Canyon Overlook Trail: Zion’s Best Viewpoint for Hikers of All Levels

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The Canyon Overlook trail offers unparalleled views of Zion National Park, but unlike some of the other popular hikes in Zion, you don’t have to be an experienced hiker to get to this viewpoint.

We wrote this article to give you a comprehensive and detailed guide for this easy hike in Zion National Park. We’ve also included some extra tips on what to bring for a hike, and where to stay when hiking Canyon Overlook trail.

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Things to Know About Canyon Overlook Trail

  • Distance: 1 miles
  • Length of Time: 1 hour
  • Elevation Gain: 163 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy

This trail is currently open, despite the recent road closure and other trail closures.

It features a slight and steady elevation gain over rocky, dirt terrain. Although there are steep drop-offs on one side, the trail itself only has a couple of narrow sections and there are guardrails over most of the edges. The path is not paved, and there are some stone steps in several parts, which means the trail is not wheelchair/stroller accessible.

This trail can be done at any time of day, though it may be more crowded during peak hours. Hiking poles are not recommended due to the narrow sections.

Hiking Canyon Overlook Trail

A wooden walkway encountered while hiking Canyon Overlook Trail
Some of the narrow paths are protected by railing.

Canyon Overlook trail features some of the best views of the eastern side of the park. We started our hike up some stone steps near the eastern exit of the Mount Carmel tunnel.

After a short two minutes climbing up these steps, we immediately get our first breathtaking views of the canyon. We stopped to take some pictures here and then continued forward past a couple of narrow sections with railings.

The halfway point of the trail is a cool, shaded alcove. Here we saw some cool hanging vegetation on the walls and took a short break. This was a great spot to take pictures. Be careful of this area when it’s wet! The thin layer of sand over rock quickly becomes slippery in the rain.

A shaded alcove on the Canyon Overlook trail in Zion.
This shaded alcove marks the halfway point of your hike.

After this section, we crossed a couple more narrow walkways at a slight uphill grade. The trail started to widen right before the viewpoint. It took us about half an hour walking at leisurely pace to reach the viewpoint at the end of the trail.

We took a fifteen minute break here to enjoy the gorgeous views of the valley below. Raf and I overheard a funny conversation from a group of Mormon missionaries here about their time in Brazil. They were trying to understand the indecipherable meaning behind certain Portuguese slang terms. We resisted the urge to chime in on that conversation but we chatted with a couple of other friendly hikers.

After a few more pictures at the top, we began our hike back down. It was easygoing on the way back. A couple of minutes in we saw a furry big horn sheep on the rock above us!

A placard found on the end of the trail that depicts the peaks seen from the end of the hike canyon overlook trail.
The peaks of the Canyon Overlook trail viewpoint.

Overall, the trail wasn’t too hard. It afforded us some beautiful views of the Eastern canyons in the park and didn’t require too much effort compared to some of the other hikes in Zion. While there are plenty of guardrails in place over the edges, there were a couple of narrow sections that might make someone fearful of heights uneasy.

What to do After Hiking Canyon Overlook Trail

After your hike, drive through Mount Carmel tunnel towards the main part of the park and have a quick lunch in the town of Springdale. Raf and I loved a the Zion Canyon Brew Pub. They had a wonderful nutty beer on tap, the Burnt Mountain Brown, and a delicious quinoa burger.

Or, if you are heading East out of the park, stop at the town of Kanab for an amazing lunch at the Rocking V Cafe. I had the one of the best veggie burgers of my life there!

Click here for a complete guide on Angels Landing, Zion’s best hike!

Know Before You Go: Canyon Overlook Trail Hiking Tips

A view of the canyon floor on one of the hiking trails in Zion National Park.
Gorgeous views await you at the top!

When to Visit Canyon Overlook Trail

Although the weather was pretty fair when we went in April, the Mount Carmel tunnel road was actually closed due to severe weather damage from the winter season. This meant we had to take an hour and a half detour around the South of the park to get to the trailhead.

For this reason, we recommend doing Canyon Overlook trail in the Fall when the weather is milder and the crowds smaller.

How to Get to Canyon Overlook Trail

Canyon Overlook trailhead
The trailhead sits in a corner opposite the parking lot.

From the South visitor entrance, continue up the main park road until canyon junction. To the left is the Zion canyon scenic drive that is accessible to official park shuttles only during spring-fall. Continue straight to take the road through Mount Carmel tunnel . There is a parking lot immediately on the right side as you exit the tunnel. The trailhead is across the road from the parking lot.

From the East visitor entrance, continue on the main park road through a first small tunnel until you reach the entrance of a second tunnel. This will be the Mount Carmel tunnel. The parking lot will be on the left side and the trailhead will be opposite it.

Mount Carmel tunnel.
The famous Mount Carmel Tunnel.

What to Bring for Hiking in Zion

We recommend the following gear for most Zion hiking trails:

  • A solid daypack: Don’t bring anything big, but a solid daypack is a great way to carry all your stuff while minimizing what you have to hold in your hands. We recommend a pack with a space for a water reservoir, like the REI Trail Hydro 20L Hydration Pack. For a slightly roomier pack with hip-straps, we recommend the Women’s Osprey Mira 22 Hydration Pack or the Men’s Osprey Manta 24 Hydration Pack.
  • A reusable water bottle: There are a bunch of water refill stations around the park, which means you’ll never be without a water source! However, you should bring your own water bottle to minimize waste in the park and #LeaveNoTrace like a good hiker. For day hikes, we both use a 40 oz Hydro Flask because it keeps our water ice cold even after several hours in the sun. For multi-day hikes and backpacking trips, we usually have a CamelBak reservoir in one of our packs for easy access while hiking.
  • Snacks: Snacks in the park are limited and expensive. Bring your own from outside instead. We like trail mix because it’s salty AND sweet, and it doesn’t melt in the hot sun.
  • Hiking boots: While I definitely did do a few of the hikes on this list in Chaco’s, I would strongly recommend hiking boots for the majority of these hikes. Not only will they protect your feet, but they’ll make it easier to get over rocky passes and scrambles. I personally love my Ahnu hiking boots. They have a rubber Vibram sole which is extremely grippy. Check out the current prices for the women’s pair here. Raf uses a KEEN Men’s waterproof hiking boot that he swears by. Click here for his recommendation.
  • Sun protection: While Zion can be shady at the bottom of the canyon, many of the trails are super exposed with little tree cover. Be sure to bring your brimmed hat, a pair of sunglasses, and sunscreen on all of your hikes.
  • Trekking poles: While we didn’t use trekking poles during our trip to Zion, I definitely had moments where I regretted not bringing them. Trekking poles would be inconvenient for some hikes, like Angels Landing, but for the most part, they can help you stabilize on downhills and cross streams, like in Taylor Creek and The Narrows. Rafael uses a folding LEKI pair of trekking poles and I use these Black Diamond collapsing poles.

Where to Stay When Hiking in Zion

To save money, we stayed in an Airbnb in nearby Hurricane. Hurricane is just 40 minutes from Zion by car, and it has everything you need — a grocery store, restaurants, pharmacy, gas stations, etc.

However, if you’d like to be right next to the park, there are tons of hotels and lodges in Springdale, which is just outside of the park entrance. Fellow travelers really love the Cable Mountain Lodge, stating that the rooms are spacious and clean, and it’s super easy to get into the park.

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Rafael is a medical student turned adventure addict. In between his time spent studying and in clinics, he is usually out on a hiking trail or the wall of his local climbing gym.

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