The Road Through Zion – Observation Point

Hurricane, UT

John was up one recent morning and noticed the beautiful sunrise in the east (the normal direction of sunrises in Utah) so he snapped a photo of it.  He shared the photo with Pam later as she hasn’t seen a sunrise since retirement!

On our last day in southwest Utah we decided to drive through Zion NP and hike to Observation Point, high over Zion Canyon.  There are two ways to get to the point.  One involves a four mile hike on a trail that zigzags up the southern wall of Zion Canyon.  It’s a strenuous hike as it is almost all “up” until near the very end.  The other way is to drive to the east side of the park, take a dirt road north for about eight miles, and hike in three and a half miles on the East Mesa Trail.  This hike is shorter and doesn’t involve much change in elevation.  We hiked the canyon wall trail during our visit last year.  But the road to the East Mesa Trail was still icy (it was in March) and we found it very slippery, so we couldn’t get to the trailhead.  But there isn’t much ice in October, so off we went.

As we drove through the park on the Zion – Camel Highway (Rte. 9) we were reminded of the beauty found all along this road.  In our opinion, it may just be the most beautiful drives we’ve ever done.  Let’s look at some of the views along the way.

The shuttle into Zion Canyon was still operating and the park was crowded

We found the East Mesa trailhead and set off over fairly flat terrain.  Two and a half miles in the trail began a slow descend to Observation Point.  Wow, this trail sure was easier than the hike up from down in Zion Canyon!

Approaching Observation Point on the East Mesa Trail

At Observation Point you get a great view of Zion Canyon to the south.  In the photo below Angel’s Landing, a famous hiking destination, is just right of center.  We thought maybe it was closed to hikers as we couldn’t detect any movement on it.

But a closer look revealed many hikers at its summit and along the trail.

We looked across a small canyon to our left and could see the trail to Hidden Canyon.  This is a great hike that we did last year.  The trail has a bit of elevation change, but the real exciting part is when it goes around a rocky edge line with chains to hang on to.  Check out the white arrow in the picture below.

A zoom photo reveals a group of hikers moving down the trail.  It’s exciting but not as dangerous as it looks.

Below are a couple of views along the Zion – Carmel Highway as we returned back through the park.

One of the great things about traveling without a firmly fixed agenda is the ability to be spontaneous.  A visit to southeast Utah was not on our agenda until the last minute.  We’re very glad the opportunity presented itself, as we had a great time.  There is just so much to see in this area it may deserve a third visit soon!

Note:  Thanks for all the feedback on our snake picture in an earlier blog.  The picture may have been a bit deceiving regarding the size of the snake.  It was a little guy, only about 15 inches long.  From comments we are pretty sure it was a baby Western Diamondback Rattlesnake with a button rattle.

Now it’s off to Valley of Fire, 50 miles north of Las Vegas, for a couple of days with no cell service.  More on that later . . .

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33 Responses to The Road Through Zion – Observation Point

  1. pmbweaver says:

    Gorgeous sunrise. I know the sunsets are just a lovely. Think you can stay up long enough to see one of those Pam? lol

    It is so beautiful to see mountains and green grass at the same time.

    Oh yeah….a rocky edge line with chains always gets me so excited…not!

    You are going from one gorgeous place to another! Valley of Fire…wow!

  2. LuAnn says:

    Gorgeous sunrise and I guess Pam still doesn’t need to be up at that hour if someone else is there to take the shots! This may be on the list for one of the most beautiful drives in the west.

  3. Lindsay Allen says:

    So pleased we’ve started following your blog. Last Oct we were in the Zion area, however, it was Govt Shutdown, so our travels from the UK were a little affected! Boo!

    Thankfully, UTAH took control and by the time we reached Capitol Reef all was fine again, phew!

    We did get the chance to visit Valley of Fire and loved it (albeit a very cloudy dull day), so much so we will be there next month for another ‘road trip’ before heading south into Arizona and California … I look forward to reading your blog with interest about your visit there. Happy travels Lindsay x

  4. Lindsay Allen says:

    Ooooh exciting … we arrive LAX 7 Nov and head to Las Vegas area 9 thro 13 Nov, when we then head for Sedona for a few nights (13-16), Scottsdale (16-21), Palm Desert (21-24) before heading back to the winter weather of nothern England! Brrrr!
    Hope to hike: Hollywood hills area from Griffith Observatory – Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail from Lake Mead to Hoover Dam – Valley of Fire – Red Rock Canyon
    Not planned ahead for Sedona yet, we’ve done Devil’s Bridge before amongst other trails. Probably head out to Soldiers Pass, but other than that still need to do some research!
    Scottsdale, may head back along the Apache Trail to Roosevelt Dam, again, more research required! Palm Desert will see us exploring Joshua Tree NP and maybe head up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, depending temperatures!
    Any advice much appreciated … and keep your fingers crossed for mild weather and particularly blue skies!
    Now just need my foot issues to subside as I suffer from Plantar Fasciitis, which could be a slight issue on longer hikes 😦
    Here’s to happy travels for all of us.
    Best wishes
    Lindsay x

    • placestheygo says:

      Lindsay, check our blog for most of the places you are going to visit for ideas. We haven’t been to the Phoenix area yet. We may just miss you. We are heading to Boulder City (Lake Mead) tomorrow for maybe two weeks. Then, maybe Death Valley if it cools some. We are revisiting Sedona but in the early spring. You will really enjoy all the places you are planning to revisit. Hope our blog helps a little.

      Good luck with your foot. Our son had that. Isn’t wasn’t fun.

      • Lindsay Allen says:

        Thanks Guys,
        Way ahead of you … enjoyed some wonderful reading (and images) yesterday of your previous blogs in some of the areas we’re visiting … our problem will be fitting it all in, in the limited time we have, boo!
        We did Death Valley in April … and it was blistering then, so hope you have some ‘pleasant’ weather to make the most of it 🙂 Again for us it was a whistle stop tour to fit everything in … alas time and heat won out and only managed a few hikes in the 2 days we were there!
        Look forward to reading your Lake Mead tips … just leave some warm weather and blue skies for us, ha ha!
        I hope to get some wonderful shots too … travelling and photography are a passion (see http://instagram.com/onvacationagain for a few of my previous adventures) we just don’t have the luxury of unlimited time at the moment and have to return to the UK to earn more money to keep returning … and we always do as you have such amazing scenery!
        Safe travels
        Lindsay x

  5. Jean says:

    Wow….just WOW. Beautiful photos!

  6. Agreed, that’s one heck of a beautiful drive! Thanks for taking us to red rock country once again!

    It sure can be difficult to show scale in photos! I’m glad you said the snake was about 15 inches long, it would have been scary to try to put a foot in the photo for scale! 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      That little guy was really cute but there was no way either of us were putting a foot there for scale. Take photos, move around to the side and watch carefully from here on out!

  7. runningmemaw says:

    Loved the photo of Approaching Observation point! They are all good and I am enjoying following your travels!

  8. Sherry says:

    We did Angel’s Landing when we were there and love it. Your drive was just beautiful but I guess we will have to hike up since Ruby doesn’t do 8 miles of dirt very well. At least it’s all up at the beginning rather than the end. Your pictures are just beautiful.

  9. Laurel says:

    Yes, that has to be one of the top beautiful drives anywhere! You’re enticing us back to Zion with your gorgeous hikes. I laughed about the sunrise photo — Eric already makes my coffee, now I just have to get him to take sunrise photos for me and my day will be off to a PERFECT beginning!

  10. allisonmohr says:

    Great photos! All of them! We just got into Virgin today, and are looking forward to hiking and biking. We’ll be retracing some of your steps, so thank you for the info. Also looking forward to seeing Valley of Fire, take pictures please.

    • placestheygo says:

      Allison, we spent a month in Zion last year. Check out the blog.

      Haha!! We’ve been to Valley of Fire before but I couldn’t refrain from taking a ton of photos yesterday. Ever rock is gorgeous:) Oh, I will have lots of photos!

  11. Erin says:

    See what you’re missing by sleeping in Pam? Great sunrise. And all those lovely colors in Zion NP … just lovely.

  12. Janna Clark says:

    Two of my bestest friends and I went to Zion about 3 years ago and it was one of the best trips–we did the Observation Point hike and loved it. One of the friends wanted to do the Angel’s Landing hike but we vetoed her, the Hidden Canyon “chains” were enough for me!!

    • placestheygo says:

      We’ve never done Angel’s Landing either, Janna, and don’t ever intend to do it. After I read that the last five people to die were woman in their 50’s, I saw no reason to be try to be next:) If you hike up the West Rim trail which leads off from the Angel’s Landing trail, you can look straight at the entire Angel’s Landing trail. No one would do it if they saw this view first. We really enjoyed Hidden Canyon. It had just the right amount challenge.

  13. Jodee Gravel says:

    The rewards of spontaneity are great – as are those of rising early 🙂 That is a beautiful drive, and your weather seems to be perfect. I always wonder if the shuttle drivers become immune to the magic…..

  14. Amanda says:

    I didn’t realize that there was more than one way to get to Observation Point. Sounds much easier than climbing up the canyon and you still get the same great view at the end. Happy for you that you got to spend a bit more time in Zion. We can’t wait to make it back there some day.

    • placestheygo says:

      Amanda, I don’t think the park lists this trail anywhere. We found it on a website we were using for hikes. It isn’t the easiest dirt road to travel but there was Charger parked there when we arrived!

  15. Rick Doyle says:

    Beautiful sunrise photo and stunning pics of an absolutely gorgeous park. We definitely have to visit that area soon.

  16. Beautiful pictures of Zion! I love Utah scenery and hiking. I must return so I can do that hike. You’ve inspired me!

  17. That picture of John approaching Observation Point is just perfection. I don’t we will ever ran out of things to do when we get into that area.
    John, you are so sweet sharing that beautiful sunrise for Pam. who knows that might inspire her to set the alarm again just to see that each morning.

    • placestheygo says:

      Sorry, MonaLiza, it will take more than a beautiful sunrise to get me up:)

      I don’t know if one ever runs out of placed to visit in southern Utah. We spent three months there last year and there is so much we still need to see. Glad you enjoyed the first view of Observation Point from the trail:) Thanks!

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