MLK Day Hike: Canyon Overlook

When the phone rings, I pick up hoping I won a car or maybe a trip to some magical place. What I am getting at is I love anything that’s free. So on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I celebrated the Dr. by spending the day in Zion National Park, where I could get in for–that’s right!–free.

I showed up that day expecting incredibly long lines and packed trails, but I was pleasantly surprised. Springdale currently has quite a bit of construction along its roads and parts are relegated to a single lane; however the park itself was at a comfortable medium capacity.

I hiked the classic Canyon Overlook Trail. The trail is located directly on the far side of the larger tunnel, if one enters the park from the south entrance.

Parking is a little bit difficult here; there is one small parking lot, but a U-Turn is required to enter (no left hand turns into it) and it is typically full. I parked on the street and walked 100 feet down to the trailhead.

The trail is narrow but has stone steps and a railing, which is good because the edges can be a little steep. I am pretty spooked by heights. I mean, I can handle them, but I like to stay away from the edges, and I feel fine.

As a kid, however, I do remember feeling a little scared when I walked over the wooden slats covering a gap in the bathroom, but 50 pounds and 13 years later, I felt fine.

The weather that day was nice, so I can’t speak to the quality of the trail under worse conditions. There was some watery mud, but I hardly noticed it on the way up, and on the way down my shoes were dry by the time I hit the car.

According to Zion’s Winter Information Sheet, the trail is one mile long with a moderate difficulty rating and 163 foot elevation change. I will say this: my resting heart rate hovers around 90 BPM and I did absolutely fine. I saw several elderly people and children on the way up and down.

The information sheet says it should take about an hour, but I would pin it around 40 minutes, or even less if I hadn’t sat at the top and was in better shape.

The top of the hike has a scenic canyon overlook. In my opinion, it is really only rivaled in Zion by Angels Landing, and that might only be because the proximity to death makes Angels Landing’s view that much better.

The top is a straight drop off. There is a fence on one portion but if I had children up there with me, I would have a short leash on them, maybe literally.

The hike is one I always recommend to anyone of any level. For novices, it is a great hike to a beautiful view, and for experienced hikers it is a quick hike, perhaps for a lunch or as a warm-up to a more difficult hike.

The next free entrance day into the National Parks will be April 21.

Story By
Andrew Leavitt