East Side of Zion:
Things to Do and See

The Eastside Scenic Drive through slickrock and slot canyon country
& The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and Tunnel

This historic road was completed in 1930 and is considered to be one of the great engineering marvels in the history of national park road construction. Built to connect the park to points east and south it is almost as remarkable as the terrain it showcases. From the floor of Zion Canyon you begin a dramatic climb up winding switchbacks where you will see up close and personal the Great Arch of Zion, the towering East Temple and the aptly named Streaked Wall and Beehives. 1200 feet above the canyon floor you will enter the mile-long Zion Tunnel with its four remarkable windows, or galleries, cut straight through the red sandstone cliff. At the other end of the tunnel you enter a wonderland of smoothly rounded sandstone hills and mesas textured by diagonal cross bedding. These colorfully slanted lines in the rock record wind deposition of ancient sand dunes that swept across this area during the age of the dinosaurs. Keep your eyes peeled for desert bighorn sheep, which can be admired from many points along this route.

Stop and Explore!

There are several pullouts along the highway where you can get out and take pictures and do some exploring away from the road. There are no maintained trails here so you simply follow the stream drainages through this maze of wildly colorful slickrock country. Make sure you stay off of fragile vegetation and thin crypto-biotic soils that help sustain life on this harsh rocky landscape. The staff of Zion Rock & Guides can help you plan a safe and fun excursion into this less explored region of the park.

The most famous feature along this route is the Checkerboard Mesa, where there is a large pullout with an interpretive sign near the East Entrance Station. Geologists postulate that the vertical grooves etched into the face of this sandstone mesa are caused by a pronounced freezing and thawing cycle during the winter months. This effect is most notable on rock that is facing north to northeast. To test this theory out you can look directly out from the wall of the pullout towards identical sandstone facing south and southwest that, in contrast, have very smooth sides. Make sure you stop and get a photograph of this well-known icon of Zion.

The East Rim Trail
This trail begins at a trailhead adjacent to the park's East Entrance Station. From here it is one-way hike of nine miles to Weeping Rock, which is an excellent day hike through beautiful stands of Ponderosa pine and open mesa tops with distant vistas of canyons and plateaus with a final descent to Weeping Rock through the spectacular slot of Echo Canyon. The more ambitious can access trails leading out to viewpoints located on Deertrap and Cable Mountain with their broad panoramas of Zion Canyon below. There is a spring, which runs most of the year that makes this an attractive area for overnight backpacking. Zion Rock and Guide can help you to plan either a one-day or multiple night stay on the wild east mesas of Zion.

Canyon Overlook
This is easily the best short hike in Zion with outstanding vistas of deep canyons and sheer cliffs, which you encounter along the entire length of this half-mile trail. After climbing up some steep stairs cut into the rock above the parking area, you will then walk along the top of a cliff ledge above Pine Creek Canyon. Here you can peer hundreds of feet down into the murky depths of this spectacular slot canyon. Don't worry there are plenty of railings and safety fences but do be careful with your footing on the loose and sandy slickrock surface of the trail. A fifteen-minute stroll to the overlook rewards the hiker with stunning views of lower Pine Creek, the switchbacks of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Hwy. and the steep walls of Zion Canyon beyond to the west. This is one of the best places to watch the sunset and also to stargaze. Take a headlamp and don't fall off the edge of a cliff on the way back to your car.