Zion Canyon Weekend: Emerald Pools, Angels Landing, Hidden Canyon, Observation Point

Friday afternoon, I decided that I had had enough of the cold around Bryce Canyon and headed down to St George and Zion National Park. Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, I visited the park, hiking to the Emerald Pools, Angels Landing, the arch at the end of Hidden Canyon, and Observation Point.

Camping at Cabin Hollow is always a beautiful experience, but over the course of the week that I spent there, it was terribly cold: most nights dipped well enough below zero to compromise my comfort. Come Friday, it was time to pack up and head to warmer territory. Having my eyes set on the St George area and Zion National Park, I scoped out a few spots to setup and headed out.

img_7407I first stopped into St George to fill up on supplies, and I ended up deciding to go see Doctor Strange in the theater in town. It was a great show to watch, but I ended up not getting into a campsite until after dark. Nonetheless, I did wake up Saturday to a pretty great view from the campsite with more of the familiar land formations of the Colorado Plateau all around me.

I didn’t stay too long at camp Saturday morning, however, as I hopped on the road and drove on out to Zion National Park. I wasn’t really sure what to do initially, but Angels Landing was all of the rage, so I figured I would do that, after first checking out the Emerald Pools hike.

img_7410At the visitor center, I hopped onto the park shuttle to the Zion Lodge stop, and I hiked up to the Upper Emerald Pool, of course stopping at the Lower and Middle pools first. For me, this was a remarkably easy hike, and I was definitely itching for more, so instead of going back to the Lodge, I hiked on the Kayenta Trail over to The Grotto.

Angels Landing

img_7426From The Grotto, I hopped directly onto the trail up Angels Landing. The trail was packed with people from the moment that I started this trail: even more packed than the Emerald Pools trails were. As the switchbacks up the cliffs began, I found myself in pace with several others, all of the way up to and through Walters Wiggles–a gruelingly tight series of switchbacks up to Scout Lookout.

A lot of people on the trail stopped at Scout Lookout, and part of me was tempted to as well: the description of Angels Landing sure sounds awful with my fear of heights. But I decided to say, “Screw it!” I hopped on the trail and started moving onto the chains section to Angels Landing.

img_7448I ended up right in the middle of a big line of people headed to the end of the trail, and that was comforting for me, if more than annoying. Overall, while looking down a few times was a mistake, I actually found the hike overall quite overrated. Nonetheless, saying I did it and looking down the canyon at the end was worth the actually pretty easy effort, and the way back was easy enough, if still more than nerve-wracking on a few points.

Back at camp Saturday night, I patted myself on the back, drank a couple of decent beers, and prepared to re-enter the park Sunday.

Hidden Canyon and Observation point

By Sunday morning, I decided that Angels Landing was in fact overrated and remarkably easy. However, I wasn’t really sure what hike to do to actually try and challenge myself, so I headed into the Visitor Center again and spoke to a friendly ranger. The recommendation of doing a combined Hidden Canyon and Observation Point hike sounded appealing, if only 9 miles still did seem a bit weak to me. So, I jumped on the shuttle once again and made my way to the Weeping Rock stop, where I began the hike.

This hike started off with a pretty solid climb through switchbacks on paved ways. Throughout the initial climb, the ridgeline of Angels Landing kept appearing smaller and smaller, making me feel more and more justified in calling it an easy hike.

Finally, I hit where the trail split and I headed off towards Hidden Canyon.

img_7462Hidden Canyon was another remarkably easy hike, itself: easier than Angels Landing for me, even. However, the chains section of this hike, although much shorter, was more terrifying than Angels Landing, subjectively. The drop was only on one side and not quite as high, but there was much less of a feeling of security along its path. With no one in front or behind me on it, I suffered the section alone.

img_7468Once through the chains section, however, I entered the narrow, primitive trail and scrambling through Hidden Canyon itself. The fall colors in the canyon was definitely a nice touch throughout, and the narrow walls and light, class 2 scrambling at points was pretty fun. Definitely easy, but thoroughly enjoyable. Even the small arch at the end of the primitive trail was a nice sight.

Alas, I turned back, through the chains once again, and back to the intersection of the trail on which I previously turned. This time, instead of heading back down, I turned up and began the climb up to Observation Point.

img_7524This hike really impressed me. Although it wasn’t all that particularly difficult to me–I might rate it as moderate, personally–the constantly changing views and scenery through the area was well worth it. Traveling through a narrow canyon before opening up to a wider canyons and more expansive views, it was a far more enjoyable hike to me than the more monotonous Angels Landing.

img_7493I felt the need to stop at many points all along the trail, not out of a need to rest, but rather a need to simply take in the ever changing views. The trail was mostly wide enough to not be a concern, although some unprotected drops were enough to keep me from stepping too close to the edge for what I could help it. Although a warning about fear of heights on this one existed, it was pretty simple. The views were var more distracting than the heights, for me!

Alas, reaching the top of the switchbacks and entering more level terrain, views finally began to open up down Zion Canyon once again. With each successive step, the view opened up a little more, only obstructed by the diversity of plant species growing at the height.

img_7518Finally, I arrived at Observation Point. The views made Angels Landing seem quite mediocre, with much wider, more expansive views in more directions. I stopped to eat lunch and just stare down the canyons in awe. The hike had certainly been more than worth it with all of the different views leading up, and the view at the top itself was just another reward to top it off!

Alas, I headed quickly back down the trail and hopped on the shuttle once more. After a stop at Zion Lodge for a delicious slice of pepperoni pizza and some soda, I got back to the visitor center and headed back to camp to prepare for the work week ahead.


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