OBSERVATION POINT – ZION NATIONAL PARK
Difficulty Level: Strenuous
Distance: 8 miles round-trip
Observation Point is an out of the way moderate-strenuous hike with views that will knock your socks off if you dare give it a try! It is slightly less strenuous than Angel’s Landing even though it is longer. The trail is in decent condition, but it is not as well maintained as some of the other park trails. It is a nice gradual climb up switch backs as you make your way up to the top. You pass through one slot canyon briefly at one point, and the rest of the trail is switchbacks up to the top. The trail at the top is a single track dirt path out to the point. This trail boasts some of the most spectacular views in the park. It ends with a vantage point to see all the way down and back up the canyon – definitely well worth the climb!
ROUND TRIP LENGTH
AVERAGE RIDE TIME
Zion National Park
DISTANCE FROM ST GEORGE
48 Miles (1 hour 18 minutes driving)
Vault Toilets at Trailhead
Out & Back
BEST TIME OF THE YEAR TO HIKE
Great Year Round
BEST TIME OF THE DAY TO HIKE
Morning, Midday, Afternoon
No Permit Required
WATER SOURCES AVAILABLE
No Water Sources Available, Water Available at Ranger Station/Lodge
No Camping Available on Trail, Camping Available only in Designated Camping Area
Dirt Single Track, Sandy, Concrete
Full Sun Exposure
DIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD
Directions to Trailhead. From St George, head north on I-15 for about 21 miles and take exit 27 to Toquerville. Turn right onto UT-17 S/UT-228 and follow it for 6 miles. Turn left onto UT-9 E/W 500 N and continue 20 miles to the Zion National Park Entrance. During the months of November-March the shuttle system is not running and you will have to drive to the trailhead – in which case, continue 1.5 miles and turn left onto Floor of the Valley Rd/Zion Canyon Scenic Dr, and follow for 4.5 miles until you see the parking area for Weeping Rock on the right. During the months of April-October you are required to ride the shuttle unless you are staying at the Zion Lodge and have a Red pass – so you will turn right after the entrance gate and park in the Visitor’s Center Parking and follow signs for the shuttle. Board the shuttle and ride until you get to the Weeping Rock stop and exit the bus. Now go have some fun!
FLORA AND FAUNA
The trip to Observation Point is definitely pushing the top of my favorites list! We started early on a Saturday morning so we could get to Zion National Park as the sun was rising and hopefully get most of the hiking done in the cool of the day. As we pulled into Springdale (the quaint little hamlet at the mouth of the canyon), the sun was starting to rise up and color the very tips of the peaks with its golden rays. The air was still cool and people had already started bustling around, getting ready for the day’s adventures. We pulled up to the entrance gates, showed our pass and proceeded to the parking area. We then boarded the shuttle that runs during the April-October months and allowed our eyes and minds to wander over the beauties of the landscape as we approached our drop off point.
We said goodbye to our new friends from the bus and exited at the Weeping Rock trail head. Tens of thousands of park visitors visit weeping rock each year, but many of them don’t realize that to the right of their trail is a trail that leads to even greater adventures that literally go right over their heads! We took the road less traveled by (the trail to the right) and headed up the winding switchbacks. The trail had recently had some damage to it from what appeared to be a slump in the hillside that had dumped right on the trail, possibly making it impassible for days. The trail had been cleared, and there was evidence they were making repairs to it on weekdays.
The elevation gain was quick and our calves burned as we wound around and around each bend, but the views as we rose were more and more spectacular! For the first two miles we switchbacked right across the canyon from another incredible hike – Angel’s Landing. I was grateful that the switchbacking we were doing was much less intense than the famous Walter’s Wiggles that go up the backside of Angel’s Landing.
We reached the trail fork where right takes you to Hidden Canyon, and left takes you to Observation Point. I longed for the energy of an 18 yr old again so I could hurry and scramble up that trail and then continue on my quest for the point, but alas, we continued our trail and I vowed to come back again soon and explore the Hidden Canyon. Up a couple more switchbacks and we entered the small slot canyon that feeds the waterfall that can occasionally be seen shooting off the top of weeping rock (during or right after a rain storm). The slot opens up for about 100 yards at this point before closing down again and up to the left the trail follows the path that was chiseled out of the rock, presumably during the depression when many of the national park trails were built. This passage was like the gateway to the other side – to a hidden world. Everything opened up and it is hard to describe how incredible it was!
Each crest of a hill brought new splendor as we continued our ascent. Gradually we wound up to the trail fork that leads to the East Rim Trail, Cable Mountain, and Deer Trap Mountain. These are a few of the back country trails that Zion provides, but our destination lay ahead, so we continued on. Once we got high enough, we could see into the canyon we had come from. Angels Landing started to come into view. The white cliffs beyond it, where the West Rim trail lies, came into view. Behind us, the rolling petrified sand dunes of white, yellow, and red, rolled and banked with beauty and splendor. Pine trees dotted the landscape in seemingly impossible ways as they grew up through the cracks in the rocks. Still we pushed on, and as we came up the last grade of sandstone the trail turned to red dirt and we realized that we were almost to our destination. We had about 3/4 mile left to go and more grandeur to experience. As we peeled around it happened…the whole of Zion canyon came into view. It opened up more and more the closer we got to the point. We could see all the way down the canyon toward Springdale, and all the way up the canyon toward Kolob. I’ve always seen Zion from the bottom up! This was my first time seeing it from the top down and it took my breath away! I was seeing the places from my childhood in such a different way, and it made me want to yell with excitement!
When we got to the point I just stood there and gazed down into the canyon. I can’t help imagining God during the creation of all these things, peering down from that point and saying, “Yes, this is good. My children will enjoy this.” My friends, it doesn’t get much better than that view right there! The vast diversity of the landscape was outside of my imagination. I just sat and stared at it, and there was plenty to stare at! My ability to describe in words the things I saw and felt are inadequate. In summation, the colored sandstone topped with green foliage contrasted with sheer cliffs reaching straight down into the canyon were incredible to behold, and the trail and journey are worth the time and the climb.
As we began our descent the clouds were starting to gather overhead and the views of the canyon became even more spectacular. Although the weather that day had been perfect, we were hoping we might get a little shower to help cool things down even more, but it never quite came. Just as we started down hill, at about mile 5, my friend sprained his ankle quite badly. I hoped it was like some small sprains where he would be able to walk it off and just be careful the rest of the trip. Unfortunately it was not. I then began considering the possibility of carrying him out, and knew that would push way beyond my physical limits as we had at least 3 miles of fairly steep downhill to go. He decided he wanted to try going very slowly and just hobble along. We did that for another mile and it was becoming too much for him. While he sat on the side of the trail I looked for branches that I could salvage and fashion some kind of walking stick from. I was able to come up with a couple of sticks that helped, but were certainly not adequate. Both of us, unknown to the other, said little prayers in our hearts that we would be able to find something suitable to get him off the mountain. Not five minutes later, after one of the sticks I had gotten for him broke, the first group we had seen coming down showed up with an extra set of hiking poles that they offered, with some tape and ice to wrap his foot in, and we both just stood there in amazement! We thanked them profusely and they were gone as quickly as they came. Two lessons came from this moment…God cares about his children, no matter who they are, and He put someone else in place to help us out, and the other thing is, the thing I have always loved about being on the trail, and that is that people become people again when they are on the trail. They get away from their devices, their social clicks, and get on the tough, wild mountains, and they realize they aren’t everything they pretend to be somewhere else. We had never seen these people, and yet they insisted on helping, and making sure that my friend was taken care of. People can really be great!
The rest of the trip was perfectly uneventful. My friend was able to walk down the rest of the trail with a degree of ease. The views on the return trip were just as spectacular as the trip up, but we got to see them with new perspective because of the clouds, but also because we were moving slower and had more time to really soak them up. Even with the sprain, my friend says he would do it again. This hike will change you. Hopefully for you, it doesn’t come from a black and blue ankle, but because you see how small we are, and all that was created for us to enjoy!
Until next time…your next adventure is right out your door!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hike St George
HikeStGeorge is a project that began as a seedling for Tim LeBaron in the early part of 2008, but really didn’t begin to blossom until the latter part of 2011. The original idea behind the site was to bring to light all of the harder to find, or “less known” hidden gems of the area. It was more of a pet project than anything. As excitement about the site began to spread, there was more of a push to develop information about all hikes in the Southern Utah Region.