First order of business for day three was moving to the Zion campground, because 1) I don’t like spending money and 2) when we pack a tent across the country, I get very disappointed when it doesn’t get used. The campground was full, but we got there early enough that there was just a small line and the ranger was letting cars in as people departed for the day. This meant we weren’t going to get much choice on sites, but we lucked out and got a site along the river.
Since I chickened out on Angel’s Landing the previous day, our primary hike for the day was going to be Observation Point – a longer hike that starts a bit further into the canyon and ends up above Angel’s Landing, but with less clinging to rocks.
The trail starts out with a lot of switchbacks, then leveled out for a while as it and went through a nice little slot canyon section. This was probably the coolest individual section of trail and we stopped for picture time on the way down. After that, the switchbacks resumed and then a final long, gradual climb around the rim of the plateau to the point itself, which is the highest viewpoint in the park and overlooks Angel’s Landing.
I think we started up sometime after 11, which meant we were climbing during the hottest part of the day, which is generally a bad plan, but it was also early season, so we got away with it. There is apparently also a trail to access the point from the top, so you technically don’t have to drive into Zion to get to the point and could backpack down into the canyon from there.
Observation Point is a pretty broad point – there’s a large area at the top where hikers kind of mill about, rest, have snacks, etc. There is a geological survey marker at the point, so you know you’ve achieved something. If you leave your backpack for more than a minute or two with food inside, the chipmunks will try to help themselves to your snacks as well.
On our return, we took a side route over to Hidden Canyon – a slot canyon offshoot from the main trail. There was a small section involving chains on the side of a cliff, somewhat more precarious than the section of Angel’s Landing that we did, but not as bad as what Angel’s Landing had in store (and no other people on it). It lead to a relatively untraveled slot canyon of somewhat undefined length – the trail had no official end, progress just got increasingly challenging as we went.
Side story: Just before reaching the offshoot trail, we crossed paths with an older man who kept (almost aggressively) asking people “Is it worth it?” and he seemed very concerned that he not hike anywhere just to take pictures similar to some he already had. I found his question to be silly, given that everyone will have a different opinion of what’s worth it and his specific desire for unique, which was going to be impossible for anyone else to estimate given our lack of knowledge of his previous views.
After returning to the trailhead, we took the shuttle the rest of the way into the canyon and walked the path up to the mouth of the narrows to revisit the end point of our previous hike through. We didn’t have any gear to go in the water, so we just poked around a bit and then headed out to the Zion Brewery for some beers, food and a little bit to use their internet to plan the upcoming days.