Angels Landing

Elevation: ?????
Location: Zion National Park, Utah

In April of 1998, with the weather still bad in northern Utah, Allen and I headed off to sunny St. George for some hiking in Zion National Park. I had not been to the park since being a small child, too young to remember any of it. We planned on a variety of short hikes on our three day weekend, but the main goal was a popular hike called Angels Landing.

After a somewhat stormy drive down to the town of Hurricane, we went into the park late in the day and did a short hike to the "Canyon Overlook". It was only about .5 miles each way, and gave a good, but not great view of part of the canyon. However, driving thru the park was impressive, and I wondered why I had not been down here much sooner. We returned on saturday morning and hiked a short paved trail to a view of the "Court of the Patriarchs", then a long walk that is the start of the Zion Narrows hike called the "Riverside Walk". By now it was starting to rain on us, but not hard enough to stop us. At the start of the Riverside Walk (the "Temple of Sinawava", a towering seasonal waterfall was pouring down from one of the cliffs. Hence, I strongly reccomend trips to Zion in the springtime.

After this, with the weather clearing for a bit we did a short hike to "Weeping Rock" (a short hike putting you under a small waterfall) and then a longer hike to Emerald Pools. Along the way were a number of cascades like the one below. We followed the trail up to a large waterfall where it appeared to end. This hike was about a mile each way.

Emerald Pools

None of these hikes so far had climbed more than 200 feet, so rest assured that they are easy hikes for just about anyone. That concluded our saturday, and we hoped the weather would cooperate on sunday so we could ascend Angels Landing before driving home. We awoke to clearing skies from the previous night's storm. We drove back into the park and decided to try the 1,500 foot climb in 2.5 miles to the peak. What makes this peak so famous is it's rugged summit ridge where the park has built chains into the rock to hold onto when climbing the last part. The hike started easy enough on pavement for a while. It soon came to a series of switchbacks known as "Walter's Wiggles" that have been built into the mountain. They are a remarkable achivement of trail-blazing, but definately a bit un-natural. Soon you arrive on the summit ridge offering a good view of the canyon and of the final ridge ahead.

Summit ridge of Angels Landing

People with serious fears of heights should probably stop here, but for most people the climb is not that scary. The ridge is narrow for certain with large drops on both sides. You'll appreciate the chains in a few spots, and it would be a bad place to be if the rocks were wet from rain or snow. Soon enough, you'll arrive on the summit with a grand view in all directions. While the peak is lower than almost all of the nearby cliffs, it's location in the center of the canyon offers a commanding view. The trip down is easy, but problems can arrise when you need to pass people on the chains, as one person has to let go for the other to pass.

Zion is a beautiful park, probably one of my favorite National Parks, if not my favorite park (certainly my favorite park in Utah). I look forward to returning to do Angels Landing again and some different hikes. Another advantage of early spring or late fall trips is avoiding the crowds and the heat that come in the summertime when school is out. Even so, most of the hikes we did were reasonably crowded.

View from summit of Angels Landing