My first hike in Zion National Park, Canyon Overlook strikes me as the perfect place to get started in exploring the park by foot. Not only does it offer a tremendous view into the canyon (duh!), across the winding 9 highway and out to several of the park’s most notable faces, but it’s a warm-up version of the terrain found around the park.
If you’ve looked around at Zion hikes before, you probably stumbled across at least one photo of someone walking on what seems to be a precarious wooden bridge — that’s here (and far more stable than it seems). Still, cliff edges are par for the course in Zion, after all, most of the best routes are up a mountain and down into the opposing valley and there’s just not many ways around it.
As for the route its self, it has a little bit of everything Zion. You start off up a quick flight of stone stairs, weave around a man-altered dirt path, then up to stone, past a few tight corners and cliff ledges (aside from the bridge shot, nothing is too harrowing and much of the path has rails), even under a couple half-caves. There’s a bit of incline but the 160-ish feet gain is spread out over the entire trail length so you don’t notice much strain. The route is pretty simple to follow with both wear paths and visible obstacles to keep you going.
Once you hit the end (you can’t miss the fence… if you do, yikes…), it’s views for days and days. I’ve been told it’s pretty spectacular at or shortly after sunrise with light hitting the mountains across the way but my journey was all grey and still all impressive… plus easy to shoot. There’s a sign noting the end, a fence keeping you from flying off the cliff and ample room to sit down and chill out before walking back the same way you came.
With killer views, an easy ascent and flat end point, this is a great hike for a view, a quick exploration and certainly for a photo stop with the tripod.
- Official Rating: Moderate
- My Rating: Walk up the hill+
- Start point: Marked trailhead just to the east of the main park tunnel
- Distance: 1 mile round-trip (out & back) / 163′ gain / about 1 hour
- Look for: The wooden bridge for a fun photo and the cave after it
- Recommended time: Highly exposed so try for early morning temps (and sun)
- Facilities: Restrooms at the tunnel parking lot (no water)