Analysing terrain data
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The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
The spectacular 8-mile roundtrip Observation Point hike begins at the Weeping Rock trailhead (TH).
In Zion National Park, hikers use the free shuttle to get to many trailheads.
The shuttles run most of the year, excepting January 1st – February 15th.
Check online before planning your trip to Zion, as there are periodic changes to the schedule.
The shuttle stop for this TH is #6: The Grotto. As with most hikes in any National Park, it is best to start longer distance outings early enough each day to avoid the throngs on the way out.
Save the short, easy hikes for later in the day, when the majority of folks have already left.
One of the major advantages of selecting a longer route is that there will be fewer people and they will be more dispersed. The trails that originate from the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive shuttle stops all begin as wide, cement paths.
That makes even edgy stuff much less intimidating for those who have little experience with exposure.
Even so, many hikers will notice their heart rates spike when they peer down the sheer canyon walls.
Zion was designated a National Park in 1918 at a time when park visitors expected a luxurious experience, so in 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began nearly a decade of building wide, cement trails in Zion.
Do not expect a backcountry experience when hiking the main Zion trails, but do expect jaw-dropping beauty at every turn. The trail ascends immediately and dramatically via numerous switchbacks through Echo Canyon.
After the switchbacks, the canyon tightens significantly, allowing a glimpse of a lovely slot canyon.
This narrow segment points out the importance of paying close attention to weather before hiking in Zion.
Flash floods are life-threatening, so it is wise to avoid canyons when rains are predicted. As the canyon opens up again, the route heads left at the signed intersection before starting up another set of seemingly-endless switchbacks.
The trail is far less “civilized” by this point, becoming a typical narrow dirt tread instead of a wide cement sidewalk. When the switchbacks ultimately end, the trail heads left as it merges with the East Mesa Trail, and continues to the end at Observation Point. The views from Observation Point are truly breathtaking and warrant some significant time to appreciate.
As with most other destinations in Zion, do not put your backpack down while hanging out.
Unfortunately, chipmunks have been habituated to humans and are relentless in their pursuit of food.
Feeding wildlife is never acceptable! Before heading back down, be sure to locate the iconic Angels Landing and enjoy viewing it from a less crowded vantage point. Sources: https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/shuttle-system.htm https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/upload/Zion%20Centennial%20Newspaper%201909-2009.pdf