Friday, June 28, 2013

Zion Canyon Overlook

The third stop on our 2012 southwest odyssey took us to Zion National Park, by far the most impressive of the seven national parks and monuments we visited during our trip to Utah and Arizona.

The first hike during our two-day visit took us to the Zion Canyon Overlook on the southeast side of the park. I don’t know this for certain, but it seems like this hike isn’t quite as popular as most of the other trails in the main portion of the park. My guess is that many people skip this trail because it’s outside of the canyon. However, it really shouldn’t be overlooked. The views are absolutely stunning.

The trail begins near the east entrance to the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. This high desert trail crosses slickrock slabs while passing through stands of pinyon pine, juniper, prickly pear and yucca. Along the way you’ll have a birds-eye view of the Pine Creek Narrows, a slot canyon that’s popular with canyoneers.

The trail does pass a few long drop-offs, but the most dangerous sections have fencing along the edges. One interesting spot along the way is the bridge you have to cross. It hugs a cliff face, below an overhang, before leading into a fairly large alcove.

This short hike ends with a magnificent view of Pine Creek Canyon and lower Zion Canyon. From this vantage point, more than a thousand feet above the Zion Canyon Floor, you’ll have commanding views of Bridge Mountain, The West Temple, Alter of Sacrifice, The Streaked Wall and The Sentinel. Many of the most iconic photos of the park come from this overlook. Unfortunately mine won’t be counted among those!

If you look closely at the wall on your left while standing at the overlook, you may notice a window in the rock. This was built as part of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, which extends roughly 1.1 miles through the wall and provides motorists with access to the lower canyon. In May of 2012 a 1964 Cobra sports car, valued at $800,000, was completely consumed by a fire in the tunnel.

We stayed at the overlook for almost 45 minutes and saw only six other people. I was really surprised, given this was a Saturday morning and the weather was absolutely beautiful. Moreover, the morning hours provide for some of the best photo opportunities.

Trail: Canyon Overlook Trail
Roundtrip Distance: 1.0 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 163 feet
Max Elevation: 5300 Feet
TH Location: East entrance to the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel
Map: Zion NP Trails Illustrated Map

Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks covers 56 hikes in the two parks, as well as the surrounding areas, such as Cedar Breaks National Monument. From day hikes to backcountry treks, the books provides comprehensive trail descriptions, trail maps, route profiles, difficulty ratings, recommended hiking seasons, as well as invaluable trip-planning information, including a checklist of essential equipment and supplies.

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