If you know anything about me, you know that I love hiking. So when my friends floated the idea of a southern Utah trip, I was ready to bust out the hiking poles. I had seen photos of the stunning view at the top of Angels Landing and had heard of the hair raising drop offs that you have to navigate on the way there, so I was super stoked to check it out. An amazing hike with the possibility of death…….. game on!
I wanted to prepare myself for the hike so I started reading forums about what to expect. The write ups ran the gamut from a stroll in the park to an intense death defying trail. So what is Angels Landing really like? Here’s what to expect.
The first part of the trail is a nice warm up. After you cross the bridge you will follow the river as the trail gently climbs up from the canyon floor.
After about 20 minutes of gentle climbing the trail begins to get steeper
The trail will continue to get steeper as you go until you are on a set of modest switch backs. These switchbacks continue up the canyon wall. After this you will get to a viewpoint before the trail continues into Refridgerator Canyon. At this point, you are hiking between the canyon walls where it is nice and cool.
After your cool down in the flat area of Refrigerator Canyon you will get to Walters Wiggles. A set of super steep switchbacks. They are really tight and you will gain a lot of elevation in a short time. This section will test your endurance, take your time to catch your breath if you need it.
<—Starting up the Wiggles (check out the tiny people on the switchbacks!)
The Wiggles from the top —>
Once you’ve defeated the Wiggles you will come out on Scout Lookout. This ridge has a spectacular view of the canyon. There is a restroom located here so its a good spot to take a pee if you need to. For people who are afraid of heights this would be a good place to relax and enjoy the view before turning around.
I hope you’re not afraid of heights because the best part is about to come. The last half mile follows the ridge up to the landing. There are sharp drop offs on either side and when the trail is busy people have to wait to pass on the chain holds along the way. In the picture below you can faintly make out some tiny people on the ridge. A good hiking shoe with a grippy sole is best for keeping your footing on this narrow section. With that being said, I did see some crazy people in flip flops and fashion boots, probably not the best decision!
A few narrow sections of the hike:
Look out below! Trail etiquette says you should always yield to hikers coming up
Once you’ve made it to the top, drink in the view! Pack a snack or some drinks to enjoy while you’re up there. It would be a shame to exert all of that effort and not take some time at the top.
Going back down is just as beautiful. In the picture below you can see the Big Bend, while looking in the opposite direction towards the Temple of Sinawava.
To get to the Angles Landing hike, take the Zion Shuttle to “The Grotto” shuttle stop. The hike is rated as “strenuous” and should take an average hiker about 4 hours round trip. Zion is fast becoming one of the most visited National Parks in the country and visitor numbers in the park are getting a bit out of hand. In order to avoid the crush of humanity and enjoy your hike, I highly recommend that you start as early as possible and get on the very first shuttle into the park. This way you can avoid the long waits that can occur on the chain hold section of the hike. Late afternoon is also a good time to hit the trail, but just make sure you are off the trail in time to catch the last shuttle out of the park
Keep seasonal temperatures in mind. Try to avoid hiking around midday in the summer when the sun is at it’s peak and the day is the hottest. Bring plenty of water and wear sturdy hiking shoes. Hiking poles are not a necessity on this trail. Most of the trail is well graded, on the steepest sections you will want your hands free to scramble up the rocks and hold the chains.
Enjoy the hike!