JOE’S GUIDE TO ZION NATIONAL PARKCitrusMilo.com
EAST MESA TRAIL (to Observation Point)

Trail Description Photos

East Mesa TrailOverview:
While most people visit the Observation Point viewpoint by hiking up from the Weeping Rock trailhead in the main canyon, the East Mesa Trail is a leisurely alternative hiking route that starts on the upper east plateau. Following an old jeep trail through mostly level terrain to join up with the Observation Point Trail proper, the hardest part of this hike is actually the approach drive to find the initial East Mesa Trailhead. This trailhead also provides easy access to the Mystery Canyon technical canyoneering route.

Finding the East Mesa Trailhead:
The East Mesa Trailhead is located in a remote corner of Zion National Park, accessible via dirt roads behind the Zion Ponderosa Resort. Roughly 1.7 miles east of the Zion National Park border along Route 9, turn north onto the paved North Fork Road and follow it for 5.4 miles, then turn left onto the dirt road that heads west under the Zion Ponderosa gate. Follow the main Pine Angle Road as it heads west and then north towards the trailhead. (See map below.) In recent years, signs have been placed at the major intersections to point drivers in the correct direction.

When dry, the dirt roads are easily accessible by low-clearance cars, but things could get tricky in snow or muddy conditions. The East Mesa Trailhead has enough room for several cars to park, but less than half a mile from the trailhead, the road descends a fairly steep hill that may be treacherous for some cars. East Mesa Trail Use your best judgment and if preferable, find a spot above the hill to pull over and walk the remainder of the road. Once you have found the trailhead, you have already completed the hardest part of the hike.

IMPORTANT: All of the land east of the Zion National Park border is privately-owned by the Zion Ponderosa and many independent owners of lots and cabins. Do not block any roads and please be respectful of private property to guarantee future access for others.

Detailed Description:
The hike from the East Mesa Trailhead to Observation Point is 3.2 miles (one way) and could take an average hiker 1.5 hours (one way). Follow the well-defined old jeep trail west into the park as it wanders through the mostly-level forests and meadows of the east plateau. (This road was only dubbed the "East Mesa Trail" in the past few decades.) Roughly two miles into the hike, the head of Mystery Canyon can be seen to the north. (Mystery Canyon is a technical canyoneering route; do not wander down this canyon if you don't know what you are getting into and you don't have a permit.)

East Mesa TrailA bit past the head of Mystery Canyon, the trail starts heading south and descends a bit, offering the first teaser views of the dramatic cliff formations of the main canyon. Soon enough, you will reach the intersection with the much more popular Observation Trail. Head west and in moments, you will be taking in the iconic Observation Point view.

Variations:
If you are willing to spot a car or pay for one of the Springdale outfitters to shuttle you to the East Mesa Trailhead, a fun hike would be from the East Mesa Trailhead to Observation Point, then down the Observation Point Trail to end the hike at Weeping Rock. Like hiking the West Rim Trail down from Lava Point, the scenery starts out subtle and sublime and ends with a bang as you hike from Observation Point down to the main canyon.
 

Map #1: Driving to the East Side Trailheads
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Map #2: East Mesa Trail to Observation Point
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Joe's Spin:
The East Mesa Trail isn't the most exciting hiking trail in Zion National Park, but it is a nice alternate hiking route to Observation Point if you can deal with the logistics of finding the trailhead. Instead of dramatic leg-burning scenery, you will be treated to the more subtle beauty of the isolated forests and meadows of the east plateau.

VIEW THE PHOTOGRAPHS! Return to the Upper East Canyon

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