Zion National Park hiking Trail: The Overlook Hike | Zion National Park
Trail name: Zion Canyon Overlook Trail
Length: 1 mile round-trip
Elevation gain: 163 feet
Just outside the Mt. Carmel tunnel in the east side of Zion National Park is the Overlook. This short but gorgeous hike usually takes people about an hour. The Overlook does feature sandstone pathways that can be slippery and a few exposed areas. That said, it’s definitely one of the easier hikes in Zion National Park, and the effort-to-payoff ratio is far better compared to more challenging hikes like Angel’s Landing or Observation Point, making it the perfect hike for all ages. As an added bonus, Zion National Park’s east side is by far less-populated, making for a less crowded experience during the busiest months. And this hike gets you to one of the most spectacular views that the national parks have to offer with minimal exertion.
The Overlook trailhead lies right outside of the Mt. Carmel tunnel by the ranger booth. Exit the tunnel too fast and you’ll miss it. It begins with a staircase carved out of the sandstone that leads up and away from the road. Soon you’ll be walking along the side of the mountain and looking down into a thin crevice known as Pine Creek Canyon. At about half way, you’ll walk across a bridge that wraps around a corner and leads to an area of recessed rock wet with the moisture that caused it to erode and be filled with ferns growing out of the sandstone. It’s a great place to rest and enjoy the shade from the overhang as you look out over the canyon. You may even see some lizards or other creatures cooling off alongside you. At the end of the hike is a spectacular view of Zion Canyon. From the lookout point you can see the tall mountain on either side, and then thick forest tapering down into the river that carved it all. Every time I see it I can’t help but hum the theme to Jurassic Park. If you look closely at the canyon walls you can see the windows from the Mt. Carmel tunnel. A plaque is placed near the railing to point out some of the other landmarks that can be seen. Most hikers choose to sit and enjoy the view before heading back. Twice while sitting there, at different times of the year, I’ve heard what sounded like someone playing a Native American Flute.
This hike is, so far, one of my favorite hikes in Zion that I have completed. It can be hiked at all times of the year; although, I’d use extra caution during winter as ice can form. It is mostly in direct sunlight so be prepared to get a little hot in the summer. Most people choose to hike in early morning or in the evening in order to catch the sunset, but I almost prefer the afternoon when it is least crowded. Whether you have a lot of time or just a little to spend in Zion I highly recommend this hike.
As always, pack a camera, plenty of water, and snacks.