Only have a short amount of time in Zion National Park? Don’t waste your time trying to decide where to get the best views in this red-rock paradise in southwestern Utah. If you want to feel on top of the world, here are three fantastic hikes that offer incredible vistas.
See all the park’s iconic landmarks from a birds-eye view on the spectacular 8-mile roundtrip hike to Observation Point in Zion National Park. Observation Point sits on top of Mount Baldy, a 6,508-foot peak, from which you can spot Angels Landing, Zion Canyon and the Three Patriarchs, among many other features.
Because of the 2,000 feet in elevation gain, this hike can take 4-8 hours, depending on what type of shape you are in, and is really for fit visitors with sturdy hiking boots or shoes. It’s not for young children, either. It starts up steep switchbacks on the East Rim trail, but don’t get discouraged. After this first strenuous push, the trail lets up a bit. The trail then winds through Echo Canyon before the final push to the top. You’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views as you get closer to the point.
With little shade, be sure to start early in the morning, especially in the warm months. There’s no reliable water sources along the way, either, so be sure to pack a ton of water. There are restrooms at the trailhead but no water. Plan accordingly.
The hike starts on the East Rim trail at Weeping Rock trailhead, so you will need to take the park shuttle if you are in Zion between April and October (check the park website or with park rangers for exact dates). It will drop you off at the trailhead.
If you attempt this in winter, check with rangers to find out what the snow conditions are on the trail.
Offering sweeping views of the stunning Zion Canyon, the 1,488-foot strenuous climb to Angels Landing is a nail-biting 2.7 miles long, making the entire trip a 5.4-mile hike. This classic Zion hike is not for anyone who has a fear of heights nor for young children. The last half mile of exposed ridge has major cliff drop-offs where people have plunged to their deaths.
Having said that, this hike is spectacular, beginning at the Grotto trailhead across from the river at the Grotto Picnic Area. You’ll pass through Refrigerator Canyon, aptly named as its shade and cool breezes provide relief from desert heat for hikers, even during the summer. When you reach Scouts Lookout, the last half mile of the trail really gets steeper and very narrow. You’ll want to hold on to the chains bolted into the rock to keep your balance and avoid slipping on the narrow ridge. Stay on the trail and be mindful as you grow closer to the summit.
When you reach the top, take in the expansive views and look for the Virgin River far below and can take shelter under some of the tenacious trees growing out of the rock.
Do not do this hike if the rocks are wet or snow-covered.
We chose Kolob Arch trail to be on this list because it offers spectacular views. But the views are not like your typical look-out point with 360-degree vistas like Angels Landing or Observation Point.
Instead, the 14-mile roundtrip hike to Kolob Arch presents incredibly rare views since it is located in Kolob Canyons, a wilderness oasis in the northwestern part of the park two dozen miles south of Cedar City and about an hour-and-a-half drive from Zion’s busier east and south entrances, depending on where you are in the park. Because of the distance, those of you who backpack should consider bringing your gear and making this a two-day trip.
On the trail to Kolob Arch, which is incidentally downhill on the way there, you will find solitude close at hand and the crowds miles away. As you follow La Verkin Creek, you’ll take in what the National Park Service has called “some of the most colorful canyon walls in Southwestern Utah.” The surrounding vistas are outstanding, culminating in the 287-foot-long Kolob Arch, the world’s second longest freestanding arch, the first being Landscape Arch in Arches National Park outside of Moab, Utah.
Nestled in a small canyon, the soaring arch may not be as dramatic as other arches, especially since you cannot see the blue sky behind it, but the solitude you experience on this out-and-back hidden gem makes up for any lost drama.
To get to this quiet area of Zion, take exit 40 off of I-15, which is 20 miles south of Cedar City. Start your 14-mile roundtrip hike at the Lees Pass parking area 4 miles from the Kolob Canyons Visitors Center on the Kolob Canyons Road. Bring water and water treatment pills or a filter as La Verkin Creek is a reliable water source.