The backyard of southern Utah is colossal and beautiful.
Even if you’ve been to Zion National Park in the past, the number of smaller canyons and spots to explore is vast compared to the hours in a day you may spend on a more popular trail.
The views almost anywhere in Zion are great, but to experience a view from a higher point without too much strain on your body, take the Canyon Overlook trail.
To get to the Canyon Overlook’s trailhead, drive up Mount Carmel Highway and veer to the right when the road forks between the highway and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. It leads to switchbacks up the mountainside and a beautiful view as you reach the first of two tunnels. At the first tunnel’s exit, there are several spots for parking, and the trailhead to Canyon Overlook is on the left.
The hiking guide and map that is available from the rangers at Zion National Park’s front gate suggests that the round trip time for this hike is an hour, but it’s more like 45 minutes. However, that depends on how long you stay at the top taking in the incredible view of several peaks that can be seen from that spot: Altar of Sacrifice and the West Temple ridge, just to name two.
There is an information board at the edge of the cliff (fenced off so you can look off the edge with ease) that names all the points visible.
“No matter how many times I see the view, it never gets old,” said Breanna Opdahl, a junior communication major from Santa Clara. “It’s a great escape from school stresses. It’s something that everybody can use as their therapy.”
It is not a hard hike to the overlook. I’ve climbed it several times with cousins who are as little as 5 years old. There are a few spots where you have to watch your step and stay near the wall more, but, for the most part, it’s pretty simple.
It’s greener in the warmer seasons than it is now, but all of the patches of snow give it a different sort of calm beauty. It’s just a bit chilly out with snow patches here and there, but it’s nothing a good jacket can’t remedy.
“The hikes were nice,” said Spencer Bowler, a sophomore engineering major from St. George. “I’ve never been to Zion with snow, and it just made everything look so pretty.”
I love to hike, and I never encourage anyone to leave the trails for safety reasons, but if given the opportunity to explore a bit more, I will do so.
Also, if you continue to drive down the highway from the Canyon Overlook, there are several spots along the road to park and get out of the car for some stunning photo opportunities and exploration. Plus, there are historical spots along that canyon you can stumble upon, and the drive through and around the red mountains is breathtaking in and of itself.
While the drive from St. George to Zion is roughly 45 minutes, the view of the national park’s peaks is worth the trip. Such a short drive and a few dollars per person is a small price to pay to have a memorable experience with a group of friends.
It’s easy to have a beautiful day outdoors and enjoy time to relax. Not that six hours of switchbacks doesn’t sound excellent for a different day, but if you’d like to keep it simple and still fun, you can by hiking up the Canyon Overlook.