When most people think about popular hiking trails in Zion, they immediately think of the trailheads off the park shuttle along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. However, one of the most popular and beautiful trail in the park is immediately east of the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel. The Canyon Overlook Trail is an amazing place to watch the West Temple light up at sunrise. It is a moderate 1.5 mile (2.4 km) round trip hike, with some drop offs, probably not recommended for those afraid of heights.
As you exit the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, headed East, you can park at either the parking lot on the right or go forward a hundred yards or so and park on the left. If those spaces are full, please be respectful of the flow of traffic, do not park on the road or in pull outs designated for passing. There are several pullouts farther East on SR9 that can be used, then travel back along the road to the trailhead.
Once you reach the trailhead, you begin to ascend, but the path flattens out very quickly. When you are at the top of the stairs, look down to the left for canyoneers making the first rappells of Pine Creek Canyon. You can also often hear, but not see, the intrepid souls in the slot canyon below.
The trail ends at the edge of the cliff with beautiful views of the switchbacks, as well as the West Temple and the Towers of the Virgin. If you look up to the right, you can also see the East Temple.
When you head back to Springdale and are driving down the switchbacks, look at the large arch East of the switchbacks. That is the Great Arch. The end of the Canyon Overlook Trail is right on top of the huge arch. If you look closely you can see people standing against the railing, where you stood minutes before!
Don’t forget to stay hydrated and wear a hat!
Some hikers will find that poles are useful on this trail.