I knew it would be a tough sell convincing Mike to do Zion National Park’s signature Angels Landing hike. Heights are not his friend. One look at a photo of the razor-edge ridge with huge drop-offs on both sides was enough to make his hair stand on end. We opted instead for Observation Point, a spectacular hike through diverse terrain with killer views of Zion Canyon. The best part: we got to look down on Angel’s Landing from our perch way above. Observation Point is not without its own share of long drop-offs (only on one side though, and the trail is decently wide). I was proud of Mike for staying calm and focussed. It was another great day in Utah, exploring Zion National Park.
Observation Point, starting at Weeping Rock, is 8 mi/12.9 km roundtrip, with an elevation change of 2148 ft/655 m. I’d rate the hike as moderately strenuous when we did it on a perfect day in mid-November. I suspect it would feel much more strenuous in hot weather with the sun blazing down on you. The hike took us about 4.5 hours with extra time at the top to enjoy the view. The trail is long and steep in parts, but the footing is easy.
Mercifully, or not, depending on how you look at things, a good chunk of elevation gain comes right at the start of the hike. For about 45 minutes, steep switchbacks snake up the side of the mountain. It’s a spectacular-looking engineering feat.
This is a hike where views start from the beginning and last straight through to the top. It makes the long climb a lot more enjoyable. The photo above was taken near the beginning of the hike. You can just make out the road where the Zion Park shuttle bus dropped us off at the Weeping Rock stop. Little did we know at this stage of the hike that we were looking across to Angels Landing (in the mid-distance on photo).
After the first set of switchbacks, there’s a little reprieve when the trail levels off and enters Echo Canyon. One of the best things about this hike is its variety and Echo Canyon felt like a bonus mini-hike within the larger hike. I loved this section of the trail. You can’t help but feel the enormity of this place as the trail travels between sheer walls of rock.
After leaving Echo Canyon, the trail emerges onto a sunny bowl with glorious views. It’s pretty easy going for a short time. At the 2 mile mark, there is a junction with East Rim Trail. As you bear left for Observation Point, the switchbacks start again in earnest.
The steep zigzags continue for just over a mile until the trail reaches its top grade at the 3.2 mile mark. The views all along this section are stunning, though Mike was a tad perturbed by the sheer drop offs and clung close to the wall.
The climb levels of at the final approach along the ridge of white cliffs. While Mike was most nervous on the switchbacks, this last relatively flat section gave me the hebegeebees. The path is quite wide but the massive drop that you can see all along the ridge is unnerving. But, we’re almost there! On the photo above, Observation Point is on the left side at the patch of red oxidation on the Navajo sandstone.
It was great to relax at the top and soak up the phenomenal views of Zion Canyon and the Virgin River. Looking down on the perilous ridge of Angels Landing confirmed that we had made the right decision to do the Observation Point hike. Bring binoculars and watch the parade of hikers creeping up Angels Landing.
On my next post I’ll share photos from the Pa’rus Trail—perhaps the easiest trail in Zion Park and incredibly beautiful. It was the ultimate cool-down after our Observation Point hike.