Zion – Canyon Overlook Trail

Virgin, UT

We’ve been sticking around the motorhome the last few days as the weather has been a bit shaky.  On Friday it rained off and on all day, which was snow just a few hundred feet above us on the mesas and mountains.

Sunday dawned sunny and a bit warmer, with the temperature in the mid-60s.  The sun provided some great views of the snow on the surrounding rock formations.

It was time for a short hike to stretch our legs and check out some of the views in Zion National Park.  Our goal was the Canyon Overlook Trail, which leads to a great view of the valley below from a perch above the arch pictured below.

To reach the trail we drove to the east side of the park, going through the Zion – Mt. Carmel Tunnel, a 1.1 mile tunnel through solid rock with six large windows cut through the sandstone.

The hike to the overlook is not long, only about a half mile, but it does go up a bit and over and around some interesting rock ledges.  At one point they built a small, narrow bridge to go around a large outcropping . . .

. . . then you scrambled over another one . . .

. . . and then you hiked under one.

Once you reach the overlook you are treated to a great view of Pine Creek Canyon.  In the center of the picture below, you can see the highway winding up the side of the canyon to the tunnel.

In the center below you can see one of the windows in the tunnel.  The window looks a bit small from this distance but it is about ten feet wide and almost that high.

In the panorama below, the tunnel runs through the red rock to the left of the valley.

The next three pictures are some of the views you get from the overlook.

From the trail above the parking area, we could see the group below getting ready for something. At first we thought they were going diving.  Then, they began to put on rope harnesses and helmets, so we knew a dive was not part of their plans.

When we arrived in the parking area, we talked with them and found they were going to hike down Pine Creek, through a steep canyon and over some falls.  This would require some swimming and some rope descents.  We were going to join them, but Pam was a little tired from the hike up to the overlook.

We then returned to the Jeep and continued to the east, going through one more short tunnel.

We soon came to our destination, Checkerboard Mesa.  The majestic criss-crossed mountain appears as a massive hill towering 900 feet above the roadway and resembles a giant, extended chess or checkerboard.  The left to right deep scratches are due to a north to south wind direction while the vertical cracks are a result of weathering, a cycle of freezing and thawing.

This was another beautiful day in Zion National Park.

And a beautiful ending to the evening.  Look for more posts as we continue to explore southern Utah.

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14 Responses to Zion – Canyon Overlook Trail

  1. Allison says:

    Magnificent photos! Just stunning. I can see we’re going to have to go back to Zion, we missed a lot of the trails you’re hiking.

    • placestheygo says:

      Allison, I found a wonderful website for hiking Zion. “Joe’s Guide to Hiking Zion.”. It is amazing. A book in itself. He discusses all the usual hikes but also all those unknown areas. There are tons of hikes. We should have a lot more listed in the blog since we are here for month.

  2. Janet says:

    Beautiful images, thank you so much for sharing them!! Looks like a place to put on our wish list!

  3. Marsha says:

    The Canyon is beautiful with the snow.

    Here we go again…on the edge! Why, why, why do you do this to me? The trail does look super. I like the in, over, under, etc. The Canyon is gorgeous! Great photo of you two.

    Wait just one minute…blaming Pam for not going. Tell the truth, John. As Pam tells it, you can barely keep up with her.

    Checkerboard Mesa is really cool. Thanks for the explanation on the appearance. It has a ton of character.

    I look forward to seeing some more of this awesome Canyon. Can’t wait till we get there.

  4. Lisa says:

    What a spectacular day! I would have Loved that too! You are so fortunate to see Zion with snow. Wish we were there too!

    We are moving on tomorrow to the Triangle T Ranch in Dragoon.

  5. amandawatson71 says:

    Wow! The snow on the rocks is absolutely gorgeous! Not sure the hike/swim sounds very appealing though. I prefer my hiking to be on dry land when there’s snow on the ground- brrr!

  6. Gay and Joe Taylor says:

    That view is so awesome.I have never been through a tunnel with windows….cool! And so how many arches is that?

    Beautiful sunset!

  7. Stunning! Im in awe. I think you are there at the right time, a little snow on the mountains gave it a little character. It will be a year before we get here but this is truly a must. Thank you for those beautiful pictures.

  8. RJRVtravels says:

    Wow – great shots. Seeing Zion under a dusting of snow is a special treat.

  9. Susan A. says:

    Canyon Overlook Trail is one of my favorite short hikes in Zion. It has so much interest from the deep slot-like canyons along the trail, to the bridge, to the scenery, to the overlook itself.

    For my mom’s 80th birthday in 2010, we did a three-week trip around Utah, Nevada, Colorado (Mesa Verde only) and Arizona. I will be posting a retrospective this Friday on her 83rd birthday with photos from our trip.

    For her 83rd birthday, she and my sister are flying to San Antonio. We will give them a week-long tour of the Texas Hill Country. She is an inspiration!


  10. Erin says:

    I don’t know how we missed the Canyon Overlook trail … oh, wait I do … while we did hike back in the days we were living in Utah, it was limited. For sure this one will be on our list when we get back to the area.

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