Hiking up the Angels Landing Trail, Zion


As far as I’m concerned, a visit to Zion National Park is something everyone should do, at least once in their lifetime.  And while there are several places within the park that truly define it, the hike to Angels Landing is certainly the one every visitor should take, even if they don’t have the time to do anything else.

Angels Landing doesn’t have to be a once-in-a-lifetime hike.  For me, this was the second time.  It’s also the hike I was hoping to take on Day 2 of this trip, a full week and a half earlier.  A nasty case of food poisoning on my first night in Las Vegas caused me to drive to Springdale (just outside Zion), then sleep the rest of the day.  I didn’t think I would be back at Zion on this trip, but bad weather caused me to re-shape my itinerary, and gave me one extra day.  So, for the second time on this trip, I made the drive back up to Zion, to finish what I had started.

My 2007 climb up Angels Landing provides much more detail about the hike, as well as different photographs, so be sure to check it out too!

As the Angels Landing Trail begins at the Grotto bus stop, you’ll have a great view of where you’re headed.  Sure, it’s a bit unbelievable that in an hour or two you’ll be standing at the very top of that mountain ahead of you.

The Angels Landing Trail climbs slowly, then gets steep as it switches back and forth, with a leg- and lung-straining climb.

This is the view looking straight down, near the entrance to Refrigerator Canyon.  All the way up the trail, you’ll be able to see this spot.

Just before Refrigerator Canyon, the trail is chiseled out of the side of the sandstone.

Then, it makes a curve…

… and thankfully, levels out for a while.  This part of the hike is more like a stroll.  There’s a good chance that, early or late in the day, you’ll be in the shade, and the temperature is always much cooler in Refrigerator Canyon than on the rest of the trail.  But of course, all good things must come to an end…

… and let’s face it, you’re not going to make it to the top of the mountain without some more climbing.  Walters Wiggles is an engineering feat, not to mention an exhausting part of the trail, that quickly gains hundreds of feet through a series of 21 switchbacks.

Make it to the top of Walters Wiggles, and you’ve arrived at Scout Lookout.  There’s a great view of the Zion Canyon here, including the Big Bend shuttle stop, where the people look like ants, and the busses look like, well, slightly larger ants.

At this point, you’ve hiked two miles.  You could choose to stop here, but the most fun part is still ahead.  The final half mile involves narrow ledges, steep drops, and chains to keep you from falling.

So read the warning sign, to make sure you’re up to it…

… then grab the chain and go!

Sometimes the trail follows a ledge on the side of the hill…

… but other times, you’re standing on the edge of a knife, with Refrigerator Canyon on your right, Zion Canyon on your left, and a chunk of sandstone separating them, that’s only a few feet wide.

There’s a lot more climbing in this part of the trail, but you’ll probably be too distracted by the scenery to realize you’re getting tired.

The final push up the hillside takes you…

… to the top of Angels Landing.  The top is slanted, and while there’s plenty of room to walk, you have to be careful not to go downhill too far.

I took this exact same picture in 2007, when I made my first hike up to Angels Landing.  The shoes are different, but that’s about it.

It doesn’t take long past noon before the canyon begins to be swallowed up by shadows.  This view is looking north, towards the Temple of Sinawava.

You’ll also have a good view of the Great White Throne…

… and the lower canyon.

I found a place out on the far end of Angels Landing, close enough to the ledge that I could dangle my feet over the side.  I unpacked a snack and soaked in the beauty of it all — for about ten minutes.  Then, a group of people moved in, and sat down right behind me — and they wouldn’t shut up!  It wasn’t even talk about the canyon, or the hike, or how beautiful it all was, or their previous trips to similar places.  No, it was inane stuff like the price of a gallon of milk at the grocery store, or what their sister’s cousin’s daughter told them on the phone last night.  Were they not even thinking about their surroundings?  Or the people they were annoying?  Eventually I got up and moved to another spot, with a different view.

Fortunately, there are plenty of places to sit, so long as you can navigate the layers of slanted sandstone at the top.

I stayed at the top long enough to see the shadows move even further over the canyon floor (compare this picture to the one up the page!).

By the time I made it back to the valley, then rode the bus back to the park entrance and walked to my car (parked on the street about 1/4 mile outside the park), it was getting late, so I drove on to St. George for the night.  For my stay 10 days earlier, I had snagged a $60 room in Springdale, but with the arrival of April, those prices had shot up to $100 or more.

As you drive through Springdale, you’ll see dozens of signs warning you that the parking lots at the park entrance fill up fast.  They aren’t lying.  Cars park on the edges of the street, starting in downtown Springdale.  The park urges everyone to park in town, and take the shuttle to the park entrance (where you board a different shuttle for the drive up into the canyon).  The shuttles are free, but they can be inconvenient, so be sure to allow extra time for the ride.  Or, visit the park during the winter months, when you’re allowed to drive into the canyon, and park at any trailhead.

From Springdale, take Utah Route 9 west to I-15 south, for the drive into St. George.

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