Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Want the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

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The days when everything starts out wrong almost always wind up being the best, at least in my experience. Such was the case on my recent trip to St. George.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

After flying in very early on a Friday morning, getting swooped up at the Vegas airport by Jade, Bob and Augustine, and continuing the two hours by car north to southern Utah, our first day was spent settling into our condo rental before meeting up with the iExplore InstaMeet group at the entrance to Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

And even that almost got waylaid after one photographer’s flight was delayed and another’s car broke down en route. Still, the half of our group who made it met up at the trailhead just north of St. George, but then half of that half got lost in the desert, almost not reaching Babylon Arch.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

It was a comical start to a weekend of adventure, and the good news is that we did all make it back to the Red Cliff trailhead that night in time for s’mores and to make a game plan for Zion National Park the next morning.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

But the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry—isn’t that how the saying goes?—especially if you’re traveling with me.

Our morning hike through the Narrows was canceled after the slot canyon was closed for flooding (FYI, it closes if the flow rate is over 150 cubic feet per second). So instead, we opted to drive to the top (read: flat) trail that would take us out to Observation Point. From there, the group of 30 would meet at the overlook, then head to the bottom for an afternoon with the gang at a brewery.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Only we woke up on Saturday to find that a rock slide had closed the road within Zion that leads to the parking lot for the easy Observation Point hike, so the only option left was the difficult hike—all the way up.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Pro tip #1: If planning a vacation to a national park, be sure and have a back-up plan (and a back-up plan to the back-up plan) as there’s no telling Mother Nature what she can and cannot do.

We had heard tales of the challenges of the hard way up Observation Point—an eight-mile round trip with a pretty quick 2,100-feet elevation gain that tops out at 6,508 feet—so some took that as a sign that they were meant to do Emerald Pools and a few of the more leisurely walks instead. “Leisure” has never been a word in my vocabulary, so I enlisted my long-time blog friend Harriet and her husband, who had driven up from Arizona for the weekend, to go straight up to the top. Lucky for me, they were both willing and enthusiastic participants.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Jade and Bob also started the hike up with us, Augustine in her baby carrier on Bob’s back, but it was pretty evident based on her screams and the fact that the trail seemed to be a near vertical ascent that four miles to the top (then four miles back down again) with a squirmy toddler in tow would not a pleasant morning make. Instead, they reached the slot canyon about halfway to the top, then headed back down from there.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Meanwhile, Harriet, Mr. Harriet and I put on our turbo-speed boosters and high-tailed it to the top.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

The trail said it would take us five hours, but we were on a time crunch—we had a brewery to make, obviously—and it was already nearing the hottest time of the day, so we figured we’d be up and back down in three-and-a-half hours flat. Famous last words.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Our biggest mistake was waiting so long to get into the park itself. We left our St. George condo at 9am, and factoring in a quick stop for coffee and pastries in Hurricane, it took us about an hour to reach Springdale, the jumping off point for Zion National Park.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Once there, we parked near the main shuttle pick-up at the park’s visitor center—something Jade, Bob and I learned after our last visit of not being able to catch a shuttle in at any of the subsequent points because they were all full—and waited around 45 minutes for the shuttle.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

The drop-off for Observation Point is stop number 7 for Weeping Rock, which was another half an hour and change into the park itself. So all said and done, it was 11:30am before we reached the trailhead, took a quick bathroom break and hit the trail.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

I wouldn’t have wanted to wait much longer, as we had nice shadow coverage on the way up, but coming back down a few hours later, the hikers just beginning their ascent were in full sun exposure.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Pro tip #2: Don’t start the hike up Observation Point any later than 11am if you can help it.

The next thing we learned is that we are what the NPS service would consider “average”—at least, among the paths marked “strenuous”—as it took us five hours nearly to the minute to go up and back down again.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Granted, we stopped every so often for photos—the scenery just kept getting better and better the higher we climbed—but never for any significant amount of time.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point
Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

It took about three hours to get to the top, where we paused for 20 minutes or so for photos—it’s not every day you spy a pirate so far from open water, after all—and then headed back down again, a nearly two-hour pursuit.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

We hit Utah at the perfect time, too, as while the sun was beating down on us hard that day, it was just 70 degrees. The higher we climbed, the breezier it was.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Pro tip #3: Pack a walking stick and hiking boots if your ankles are prone to injury. The trek up was steep, y’all. All that talk of how challenging this trail was, it turns out, fully justified.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Once at the tip top of Observation Point, the views were downright magical. I wish we’d had more time to linger, as I would have loved to have a picnic there and soak up the scenery for as long as possible.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

I had read that this particular hike was not suited for those with fear of heights and half-expected the trail to be a bit sketchy in parts. This was not the case. It was always a solid six feet wide, if not more, and I never felt the slightest bit nervous, like I did at the nearby Angel’s Landing where you hang on to a chain as you pull yourself to the top.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

We also saw elementary school-aged children make the trip—and not on their parents’ backs either—so if they can do it with no problem, so can you. The views from the top were 1000 percent worth the five-hour hike, and the varied terrain lent itself well to photos, so bring a versatile lens (my go-to is a 24-105mm), as well as a portrait lens (such as my beloved 50mm) if you have one.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

We hiked through desert and slot canyons, up cliffs and through valleys. It was one of the most spectacular hikes I’ve ever been on and one that I’d rank higher than more popular routes like Angel’s Landing (which you actually look down on once you reach the top).

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

While the morning may have started out on an iffy note, our day in Zion wound up being one of my favorite travel memories to date.

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point
Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point

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Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point
Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point
Looking for the Hike with the Best View in Zion National Park? Try Observation Point
COMMENTS
  • June 20, 2017

    I feel like the US should share some of it National Parks with Europe. I think that would only be fair, right? 🙂

    • July 4, 2017

      I think you should get your booty over here and check out more of our parks 😉

  • June 20, 2017

    Oh my goodness, I would give anything to be there right now! The photographs are amazing, and it seems like you had a splendid time. Traveling is such an amazing gift. While I cannot go yet, eventually I wish to visit everywhere. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • July 4, 2017

      Thank you, Ashlee! Hope you make it there someday.

  • June 20, 2017
    Briel K.

    I did this hike while I was there because you had mentioned it somewhere around that time. The other 14 people in my group were going canyoneering and that’s not something I was into doing so I was on my own. The hike was really difficult for me but totally worth it as you said! It took me 6 hours but I stopped a lot to take photos and I stayed at the top for about 45 min or so. I was EXHAUSTED by the time I got back to my campsite! Angel’s Landing kicked my ass too. I didn’t prepare in any way for those hikes but I wish I had!

    • July 2, 2017

      I’m still DYING to go canyoneering there, but my last two attempts have been thwarted by the weather!

  • June 20, 2017

    These photos are breathtaking!

  • June 21, 2017

    I really like to enjoy the late-afternoon sun polishing the Utah desert. Went there with my friends last year 🙂 Unforgettable memory 🙂

    • July 2, 2017

      It’s just the prettiest place in the Southwest, I think. I mean, the Southwest in general is a stunner, but nothing beats that blue sky contrasted by the red rock landscape.

  • June 21, 2017
    Jim

    Zion is awesome! We’re fortunate that we can get down there semi-frequently. Truly is a one-of-a-kind type of place.

    • July 2, 2017

      I’m envious, Jim! I wish it were closer to me. I’d go all the time, too!

  • June 21, 2017
    aareeba

    OMG, I never knew about this place. Your pictures are so beautiful that I wanna go visit the place in this summer

    • July 2, 2017

      You must go someday, Aareeba! It’s spectacular.

  • June 21, 2017

    Love, love, love. So glad to explore Zion with you, my friend!

    xox

    • July 2, 2017

      ME, TOO. Lucky to have met you through our lil ol’ blogs.

  • June 26, 2017

    All the photos you shared in this blog is so beautiful and nicely clicked.I am so glad to see your blog .Thanks for sharing this wonderful blog with us.Keep posting like this.

  • June 26, 2017

    I love your Photography & Post is also awesome with more information.

  • July 1, 2017

    OMG! The view from Observation point is priceless… I’d heard good thing about Zion National Park before, but after seeing these pictures… I can’t wait to visit the place!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Miguel.

    • July 2, 2017

      Make it a priority, Miguel! You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

  • July 3, 2017

    Cannot wait to visit Zion National Park on our trip to the US. The views from Observation Point are breathtaking! Pinned for future reference!

    • July 4, 2017

      Thanks, Saz! I hope you have a blast. I’m actually publishing a post today on four state parks in the area (Sand Hollow, Snow Canyon, Red Cliffs, Yant Flat). You MUST visit those, too!

  • July 3, 2017

    Zion National Park is the most amazing place! I had low expectations (not knowing much about it before going) and it well and truly exceeded them. I think it is up there with the big names including The Grand Canyon & Yosemite without a doubt. Love your pictures of it – gorgeous!

    • July 4, 2017

      I did, too, the first time I went 15 years ago, Nadia! I had NO idea it was so picturesque around every turn!

  • July 29, 2017

    While it isn’t as popular as Angel’s Landing or The Narrows, the hike up Observation Point is completely worth the physical effort! The view from above is absolutely breathtaking.

  • September 6, 2018

    Awesome tips – I agree with all of them. I completed Observation Point at Zion last week, starting at 6:30 a.m., and it was totally worth it. No crowds, no heat.

    Love your pics and kudos to your friend with the kid on their back. I saw a few people carrying the kids and I just can’t imagine.

    • September 22, 2018

      Thank you, Stephanie! I also cannot imagine doing that hike with anything more than a small day bag on my back. Kudos to any parents who tackle a big hike like that with kiddos in tow!

  • September 21, 2018
    TC

    Your photos are STUNNING! I’m going to Zion next month and am leaning towards hiking Observation Point. Did you do the hike in June? I likely won’t make it to the park until around 10:30am so may end up starting the hike around the same time as you. Hopefully it won’t be too hot.

    • September 22, 2018

      DO IT! I did the hike in mid-May, which was a bit warm toward the end, but still not bad. I think you’ll be fine starting at 10:30am, particularly in October.

      • September 23, 2018
        TC

        Thanks, Kristin! Your pictures have me very excited!

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