Zion – A Well-Named National Park
There are many wonderful Zion National Park hikes, but one of the best views in the park is at the end of the less traveled Canyon Overlook Trail. As I gazed out at the red and white Navajo sandstone cliffs surrounding the main canyon, it wasn’t hard to see why the canyon was so named. Isaac Behunin, the first Mormon pioneer to homestead inside the gorge called it Zion in 1870, a biblical name for a sacred place of refuge. In today’s hectic world, the name seems more appropriate than ever.
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Hold on to the chain on the Hidden Canyon Trail – the views can be distracting. Photo by GREG OLSEN
Top Zion National Park Hikes
Located in the southwestern corner of Utah, Zion National Park hikes are famous the world over. Angel’s Landing, The Narrows and Observation Point are the three most popular hikes in the park. On a recent visit, my husband and I decided to tackle some of the lesser known trails that are no less spectacular.
Related: Read our post The Best Hikes in Bryce Canyon, Utah.
Hidden Canyon Trail
As we made our way up Hidden Canyon Trail, we were awe struck by the incredible rock formations and the beautiful colors in the sheer sandstone walls of the ravine. There are several places along the trail where you have to grasp a chain that is secured to the canyon wall to prevent yourself from slipping off a narrow ledge. Even in those spots, it was hard not to be distracted by the beauty of the canyon.
As we rounded a corner near a steep drop off, we couldn’t resist grasping the chain and leaning out for a selfie. The narrow ledge was barely wide enough to accommodate the two of us and as we stood there another young man was patiently waiting for us to pass. “Can you take a picture of me standing on this ledge?” he asked as we approached. “My mom is afraid of heights and this will drive her crazy.”
The Arch Photo-op of Zion National Park Hikes
Further up the trail, there is a 6 metre high natural rock arch that we decided to call the end point of our hike. The only problem was we couldn’t find it. We hiked well past the spot where we thought the arch should have been and then got directions from some fellow hikers who said we had already passed it. Doubling back, we had them take pictures of us inside the arch before heading back down the trail to explore more Zion National Park hikes.
Weeping Rock Trail and Canyon Overlook
After the spectacular Hidden Canyon hike, we did several shorter Zion National Park hikes including the Weeping Rock Trail, which leads to a rock alcove with dripping springs. Just before sunset, we found ourselves sitting at the viewpoint of Canyon Overlook with about a half dozen other hikers. Although the spot is better known for its sunrise views, watching the sun go down on the main canyon is also magical. As if on cue, two endangered California Condors soared overhead – their wings bathed in light high above the shadowy canyon walls. At that moment, we were sure we had done the three best Zion National Park hikes. Now that we’re back home, we’re thinking we need to go back to try the Narrows, Angel’s Landing and Observation Point. One thing we are still certain of is that this national park is appropriately named.
If You Go:
-Zion National Park is in southern Utah. The closest international airport is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada – about 274 km away. It’s easy to combine a visit to Zion and nearby Bryce Canyon with a Las Vegas vacation.
-We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Springdale, Utah. Located just outside the park gates, the hotel has a free hot breakfast, free Wi-Fi and a free shuttle into the park. During the peak spring and summer months, you must use the park’s free shuttle service to access hiking trails. There are also plenty of camping sites inside the park.
– Zion National Park was Utah’s first national park. For more information on Zion National Park, visit the official website for the park. For more information on visiting Utah, check out the official tourism site.
More Adventures in Utah: Read our post about Bryce Canyon in Winter.