A few weekends ago, I hiked one of the most famous hikes in the United States, Angel's Landing. It is infamous for the final portion which features a narrow trail along a ridge with chains bolted into the rock. There are dropoffs on either side, hundreds of feet tall. I don't consider myself very fond of heights, and I still completed this hike. Here is how I did it!
My friend and I did this hike on Friday, August 27th (the weekend before Labor Day). Personally, I would think this hike would be really crowded on Labor Day weekend. The weather was pleasant, maybe just a tad hot. I researched the hell out of this hike beforehand so I knew what to expect and how to make my experience pleasant.
Because of that, I have some inside info for you real quick. During most of the season, the majority of Zion is only accessible by shuttle. I knew that shuttles started from the visitor center at 6am. The important part was that shuttles from the nearby town, Springdale, started at 7am. As long as we beat out those shuttles starting at 7am we would be in pretty good shape to beat any weekend crowds. I figured that a good amount of people stayed in Springdale because of its proximity to the park. Additionally, when parking fills up at the visitor center, people park at Springdale and shuttle into the park. So step 1, get to the shuttles at the visitor center before 7am.
We arrived to the visitor center around 6:25am and the parking lot was already filling up fairly quickly. We gathered our belongings, hit the restrooms, and got on the first shuttle that rolled up. Things were looking great, we were on our way to stop #6, The Grotto where the trailhead awaited us.
The Actual Hike
As the bus pulled into our stop, we disembarked with everyone else, filled our water bottles, and began the hike. Some quick stats about Angel's Landing:
- 5.4 miles
- ~1500 ft elevation gain
- 13 people have died on the trail since 2000
If you aren't familiar with Angel's Landing you might be wondering, WHAT?! 13 PEOPLE??? Don't worry I will get there.
In the beginning, the majority of the trail is paved and eases you into the intensity. Then you start gaining elevation. It isn't easy, but you can take breaks and take in the incredible views behind you as you ascend.
Besides avoiding the crowds, another benefit to starting this hike early in the morning is that you are in the shade because the sun hasn't risen over the canyon yet. You can enjoy cooler temperatures and a lower chance of sunburn.
The trail then flattens out for a portion as you hike in a narrow canyon. It was a good change of pace from the initial climb. Then, you reach a set of switchbacks that appear to have been carved out of the mountainside. All I have to say about this portion is that your calves will be feeling it.
Finally, you reach a point of inflection. You arrive at an area they called Scout's Lookout and you see this.
Yup, that is the last portion of the hike. This is the part where you scramble with only the support of chains and your balance. At times the trail is only about 4 feet wide with major drops on either side. Growing up, I have always been a bit squeamish about heights. I wasn't big on climbing towers or being on unstable surfaces where I would have a chance of falling. My stomach was twisting looking at this. Luckily for anyone that feels the same, there are conveniently located restrooms right nearby if you feel the need to relieve yourself.
Still, this was one of the top hikes in America, a bucket list item for many people. And I was here, standing at the base. Getting some motivation from my friend, we pushed on and began the final portion. Truthfully, the hike looks worse than it actually is. You keep yourself grounded and take each portion at a time. Climb over this rock, hold onto this chain, get to this flat portion, pause to let this person come through. With each step, you will get closer to the top. And damn, braving this portion was worth it. The view of Zion Canyon from the top is just simply unparalleled.
We rested and enjoyed the view we worked so hard for. Two huge condors flew around the area giving us, even more, to look at. After we had our fill, we began the descent back the way we came. We took each portion carefully and we reached Scout's Lookout safely. I had done it. I kicked my fear of heights right where it hurts. Truthfully, the heights weren't as bad as they look and I believe most people in good physical shape could complete this hike.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
This hike was incredible and totally worth waking up while it was dark to experience its beauty. I would recommend any avid hiker to check this off their bucket list.
A quick disclaimer, I have a good amount of experience hiking and like to think I have good balance. The weather was also superb. I would never even dream of doing this hike if it was raining or snowing because that would be downright dangerous. Even more importantly, we respected everyone else around us. This meant waiting our turn to take on portions of the scramble. For example, if a group was descending while we were going up, we waited at a spot they could pass us at before we took on the next part. It is important to communicate with other hikers and have good patience. This respect and common sense will prevent the number of deaths rising to 14.
If you are interested. I made a video of my experience at Angel's Landing among some other sites I had seen that day. Feel free to check it out!
I hope you get to enjoy the hike yourself, if you have any questions about my experience feel free to message me at any of my socials or send me an email here!
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Until next time!