At the end of Canyon Overlook Trail the scene is breathtaking. Towering cliffs can be seen in the distance with lower Zion Canyon below. A fenced view point, located to the right of this image, gives you an impressive view of the scenery below. At this point you will be directly above the Great Arch which is pictured below.
The Great Arch in Zion National Park seen from the other side of the canyon. You can see the Canyon Overlook Trail viewpoint where we hiked to above the Great Arch…breathtaking. Click the photo to zoom in and see the people at the overlook (they are the tiny white spots!). This photo was taken near the west entrance of the tunnel around the switchbacks.
The view across Zion Canyon is so stunning that you will almost certainly want to sit awhile to take it all in. I know we did. It was early morning when we arrived. The air was cool and the sky was blue, there was nothing else we could ask for. We were content to sit and admire our surroundings.
If you’d like to hike to a high elevation viewpoint without a strenuous trek like some of the more demanding hikes in Zion, then Canyon Overlook Trail is a good choice. This moderate trail, only gaining 163 feet in elevation, is 1-mile roundtrip taking approximately 1-hour to complete and the views are outstanding!
Have you hiked the Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion or another trail that you can compare to this trail? Tell us about your hiking experience in Zion.
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