Last week, I took time off work to explore Utah. Today’s post focuses on my experience at Zion National Park. Scroll to the bottom for a few quick tips about Zion. Stay tuned for a post next week about 2 Salt Lake City hikes. Let’s get to it!
My alarm sounded at 4:20 a.m. on Saturday, and I immediately popped out of bed. Despite the way-too-early wakeup, I was excited for what was in store: hiking Observation Point at Zion National Park in Utah.
I rolled out of bed to make a solid breakfast: English muffin, almond butter and banana, chased with water and Coke Zero for caffeine. Brushed my teeth, washed my face and got dressed. Grabbed my hiking backpack, which I packed the night before, and a change of clothes for post-hike. By 5:10 a.m., my husband and I began the drive into the darkness toward Zion.
We stayed in Hurricane — the locals tell me it’s pronounced Her-ih-kin — which is an easy 30 minutes to Zion. We arrived at the park by 5:40 a.m., got prime parking on-site and hit the bathroom before the first Zion Canyon shuttle took off at 6:00 a.m. At this point, there were about 50 others waiting; all of us eager to have the trails to ourselves.
The shuttle has 9 total stops at different trailheads. Observation Point is #7, Weeping Rock. This stop has 2 bathrooms, luckily.
At 6:30 a.m., we began the hike and immediately, the trail was at an incline and our breathing became heavy. There are some reprieves along the way when the trail flattens a bit — and usually right when we needed it. The views are stunning throughout and it never got so narrow that we felt unsafe.
At exactly 2 hours, 4 miles and 6,508 feet high, we made it. This early in the morning, the peak was relatively empty. There was an understanding among those there that we achieved something special. It was humbling and peaceful.
What goes up must come down, so after 45 minutes of taking in the views, we began our descent. While the hike up was mostly empty, the hike down was shared with hundreds beginning their climb. The descent was harder for me, mostly because of the pressure on my knees and ankles as we navigated the decline. It took us a little under 2 hours to get down, making the total active hiking time 4 hours and 8 miles round trip.
Tips for Observation Point
– Go early. This is a must, in my opinion. You can park on-site and experience the peak peacefully. Plus, you won’t have to wait. We left the park at 1:00 p.m. and saw hundreds of people in line for the shuttle.
– Wear comfortable shoes. I opted for my sneakers since they are more comfortable than my hiking boots, and I had no problems with the trail.
– Wear layers. The canyon was cool in the morning before the sun came up.
– Bring water and snacks. There’s no water fountain at the Observation Point trailhead, but you can fill up at the visitor center and other shuttle stops.
– Bathroom breaks. About 0.7 miles in, you’ll find a couple trees you can duck behind. There are also many places near the peak you can hide behind. Otherwise, use the bathrooms at the trailhead.
– Carry a small backpack. I packed mine with a 2-liter water bladder, sunglasses, sunscreen, snacks, hat, bandaids, Kleenex, hand sanitizer and wallet.
Share your experience in the comments: If you’ve been to Zion, what hike(s) did you do, and what advice would you give to someone who’s planning to go?