Observation Point & The East Rim Trail
The Big View of Zion Canyon, reached via ever-changing scenery.
It would be easy to dismiss this hike as one of those lung-busters culminating in a single, though memorable, view. However, there’s much more to it than that as the trail weaves its way through beautiful backcountry. Like Angel’s Landing, this hike needs to be attempted early in the day as there are only a few shady sections on the 2100 feet, 8 mile roundtrip trail to the Point. Even then, your return trip will be exposed so take plenty of sunscreen.
Take the canyon shuttle bus (mandatory in the canyon) to the Weeping Rock Trailhead, from where the East Rim Trail starts. From the shuttle stop you can see the constructed switchback trail weaving its way up the high wall. In the mornings this section is almost entirely in shade, and as you head up it’s not long before the canyon floor is far below you. Halfway up there’s a junction to lovely Hidden Canyon (worth a visit on your return if you have the energy) but you should keep on the East Rim Trail. At the top of this section is narrow Echo Canyon, a cool, shady place to rest up for a few minutes. In terms of elevation gain you’re nearly halfway up. After another mile or so you reach the junction with the Observation Point Trail. (I’ve not hiked the rest of the East Rim Trail but it’s supposed to be very scenic.) We bear left and continue towards Observation Point up another series of switchbacks towards the plateau. The views around you are incredible and only a very small proportion of Zion visitors see them. You’re in full sun here and the going can be a little tough on the steep and unrelenting gradient. 3 miles from the trailhead, the trail flattens out and undulates across the plateau towards your destination, following the edge of the rim with wide-reaching views over the canyon. You’ll pass another junction, this for the East Mesa Trail, but you continue hugging the rim towards (the obvious) Observation Point. Here at 6,500 feet, and 1000 feet above Angel’s Landing in front of you, is one of the iconic views of the southwest – a great reward for a morning’s hard work. Returning to the shuttle stop may be downhill all the way but it’s tough on your knees. It was on this hike that I decided that my hiking boots were too small and it was a painful descent with plenty of stops.
Yes, this is a tough hike but, in my opinion, one of the 3 best in the park , the others being The Narrows and Angel’s Landing.