I call this hike a spur-of-the-moment hike, because of its location along the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway.
This scenic road is popular for road trippers and a great way to get between two of Utah’s best parks; Zion and Bryce Canyon. The trailhead for this well-maintained trail is conveniently located immediately east of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, which is why I call it a spur-of-the-moment hike.
Coming from the west, after passing through the tunnel, you may want to stretch your legs as it’s a decent drive onwards to Bryce Canyon or wherever your next destination may be. If you are coming from the east, then stopping here often makes sense if traffic through the tunnel is backed up or moving slow (quite common in summer).
Even without traffic hold ups, the trail is worth venturing out on, as it does provide a beautiful panorama view of the lower canyon at the end of the trail.
Starting off on Canyon Overlook Trail is quite simple and well-marked. This is only a short 1mile long trail, just long enough to make a picnic stop or work up a small sweat. Because of its location, expect to pass by a number of other friendly hikers who have stopped to enjoy this roadside trail.
The Canyon Overlook trail has a few moderately steep inclines and zigs and zags along the side of the rock outcrops, including going under a number of overhangs, which provide the only real shade on the hike. This si a fairly short trail that is almost all done in the sun, so be prepared.
The few places where the trail gets a bit narrow or rough are fenced off or have chains to make sure you stay on your feet. That’s a good thing, since there are a number of steep drop offs along the route.
There isn’t a ton of vegetation along this trail, except for some attractive maidenhair ferns along the sheltered areas of the trail and a few smaller trees that cling to life along the jagged rocky outcrops. Wildlife viewing along the trail is mostly limited to small land critters and birds, with crows being a fairly common sight. The biggest reward is at the end of the trail, providing one of the best views you’ll find anywhere of lower Zion Canyon.
Before reaching that far though, you’ll get a good glimpse of Pine Creek Canyon, a popular place for canyoneering in the park. The trail has a nice variety of features for being so short, including going through a bit of a rock tunnel, crossing a small gully, some hoodoos and then opening up and letting you roam free across the flat rocks.
Overall it’s a great representation of the landscape of this part of Southern Utah. This trail itself was only built in 1993 to allow for people stopping along the way to get a bird’s eye view of the canyon below. This hike is suitable for just about anyone, including families with kids. Just be careful around some of the open and exposed areas.
Keep in mind that this trail is accessible by car only, as it is located right off the highway. The parking lot on the south side, for people coming from the east, is quite small and can fill up very fast, so be prepared for a bit of a wait if you arrive during peak travel times of the year.