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Friday, June 26, 2015

U.S. Trails - Getting to the Point at Zion National Park

For the visually oriented, skip straight to the pictures here.

My third day at Zion started out an hour earlier, getting me to the parking lot by 6:30, which was just a little past sunrise. The hike of the day was to Observation Point, which is 4 miles one-way from the Weeping Rock shuttle stop. It was a bit chilly and windy, so I wanted to get going. The hike is, as I soon found out, quite unforgiving on the knees (especially going back down). Unlike Angels' Landing, the Observation Point Trail begins with uphill and more uphill. It wasn't until, I'd guess, 1.0-1.5 miles in was there any flat trail.

Along the way, I passed by the Hidden Canyon trail, which unfortunately was closed for repair. What I believe to be Echo Canyon came next. It offered a brief glimpse of what I'm assuming The Narrows look like. There's a narrow path here that goes in the opposite direction, and it's something I'd like to check out in the future. I had thought about taking it on the way back down from Observation Point, but I was short on water, food, and bladder volume.

Onward towards more switchbacks, which eventually took me 2,100 feet above where I started. While the hike doesn't induce the same adrenaline rush as Angels' Landing, it is harder and is definitely a decent workout. Plus, the view at the top was more than sufficient to warrant the wear and tear on the knees. Or so my younger self tells me.

I was done for the day. On the way back to Cedar City, I took a detour and headed into the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park. Located a bit less than 20 miles from Cedar City, Kolob Canyons is the forgotten sibling of Zion's "The Canyon." This northwest portion of Zion opens up with a five-mile scenic drive of open views of the orange and red sandstone formations on the left. There are a couple of day hikes here, but I couldn't muster the willpower to go for them. Next time.

See photos of my Observation Point hike and Kolob Canyons here.

Total miles walked today: ~9
Total water drank today: a rainfall x 3

Observation Point Trail Summary
Difficulty: Like chewing ice and sand
Length: 8 miles round-trip 
Altitude change: 2,100 feet
Time: It all depends on the temperature, crowd, your fitness level, etc., but probably it's about a 5 hour hike round-trip. I was up in 1.5 hours, and going down took me about the same amount of time due to all the downhills.
Tip: If knee problems are an issue, bring walking sticks for the way back down to offset some of the pressure.

Remember: hike at your own risk as your safety is your responsibility.

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