Observation Point and Hidden Canyon
SW: Zion, USA
William Mackesy’s account of this walk
The trail begins quite steeply, so we are soon plodding steadily upward, but it is superbly constructed and graded, so it isn’t a painful experience. We are immediately enjoying gorgeous views across the drama of the inner canyon to Angel’s Landing, and, closer by, the Weeping Rock.
We zig-zag up the steep canyon side, past the turn to Hidden Canyon, to a corner where we turn away from the lower flanks of the main Zion canyon, into a side canyon. The trail flattens out for some way, so we have leisure to enjoy the extraordinary patterns on the sandstone walls across from us, each layer lying at a different angle from its neighbours. Directly ahead is the sheer orange face of Cable Mountain.
Next is a narrow gorge and a section where the path runs through a dynamited gallery above an inner slot canyon. We emerge into a bigger gorge, across which some long-horned sheep, (actually mountain goats), are grazing; then climb into a magnificent upper bowl studded with pines and scrub and surrounded by cliffs of vivid sandstone.
At the junction with the East Rim Trail, we turn left to address the long series of switchbacks which gets us to the highest flanks of the canyon, swinging west to bring us to a series of ever-better views as the whole of inner Zion appears below us. We run out of superlatives, but not of wonder.
Next is a balcony walk – Walkopedia loves balconies – just below the high plateau edge round for maybe a mile to the top and on through attractive scrub and the carcasses of burnt trees.
Observation Point is enthroned above a bend in the canyon, directly across from the now diminutive-looking Angel’s Landing. The golden floor – it is Autumn, and the aspen are at their best – and green flanks flow away to the south between the other-worldly, smooth, vividly coloured, banded cliffs and grand sentinel-peaks that line the canyon. Amazing.
We chew our lunch and feed crumbs to particularly enchanting chipmunks, so tame they climb my leg to reach them. (We subsequently discover this shouldn’t be done.)
We return in late afternoon light, stopping regularly to enjoy the beauty and drama around us. The lower side-gorge is glowing with reddy light reflected from the huge wall of Cable Mountain which looms ahead, seeming to curve outward above us. Then we are back out above Zion itself, now in quiet, undemonstrative early twilight. We had meant to divert to Hidden Canyon, but it will be dark soon, so we plod back to the canyon floor.