Observation Point

Hiking Observation Point, Zion National Park From East Mesa Trail

Are you wanting to hike to Observation Point in Zion National Park but keep finding the trail within the park (East Rim Trail) is closed? No need to worry because that trail is almost always closed due to a rock fall, and luckily, there is another way to reach Observation Point!

There are two ways to get to Observation Point within Zion National Park: from the bottom of the canyon, within the park itself where you’ll climb over 2000 feet in elevation, or, from a more hidden trail named East Mesa Trail, which begins from the top of the canyon.

This trail guide is going to cover the easier trail of the two, which is accessed outside of the park via East Mesa Trail. If climbing thousands of feet in elevation doesn’t sound fun or the main park trail is closed, and you’re looking for a way to reach Observation Point- you’ve found it!

This is one of the best hikes in Zion National park so you won’t want to miss it. Once at the lookout point you can see deep into the canyon of Zion and even beyond if it is a clear day. Let’s get started!

Observation Point Trail Stats

  • Hiking Distance | 7.0 miles
  • Difficulty | Easy
  • Elevation Gain | 572 feet
  • Total Time | 3.5 – 4.5 hours.
  • Permits/Fees | National Park Pass or entry fee into Zion National Park.
  • Trailhead | East Mesa Trailhead
  • Dog Friendly | No, you will still be within the park.

The trail covered in this guide leads to Observation Point within Zion National Park but begins outside of the park in a more remote location. It is easier than hiking the East Rim Trail from inside the park, but will require driving to.

How To Drive To Observation Point & East Mesa Trailhead

East Mesa Trailhead, Zion National Park.

To get to Observation Point from outside of Zion National Park you will take East Mesa Trailhead. Getting to the trailhead can be confusing if you aren’t used to the back roads, so I suggest mapping it with your GPS.

From Zion National Park you will take UT-9 and turn left on N Fork Country Road. You’ll stay on this road for several miles as it climbs and winds through the mountains.

You’ll want to turn left once you see Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort like you’re visiting there, but keep going straight on Twin Knolls road instead of making another left turn into the resort.

From there you’ll follow the road until it turns to dirt and continue along, following the signs for Observation Point along the way. Overall the roads are well graded and maintained, but can get extremely muddy after the snow melts or a heavy rainstorm passes through. If you don’t have a 4×4 I’d proceed with caution or be sure to only visit when it is dry!

Getting To East Mesa Trailhead From Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

If you are staying at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort it’ll be a shorter drive for you to get to the trailhead. All you have to do is head out of the resort as you normally would, but turn left on Twin Knolls road instead of right.

If you are still weary of where to go, you can ask for a map at the front desk. They are always ready to help you find your next adventure at Zion!

When To Hike Observation Point

Mid-late spring, summer, or in the fall are the best times to hike to Observation Point from the East Mesa Trail. Some of the hike is exposed to the sun and would be extremely hot during the summer unless you can begin and end before afternoon hits.

If you visit midday the sun can be extremely harsh for photos. Because of the easy nature of this trail, it wouldn’t be a bad one to hike for sunrise or sunset!

The main thing you want to look out for when visiting is the road condition. Early Spring, or even after a big rainstorm, you can expect the back roads and trail itself to be muddy. If you don’t have a 4×4 it will be difficult to reach the East Mesa Trailhead when wet.

If you’re staying at the nearby Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort it would be wise to check the with them on the condition of the road before embarking on your adventure!

Hiking To Observation Point

Observation Point In Zion National Park.

Once you make it to the East Mesa trailhead there will be a small parking lot to park at. If you are weary of the rough roads you can always find a place to park your car off to the side and hike the remainder to the trailhead.

When I visited I parked about 1/2 of a mile from the trailhead because I wasn’t sure my SUV could make it. This did add distance to the overall hike length but it was better to be safe than sorry!

East Mesa Trailhead is correct, but there is a sign for Observation Point Trailhead as well. Don’t let this confuse you- you’re on the right trail!

East Mesa Trail, Zion National Park.

The beginning of the hike to Observation Point is peaceful due to the level trail and beautiful vegetation you’re traversing through. The tall trees are few and far between, though, so they don’t provide much coverage from the sun.

The last half mile of the East Mesa Trail begins descending down to the canyon rim. The terrain turns into loose sand, almost like you’re walking at the beach.

Eventually you’ll come to a fork in the trail, you’ll want to keep right. It may not seem like the way, but it is! You’ll begin to see hints of the lookout point as you continue to get closer.

Observation Point via East Mesa Trail, Zion National Park.

You’ll know once you’ve arrived to Observation Point because the trail will dead end right onto the canyon rim, leaving you with some of the most impressive views into Zion!

There is plenty of space for groups to spread out on cliff’s edge to take pictures without anyone else being in them. It is also a great place to take a break to sit, relax, and listen to the silence.

Once you’ve gotten your fill of the views you’ll go back the way you came. On the way back there will be a bit of elevation to climb but it is still rated easy.

More in the area:

Is Observation Point Zion Still Closed?

Currently Observation Point’s East Rim Trail within Zion National Park is closed due to a rock fall. There are no plans to clear up the trail for this is a continuous problem within the park. This is why hiking to Observation Point via East Mesa Trail is a great backup option!

You can check the current status of the East Rim Trail via the park’s website.

How Long Does It Take To Hike Observation Point In Zion?

It can take anywhere from 3 to 4.5 hours to hike Observation Point via East Mesa Trail. It all depends on how fast you most and how much time you spend at the overlook. What adds time to your hike is having to drive to the trailhead since it is more remote and located outside of the park.

Do You Need A Permit To Hike Observation Point Zion?

You don’t need a specific permit to hike Observation Point in Zion, however you do still need to pay the park entry fee or have a National Park Pass.

Final Thoughts

Although moderately long in length, the hike to Observation Point from East Mesa Trail is easy and well worth the effort. If you are staying at the nearby Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort it is the perfect hike into Zion without having to actually drive into the park!

I was pleasantly surprised by the views into the canyon. Pictures don’t do the grandness of it all justice! I highly suggest hiking to Observation Point to see for yourself, as I believe it is one of the best hikes in Zion National Park.

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