The Canyon Overlook Trail is one of Zion's classics that is well advertised by the park. The trailhead is located immediately east of the 1.1 mile long tunnel. It begins with charming steps, carved into sandstone, that climb above the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. The winding trail travels along Pine Creek Canyon, a popular canyoneering route and the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. It is a short and easy hike ending at the edge of a cliff that allows a glorious view of lower Zion Canyon, including Zion's famous Switchbacks, the Beehives, West Temple, East Temple, Towers of the Virgin and the Streaked Wall. If you are looking for a high elevation viewpoint, but do not want to tackle a grueling trail like Observation Point, then the Canyon Overlook Trail is ideal. There are lots of hoodoos and wild flowers along the trail that make it fun for kids but keep your children close to you and safe while hiking in Zion.
Canyon Overlook at a Glance Photo Album:Canyon Overlook Pictures Map:Trail Map - Backcountry Map - Overview Map Day Hike: Yes Distance: 1-mile round-trip Average Hiking Time: 1 hour round-trip Difficulty:Easy for most adults, moderate for young kids. There are some exposed cliffs. Sun Exposure: Full sun in most places. Permits: Not required. Trail Conditions: Expect a well maintained path that is mostly sandstone with some packed dirt sections. This hike is tolerable during the hottest parts of a summer day, but it is best enjoyed in the morning or late evenings that time of year. Sand or moisture on the trail may make it slippery. Do not hike this trail if it is wet, raining or lightening. Trailhead: Immediately east of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel by the ranger booth. Access without getting on the shuttle makes this great for families. Trailend: Same as trailhead Trail Access: The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week allowing year-round access. Elevation Gain: 163', which is a moderately, easy climb after the initial elevation. Peak: 5300' Restrooms: Vault restrooms are located at the trailhead across the highway from the ranger booth.
Follow the steps up the Canyon Overlook Trail that are located by the ranger booth on the east side of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Below and along the early part of the trail is a long, curvy slit in the rock which is Pine Creek Canyon. Be very quiet and you might be able to hear canyoneers below. They have to literally swim in many parts of the canyon. Sometimes you will hear a scream from someone as they first hit the ice cold water in there. The slot is a favorite of slot canyon enthusiasts. The Canyon Overlook Trail continues along a dirt path to a charming alcove adorned with maidenhair fern. Kids will enjoy playing there and resting beneath the cool, shady overhang. Water seepage supplies the fern and other flora with needed moisture. A recessed rock fall lies just beyond the alcove. There is a rock fall in Zion every day, but they are usually small and rarely witnessed and most of the falling sandstone explodes or and often the evidence vaporizes on impact. The trail climbs among slick rock hoodoos, which are seen in just about every direction. As you near the smaller tunnel window, look for ravens that often soar and caw there, seemingly guarding entrance to the tunnel through that window. There is a short section where the path winds closely along the cliff edge and children should be watched extra carefully.
Directions to Zion National Park
From the North: Travel I-15 south, past Beaver. exit on Hwy 20. Follow US-89 to Mount Carmel Junction. Take SR-9 to Zion's east entrance.
From Arizona: Travel US-89A through Fredonia, Arizona and Kanab Utah. Follow US-89 to Mount Carmel Junction. Take SR-9 to the east park entrance.
From the South: Travel I-15 north. Take exit 16 and travel through Hurricane to LaVerkin. Continue on SR-9 to the south entrance of the park. SR-9 through Zion National Park is always open and is also called the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway. See restrictions for RV's
Zion Photo: Zion's Canyon Overlook Trail begins on the east end of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. The path culminates at a magnificent view of the Switchbacks and lower Zion Canyon.
Lodging and services are available on the gorgeous east side of Zion National Park, where guests are close to Zion National Park (12 miles), Bryce Canyon National Park (60 miles), Cedar Breaks National Monument (45 miles), Coral Pink Sand Dunes (12 miles), and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (85 miles). It's where city traffic is absent and the skies are bright and clean.
TrailEnd - The path continues to a mound of slickrock, directly over the Great Arch, hiding the trails end. From the top of the mound the sight is breathtaking. Walking closer to the fenced edge gives an impressive view below. Towering sandstone cliffs loom in the distance. To the left are hoodoos, to the right is the East Temple. Hikers often sit among the nest of hoodoos gazing down into lower Zion Canyon to see the twists and turns of the Zion Switchbacks. Straight ahead is an impressive show of landmarks. An eye catcher is the large crown of rounded sandstone. This tuft of temple cap is the white turbines of the Beehives. Zion monoliths are displayed in hues of red and white, crowded around the stark white Beehives. The tallest cliff in the main section of Zion National Park is the West Temple. To the right of the West Temple are the Towers of the Virgin and the Streaked Wall. You will also be able to see the Sundial, Altar of Sacrifice and the East Temple on the far right.
Trail History - In November 1993 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) completed construction of the Canyon Overlook Trail. The construction included chiseled steps, block retaining walls, the platform at the end of the trail. The parking area was built in 1968, not for the trail since it was not yet built but for a photo stop and for general use.
Note - When hiking in Zion National Park stay on established trails to protect yourself and the delicate desert environment. Never approach the edge of a cliff. Sandstone can be slippery.
Beta: Coordinates and other trail and canyoneering information
by Zion Park search and rescue veteran team member Bo
Beck and www.zionnational-park.com author Tanya Milligan.