google earth profile of zion canyon overlook

A mile-long hike near the park’s eastern entrance, the Canyon Overlook Trail is a wonderful introduction to Zion Canyon (or a nice look back on your way out, too). This short but fun trail will take you over slickrock, above slot canyons, and into some small alcoves before giving you a phenomenal view of the canyon floor from the east.

Just to the east of the park’s eastern entrance, on the way to Mount Carmel Junction, there’s a short but sweet trail right next to the historic Zion – Mt. Carmel Tunnel called the Canyon Overlook Trail. If you’re on your way into the park, it will give you a good introduction to the geography and geology of the region – and if you’re on your way out it’s a nice way to gaze one last time at one of the most beautiful places in the country.

The trail starts right before the eastern entrance to the tunnel. Look for a trailhead sign and a set of stairs cut into the rock.

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After a steep climb, the trail remains relatively level. Almost immediately, the canyon opens up into some dramatic, otherworldly landscapes … even though you can’t actually see Zion Canyon until the end of the trail.

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For such a short and relatively easy route, the Canyon Overlook Trail passes a stunning variety of landscapes. You’ll meander past deep slot canyons, cling to slickrock walls, and duck under some gnarled pinon pines – all while soaking in the amazing red rock landscape around you. There is one very short section where you’ll have to cross a small wooden plank bridge into an alcove. If you’re extremely nervous about heights, you might have to take a few deep breaths but it’s nothing to be afraid of.

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After a short distance, the trail comes upon a small slickrock slope. Climb this final obstacle and your reward is a phenomenal view of the canyon floor below you (and the switchbacks of the Zion – Mt. Carmel Highway, too!).

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Return back the way you came – making sure you take time to notice any hidden gems the desert might be showing off along the way.

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Casey Schreiner

Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Modern Hiker
Since founding Modern Hiker in 2006, Casey's writing has appeared in Backpacker, the REI Blog, Adventure Journal, and Sierra Trading Post's Social Hub. He was in Columbia Sportswear's inaugural #OmniTen program and was featured prominently in their documentary "I Am #OmniTen."

His stories for Modern Hiker have brought regional and national attention, and have been featured on Good Morning America, NPR, and the Associated Press.

Casey is also an award-winning television writer-producer, and was Series Producer of pivot's TakePart Live and Head Writer of G4's Attack of the Show.
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This post was written by Casey Schreiner on May 2, 2013

1 Comment

  • Julia says:

    Nice pictures. This is a great way to introduce hikers to some rich geography and terrain. Seems like a fantastic trail to start breaking in some new hiking boots

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