Alternative Views in Zion
Vacations don’t always go as planned. Some things, such as nature, can be unpredictable and hard to plan for. Zion National Park is prone to the unpredictability of nature; flash floods, rockslides, snow storms, drought, you name it.
The Nature of Zion in Action
Recently (August 2019) a rockslide came roaring down the face of Zion’s Cable Mountain. A massive flood of rocks and dust covered the popular trail to Observation Point and Hidden Canyon. Miraculously, the trail to Observation Point and Hidden Canyon was closed for trail repairs, so nobody was on it during the rockslide. Weeping Rock, however, was open and 19 people were temporarily stuck until rescue crews could get them safely out. Here’s a video shared by the National Park Service.
Alternative Trails to Observation Point
There are many things to do in Zion, so don’t worry about a change of plans. Observation Point is known as one of the best, if not the best view in Zion. If you were hoping to see this view your dreams might have literally been crushed by that rockslide, but never fear, there are other ways to get to Observation Point. You can access Observation Point from the East Side of Zion. On the map below, you’ll see several different ways to get to Observation Point as well as Cable Mountain and Deer Trap Mountain (also good views).
Observation Point from Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort
You can access Observation Point from Zion Ponderosa at either the Stave Spring trailhead or the East Mesa trailhead. Both trails cut off quite some time and distance from the East Rim trail. Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort also adds to the experience with it’s pool, zip lines, tours, buffalo ranch, restaurant and more.
Observation Point from Zion’s East Entrance
The East Rim trail is an 11 mile long, strenuous hike through Zion’s East Side. It begins at the East Rim trailhead, next to the Park’s East Entrance.
Other Views in Zion National Park
Observation Point isn’t the only view in Zion. There’s the other obvious views & lookouts like Angels Landing and Canyon Overlook. There are actually many other alternative views in Zion National Park however.
Zion – Mount Carmel Highway Switchbacks
As you drive up and out of Zion canyon, you’ll climb the switchbacks to the Zion – Mount Carmel Tunnel. There are several pullouts on the sides of the road that make for great viewpoints in the Park. There’s also a couple viewpoints from within the tunnel itself! Unfortunately, you can only see them for a second or two as you drive through the tunnel. Do not try to walk to or along this road as there is little to no shoulder on the side of the road and is not suitable for pedestrians. Please drive safely and if you plan on looking at the view – pull over and put it in park.
Sand Bench Trail
Sand Bench trail follows a stretch of the Virgin River, meandering through the Zion desert landscape on the west side of the river. There are many great viewpoints along Sand Bench trail, both under the trees next to the river, as well as up above the river and trees along the sagebrush and rabbit brush on the Sand Bench. Hikers can experience Zion’s undisturbed desert habitat along the Sand Bench. This trail requires no permits, it’s family friendly and not too long. The Sand Bench has relatively no cover from the sun, so this hike is not ideal in summer. If you’re doing this trail in the summer, remember water and sunscreen!
Shuttle Stop 4: Court of the Patriarchs
Cross the road from the shuttle stop and keep walking down the small, paved Service Road and cross the bridge over the Virgin River. You’ll soon come to a crossroad in the path; go left (south) toward the Sand Bench. You’ll cross over a small, trickling stream flowing from the Court of the Patriarchs and keep hiking into a desert forest of pinion pines and juniper trees. As you gain elevation, the trail becomes more and more sandy; this is the Sand Bench. The Sand Bench is actually a massive ancient landslide. Zion is pretty captivating from Sand Bench, including an up-close and personal look at The Streaked Wall. The trail then loops around turning back to the trailhead and eventually to the shuttle stop.
Court of the Patriarchs Viewpoint
Just a few steps from the Shuttle stop, this is an easy, but great view of the Court of the Patriarchs. Whenever you see a photo of the Court of the Patriarchs – it was probably taken at this spot. No permit required, just walk in. This viewpoint is great for families as it’s really a very short walk rather than a hike.
Shuttle Stop 4: Court of the Patriarchs.
It’s a short and easy walk from the shuttle stop to the viewpoint. Private vehicles are not allowed past the Canyon Junction, so you’ll have to take the shuttle to this one. If you’re looking for an easy, relaxing place to enjoy the grandeur of Zion – this is the perfect spot! The viewpoint offers an extremely picturesque look at the Court of the Patriarchs, The Sentinel and Mount Moroni. Pack a lunch and stay for a while. This is also a great place to enjoy Zion’s plant life.
Canyon Junction Bridge
Canyon Junction Bridge is the only road bridge over the Virgin River in the Park. There really is no sidewalk on the bridge, so it’s not advised to take pictures from the bridge itself. There are however many areas close to the bridge where you can snap a good photo and enjoy a great view. You can drive to this spot, but parking is limited. This may not be the best spot for little kids since it’s on a heavily trafficked road.
Shuttle Stops 2 & 3: Zion Human History Museum and Canyon Junction.
Watchman Trail begins near the Zion National Park Visitor Center. The trail is a relatively short hike that climbs up a little onto the foot of The Watchman mountain. This point offers a vista looking north into the narrowing canyon, as well as looking down on the town of Springdale. No permit is required for this trail. Watchman’s easy ascent and short distance (3 miles roundtrip) makes it great for families. Watchman Trail has little to no cover from the sun, so wear sunscreen and bring water!
Shuttle Stop 1: Zion Canyon Visitor Center
Begin at the Zion National Park Visitor Center and head northeast on the Watchman trail. While hiking, you’ll have a great view of Bridge Mountain. As you gradually ascend there will be many fabulous viewpoints along the trail; including a magnificent view of West Temple mountain (also called Steamboat mountain). At the top is a scenic overlook, perfect for viewing and photography. The trail will then loop around, turning back down to the trailhead.
Pa’rus is a Paiute (The Paiute people are native to Southern Utah) word meaning “bubbling, tumbling water”, which renders the Pa’rus a very fitting name for the Virgin River. The trail follows closely along the Virgin River and even crosses it several times. There are many great views from the trail itself, but each bridge along the trail offers a very distinct view with the flowing river in the foreground. This trail is very easy & short and no permit is required – making it perfect for families and individuals.
Shuttle Stops 1 & 3: Zion Canyon Visitor Center and Canyon Junction.
You can either begin this trail near the Visitor Center or the Canyon Junction shuttle stop. There are many benches along the trail, perfect for sitting down and enjoying the views around you. The sights and sounds of this trail are truly spectacular. Both close up sights of plants and animals, as well as distant vistas of Zion’s many landmarks. All along the trail, you will experience the sounds of the flowing Virgin River as it tumbles over worn stones and carves into sand banks. Sounds of chipmunk chit-chat, birds singing and squawking squirrels is a sensory rich experience.
The town of Springdale sits right at the opening of Zion National Park. The view from Springdale offers a wide-open look into the canyon – sure to be love at first sight. It also offers architectural elements such as an old steeple piercing the bottom of the canyon view. Some of Springdale’s buildings date back to the late 1800’s, while some of its architecture style dates back to gothic Europe. One of the most picturesque buildings in Springdale is the Zion Pizza & Noodle Co. This restaurant is housed in an old Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) meetinghouse. However, the building has been renovated and revived; including a bright teal steeple. While you’re in Springdale, grab some lunch and a slice of famous Bumbleberry Pie, browse the local art galleries and tour unique Zion gift shops. Springdale, Utah is part of the Zion experience!