Panoramic view from Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park with reddish brown colored sand stone cliffs on three sides with a deep valley of Zion Canyon in the center.

Hike the Canyon Overlook trail in Zion for epic views (2024)

During my visit to Zion National Park with my family, we stayed overnight at Zion Lodge. My husband and I wanted to do a sunrise hike with epic views in Zion before the day trippers came, and the Canyon Overlook trail looked promising.

It was also on our bucket list to drive through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel and admire Zion Canyon from an elevated viewpoint at sunrise. The Canyon Overlook hike in Zion National Park allowed us to do that with a moderate level of effort.

Let’s get into the details of how to do this epic hike in Zion, which will lead you to a jaw-dropping view without a lot of effort.

Canyon Overlook Trail Overview

The hike to Canyon Overlook in Zion is a one-mile out-and-back hike with an elevation gain of around 170 feet. I would rate this between easy and moderate.

It took us around an hour to complete the entire hike. We stopped frequently in between to take pictures, and we spent around 10 minutes at the top soaking in the views.

Signboard at the start of Canyon Overlook trail that has the trail map and overview
Sign at the Canyon Overlook Trailhead

The trailhead is at the east entrance of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, and you will need a car to drive there as the park shuttle does not go to the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway.

The trail is unpaved and sandy, with stone steps and uneven terrain. There are parts with several narrow ledges, but areas with steep drop-offs have handrails.

Anu posing at the Canyon Overlook with the panoramic view of Zion Canyon behind here
Me posing at the Canyon Overlook – look at the gorgeous view behind me!

Once you reach the top of the trail, you will be rewarded with amazing views of Zion Canyon, Pine Creek Canyon, and the various temples and towers of Zion National Park.

How to get to Canyon Overlook Trailhead and Parking

The Canyon Overlook Trailhead is located on the park’s east side near the east entrance of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.

If coming from the South entrance of Zion National Park, you have to follow signs for the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway.

A beautiful view showing the scenic Zion-Mount Carmel Highway with a reddish road and red sandstone cliffs around it.
Driving on the Scenic Zion-Mount Carmel Highway

I think the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway was definitely the most epic drive in Zion National Park. We liked it even better than the Zion Canyon scenic drive.

You will then drive through the Zion Mount Carmel Tunnel. I was really amazed at the long tunnel and the incredible amount of work it must have taken to build it. It even had large windows inside! There was no stopping allowed in the tunnel, so we just drove through it. It’s still really cool!

Immediately at the end of the tunnel, to the right, is the small parking lot for the Canyon Overlook trail.

The parking lot is very small, with space for only about nine cars and one spot for handicapped parking.

View of a small parking lot from a higher vantage point on the Canyon Overlook Trail. The parking lot has space of about 9 cars and is full in the picture.
Small parking lot at the Canyon Overlook Trailhead, as seen from higher up on the trail

If there is no parking here, there are some other small overflow lots further up the road. Just go slow so you don’t miss them.

Hiking the Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park

We were aiming to see sunrise from Canyon Overlook, so we started from the Zion Lodge at 6:30 AM.

The red sandstone cliffs were so beautiful, and when we were driving, we saw the sunlight hit the peaks, and they glowed orange!

A red sandstone cliff at sunrise with the peak glowing orange in color at Zion National Park
Zion National Park at sunrise with the cliff’s peak glowing! – It was so amazing to see this!

It was the most beautiful thing ever! We knew we had missed the sunrise view at the trail, but happy we got to see this epic view while driving to the trailhead.

We were worried about being able to find parking at the trailhead, but as we were late for sunrise, some folks who made it in time were returning, and we were able to find a spot! From the parking lot, you can see the east entrance of the tunnel.

The trailhead is across the road from the parking lot. There are some stone steps initially, and then it becomes a sandy trail with occasional uneven steps.

As we climbed further up, the cliff was on our left side, and the deep canyon was on our right side.

The canyon views were epic, and we stopped several times to take pictures.

There was a wooden plank bridge built on the side of the canyon at one point on the trail, which was really cool.

A small wooden plank bridge with hand railing on the side of a cliff on the Canyon Overlook hike.
A small wooden plank bridge with hand-rail on the side of a cliff on the Canyon Overlook hike

Another cool feature on the hike was this large cave-like canopy made by the canyon walls. The floor here was all rocky and uneven, so you need to watch your step the whole time.

A cave-like canopy of red sandstone and Anu standing in the middle of it at the Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion
Me posing at this interesting cave-like canopy at the Canyon Overlook Trail

There were some pretty steep dropoffs and narrow ledges as we moved further along, but the worst parts had handrails.

There are some areas with moderate drop-offs without handrails. I don’t think this hike would be suitable for kids under five due to these narrow, uneven sections on the trail.

There was this one section with a really narrow path and a moderate dropoff, so only one person could pass at a time, so we had to keep an eye on the oncoming traffic.

We passed a lady on the hike who mentioned she was 70 years old and she was loving the hike! Overall very cool hike with a lot of interesting elements.

Wider trail path near the top of Canyon Overlook trail with some stone steps
Almost at the top of the Canyon Overlook trail!

Finally, we reached the canyon overlook. The panoramic view from here just took my breath away.

Panoramic view from Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park with reddish brown colored sand stone cliffs on three sides with a deep valley of Zion Canyon in the center.
Panoramic view of Zion Canyon from the Canyon Overlook

There was a sign here explaining what we were looking at. Below, we could see the vast Zion Canyon and Pine Creek Canyon, as well as the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway we just drove on.

Sign board explaining the view at the Canyon Overlook at Zion National Park
Signboard explaining the view at the Canyon Overlook

The canyon valley was surrounded by red sandstone cliffs like Bridge Mountain, The West Temple, the Altar of Sacrifice, The Streaked Wall, and The Sentinel.

There were very few people at the overlook, just a couple of other families. It was serene and peaceful.

It was very cold and windy at the top, as it was January. My hands were almost feeling frozen while taking pictures.

Finally, we came down the same path while admiring some more views and taking some more pictures.

Overall, it was the perfect morning hike in Zion.

The Canyon Overlook is at the top of The Great Arch, which can be seen while driving on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. We later stopped on the highway to see The Great Arch.

FAQs for the hike to Canyon Overlook

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about hiking the Zion Canyon Overlook.

Do you need a permit to do the Canyon Overlook hike?

A permit is not needed to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park. However, you will need to pay the $30 National Park entrance fee, which can be paid at the gate. We had an ‘America the Beautiful’ annual pass, so the entrance fee was waived.

How long does it take to hike Canyon Overlook?

It takes roughly an hour to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail roundtrip. It took us around 1.5 hours, and we stopped for around 10 minutes at the Overlook and took our time taking pictures along the way.

Anu's back profile while she is admiring the view from the Canyon Overlook Trail
Me admiring the view at the Canyon Overlook trail

Is there a shuttle stop for the Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion?

No, the Canyon Overlook Trail is on the east entrance of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, and the Zion Shuttle does not go here. You will have to drive here and park at the trailhead. Keep in mind that the parking is very limited here, for about nine cars. There is a small overflow parking a little further for about 5-6 cars.

Is Canyon Overlook better for sunrise or sunset?

The Canyon Overlook hike is better at sunrise than sunset as the light is better in the canyon for pictures. One of the reasons we chose to stay overnight at Zion Lodge was so that we could reach there early and catch the first rays of sunlight falling on the red sandstone cliffs. Well, we didn’t reach the overlook in time for sunrise, but the trail was not crowded, and we were able to find parking early in the morning.

Is the Canyon Overlook Trail kid-friendly?

Because of the narrow ledges, moderate dropoffs, and uneven rocky terrain, I don’t think the Canyon Overlook hike is suitable for children under 5. Older kids and teens would definitely enjoy the uneven terrain.

How hard is Canyon Overlook Trail?

I found the Canyon Overlook hike moderate in difficulty even though it is only a one-mile round trip. It had some steps at the beginning and then mostly flat. But the uneven rocky path and the narrow sections with drop-offs made it somewhat moderate in difficulty.

A dandy uneven trail with a hand rail and sandstone cliffs on the other side
Canyon Overlook trail – steepest areas have a handrail

What facilities are there at the Canyon Overlook trail?

There is a small parking lot at the trailhead for about 9 cars and one handicapped parking spot. There is an overflow parking for about 5-6 cars further up the road. There is a pit toilet/restroom at the trailhead.

Tips for the Canyon Overlook hike in Zion

The below tips will help you be prepared for hiking the Canyon Overlook in Zion:

  • Parking – Limited parking is the biggest issue with this hike. Plan to come really early or later in the day to be able to find parking as there will be day trip crowds during the day. The Zion Shuttle does not go here.
  • Carry water – We went in January, so it was really cold, but in summer, I can imagine the weather being really warm. Carry enough water with you.
  • Proper footwear – Hiking boots or really good sneakers will make hiking more comfortable as the trail is quite rocky and uneven.
  • Take your time – Enjoy the epic views and take in the scenery.
  • Leave no trace – As always, take all your trash and leave no trace behind.
  • Use hiking poles if needed – I always carry one hiking pole to support me on uneven trails. Why one, you ask? I need one hand free to take pictures along the way!

More things to do in Zion National Park

During our overnight trip to Zion, we mostly just had a total of one day in Zion National Park to explore, and we covered the following popular Zion attractions

  • Hiked the Emerald Pools trail to upper and lower pools via Kayenta Trail. We really enjoyed this trail, and it is one of the best hikes in Zion with easy to moderate effort. Took us around 2.5 hours.
  • Drove on the scenic Zion Canyon Drive. Note that during the months the Zion shuttle is operating, you cannot drive on this road, but you can still explore it with the shuttle.
  • Drove on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway.
  • Enjoyed a leisurely stroll on the Pa’rus trail.
  • Stayed overnight at Zion Lodge in the park.

Final Takeaways: Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park

The Canyon Overlook Trail is a must-do for anyone visiting Zion National Park. It’s a manageable hike for most people and offers some of the best views in the park.

Whether you’re an avid hiker or someone who just wants to see the beauty of Zion from an elevated vantage point without a strenuous climb, this trail is for you.

Remember, the journey is as important as the destination. Take your time, soak in the views, and enjoy every step like I did!

Up next, check out more short and easy hikes in Zion.

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