Short Versions of Zion’s Iconic Trails
After posting the 3 easy hikes I recommend in Zion, I thought I should also provide shorter options for the park’s most iconic and challenging trails. Angel’s Landing and Observation Point are magnificent hikes, but you don’t have to go the full distance to get a great experience. I’ve done these trails twice each and I am happy to share my tips on how to shorten them for a great experience.
CLOSURE NOTICE: The Observation Trail described below is currently closed due to a rockfall in Aug 2019. You can still access Observation Point from East Mesa trail rather than from within Zion canyon.
Option 1: To the Bottom of the First Switchbacks (~1 mile total)
The trail begins with a bridge crossing the Virgin river. From there, you’ll be on flat land along the river with Angel’s Landing straight ahead. If you don’t want to climb at all, just stop at the bottom of the first set of switchbacks and enjoy views of the towering rock in front of you. The Emerald Pools are nearby, so you can just head there afterwards.
Option 2: To the Top of the First Switchbacks (~2 miles total)
With just a little bit of climbing you’ll be rewarded with some iconic views of the canyon. The trail hugs the cliff and even though it’s wide and paved, it can be difficult for some people.
Option 3: Through Refrigerator Canyon to the bottom of Walter’s Wiggles (~3.5 miles total)
Should you chose to continue, you’ll pass beautiful Refrigerator canyon. The steep walls keep the sun from heating this portion of the trail and if you visit in summer, you will notice a big temperature differential – hence the name. It’s a very gentle incline through here, and the rock formations are worth it. If this is as far as you want to go, stop at the bottom of the very short but steep switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles.
Option 4: To the Top of Walter’s Wiggles (~4 miles total)
If you’ve made it this far, may as well climb Walter’s Wiggles! They are steep but short and you’ll top out at Scout’s Lookout. You will find a port-a-potty there as well as a great spot to rest and people-watch those who are braving the last half-mile – the scary chain section that makes this hike the beast it is.
Option 1: To the Top of the First Set of Switchbacks (~ 1.5 miles total)
Observation point starts out with a bang. There is no gentle flat beginning like at Angel’s landing so be ready to climb right off the bat. Start this hike before sunrise to watch the sun’s first rays dance on the rocks opposite you. That should take away at least some of the burn of this first set of switchbacks, which is not easy.
Option 2: Through Echo Canyon (~2.5 miles total)
Not long after the top of the switchbacks you’ll be skirting Cable Mountain.
After that, you’ll be entering Echo Canyon, my favorite part of this hike. You can spend a lot of time just playing around in this canyon if you won’t be going the rest of the way. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore! This is a good stopping point as the rest of the hike is pretty much a relentless climb uphill.
Did you find this guide helpful? Let me know in the comments!