Observation Point Zion Peakbagging

  • Updated: November 25, 2018
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

November 25th, 2018
8.4 miles, 2,100'

Zion is a funny place since it's becoming increasingly popular yet there really isn't as much to it as some of the other National Parks. The main canyon is stunning but so choked with people they have to shut down the park entrances on a regular basis to avoid it turning into one long angry parking lot.

And when it comes to hikes the thing that most people know about Zion is Angels Landing aka that scary thing your Aunt did once where she thought she was going to die.

Now don't get me wrong Angels Landing is a fun little hike and there are enough narrow sections to make the pit of your average persons stomach drop a bit but it's also a well-maintained trail with chains to hold on to whenever you get anywhere near an edge. The first time I did it my girlfriend at the time had really worked herself up about the exposure only to comment she felt somewhat less badass considering we were passing 6-year-olds along the chain.

So, Angels Landing is fun but not the end all be all of Zion. For my money if you want to do something and see the best view of the park from the front country then Observation Point is the thing to do. It's all on trail and doesn't have the exposure issues but the view from the top looks straight down the main canyon and you even get to look down on all those people on Angels Landing.

This was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and from experience we knew the drive back along the 15 between Las Vegas and Los Angeles would be a nightmare. Ideally, we would have driven back Monday but work wasn't going to cooperate with that this year and since I wasn't willing to just drive home early and waste an entire day we decided to do something fairly straightforward in the morning and then hopefully get a fairly early start back.

The trail to Observation Point starts from Weeping Rock which is one of the stops past where they start mandating use of the shuttle. So we dutifully parked at the lot near the park entrance and slowly rode the shuttle up the canyon.

After being disgorged at Weeping Rock along with a small crowd we made a quick visit to the bathroom (made quick due to the hard icy blasts of air shooting up from the toilet pit) and found the start of the trail across a small bridge.

I've always thought that the falling rock guy on the signs looks kind of joyous...

The trail itself is steep at times and the paving they installed at some point has seen better days.

There was also an awful lot of other people on the trail which makes me think that Observations underground status may be at an end. (So stay tuned for future writeups where I declare Deertrap Mountain is the cool peak you should do and that Observation is overdone... :p )

After a good number of switchbacks the trail straightens out and joins the East Rim Trail out to the overlook on the left side of the picture.

As promised the view down the main canyon is spectacular though I wish we'd been there at a different time of day so the pictures came out a bit better. That's Angels Landing in the middle of the photo.

Also FYI if you do awesome yet completely safe yoga -ish poses anywhere near the edge you may be scolded rather soundly by random old ladies.

Or you can do it like this cautious gentleman and use that solid belly grip on the rock.

We didn't stay at the top for too long since it was packed and we knew we had a long drive. Yet somehow it was almost 2 by the time we reached the bus stop and started suffering the painfully slow ride down the canyon.

Also as an added bonus I'd woken up with a sniffle and a sore throat which I'd dismissed at first. Dry 20-degree weather has a habit of causing things like that after all. But by the time we were leaving the park it was readily apparent I was coming down with something and I ended up crashing hard leaving Kristen to do all the driving.

And then of course...hell. Traffic wasn't too bad until we reached Vegas at which point the Google Maps time estimate started to creep upward and kept going.

Having done this a few times over the years I figured we had two options. (Well three if you could just sitting in traffic and slowly going insane for the next 5 or 6 hours.) One was to pull over and sleep until 2 am when we could finish the drive when traffic had died down. Since we'd been out for 4 days without a shower and I was feeling sick I wasn't really keen on that.

I did actually look at hotel rooms around Primm because I was feeling that bad but it just wasn't worth it for the cost.

So instead we left the 15 and headed south through Kelso along with a small strong of other similarly minded vehicles. This added a good 50 miles to our drive but we could actually drive at a decent speed so we ended up well ahead by the time we reached the 40 at which point Google indicated a far more reasonable time home along the 40. For the record our next backup plan was to cut all the way down to 29 Palms and do the standard drive home from Joshua Tree.

In the end we made it home sometime around 9 pm. Kristen was exhausted from driving the entire way and I was feeling sick enough I was wondering how I was going to make it through the week.  So basically a normal end to a Turktacular! Next up, scuba certification!

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