ZION NATIONAL PARK
Activity: Day Hike, Peak Bagging
5.5 Miles, 5790’ elevation, 1604’ elevation gain, 3.5 hours duration, rated HARD
One of the Scariest Hikes in America
Zion National Park is one of the most popular of our National Parks with approximately 4.5 million visitors per year. Angel’s Landing is a bucket list type of hike for many people. It is a place of unparalleled beauty with colorful peaks and cliffs, and views that are simply stunning. On top you have a Condor’s Eye View of the gorgeous park below that can only be described as picture perfect.
The hike is a short 5.5 miles, and certainly the elevation gain for a regular hiker is not that dramatic, but what is dramatic is that this is an on the edge hike, exposed areas with drops straight down 1,400 feet. The last portion has chains to hold on to, and they should be held on to for dear life, because death is right beside you. One section known as the Knife’s Edge is just that and has death on both sides. Angel’s Landing is not a hike for the faint of heart, or someone with a sever fear of heights. That being said, if you don’t have a healthy respect for heights then something is wrong with you. Most people will feel a real sense of accomplishment completing this hike and proclaim this is the highlight of any hikes they have ever done.
When I first did this hike I thought to myself, I can’t believe that they are allowing everyday people to do this hike. I wondered why we were not in a climbing harness and clipping in. I saw people in beach sandals, children in tears with their parents trying to coax them on, and some folks frozen in fear. Conversely, I also saw college kids on each other’s shoulders standing on the edge for pictures.
Caution should be heeded, and rightly so, as this is not only “One of the Scariest Hikes in America”, but also “If it is not the most dangerous trail in America it certainly is in the top five”. The reason for these ominous condemnations is that 13 people have plummeted to their deaths from the cliffs of Angel’s Landing since 2004.
My own experience is that being on the edge like this certainly is an adrenaline rush, and if you can do this relatively safety then it is an insatiable high. The beauty of Zion, and in particularly the Angel’s Landing hike, is like no other. It would certainly be a spiritual journey, because it is that magnificent, except for this is a bucket list hike for so many. How many you might ask? About 641 hikers per day are also on this hike with you and that certainly is detracting, but then again there are a lot of spirited, energetic, adventurous people on this hike and that is not only fun, but the enthusiasm is contagious. When you checkout my PBTA YouTube video you will see some of the throngs of hikers, and mind you we were in line before dawn to try to escape the crowds, but certainly it only got more crowded later. When you enjoy the video you will also see the young, healthy fun seekers with smiles brimming from ear to ear.
Obviously if you are safe, take your time, watch your footing this is a very doable hike for people in descent shape. But hiking on the edge is not for everyone, and some may decide that the steep, exposed chain section leading to the summit is not for them and that is fine. Scout Lookout is still a very beautiful hike and the views up and down are wonderful.
So about the hike itself. You will take the tram from the Visitors Center to the Grotto Trailhead from there you cross a bridge over the Virgin River which is lined with greenery and is quite a tranquil spot. You will hike your way to Refrigerator Canyon, which is a nice reprieve from a hot Summer day as it is shady from the enclosed cliffs and greenery making this section quite picturesque. Then it is the infamous Walter’s Wiggles a paved area with a steep incline and 21 switch backs that will get your heart racing. This leads to Scout’s Lookout, (where you will find port-a-potties), and this is the last stop before things get real. The last section is the iconic picture you have in your head of a narrow, exposed, scramble with death defying drop offs, inching your way along the edge of a harrowing cliff that is sometimes slick with a dusting of sand, all while others squeeze by you going the other way.
The pro tip is to get in line at the tram before day break, it is still going to be crowded, but it will only get worse. Also the Summer is the Monsoon Season for the desert and there is a good chance of afternoon Thunderstorms. You do not want to be on the top of Angel’s Landing in a Lightening Storm with high winds, flash flooding or even hail. The day we were there we were down off of Angel’s Landing by late morning, but we did experience an afternoon thunderstorm along the River Walk Trail. We were certainly glad not to be up above on Angel’s Landing at that moment. Make sure you have proper footwear, bring snacks, and plenty of water in a day pack that is secure to your body and not flopping about. Don’t carry a water bottle as you need to have both hands for scrambling. Take it easy, watch your footing, hold on to the chains, don’t do a selfie on the edge for goodness sake, be aware, and most importantly have fun.
When you are finished you will undoubtedly feel some of that euphoria that we talk about ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’. You will have taken in spectacular vistas, got your heart pumping through not only adrenaline, but through physical exertion, and experience a feeling of empowerment on what you have accomplished.
Thanks for joining me on this exciting and exhilarating journey in Utah taking on Zion National Park’s infamous Angel’s Landing, known for being tough, scary, deadly, and extraordinarily breath taking… breathtaking in it’s beauty, exertion, and dizzying heights. It’s on the edge hiking that you will never-ever forget. This was my birthday hike celebration to myself, and my second time to summit this special place. The first time was exactly 5 years ago almost to the day. I did the hike solo the first time huffing and puffing on the Walter’s Wiggles 21 switchbacks, so much so that I sat down to take a break and a young French woman asked me, “Are you okay?!” I guess I have hiked myself into better shape, because it did not seem to be a problem this time. On this my birthday I was accompanied by Roman and my good Hobie Cat Sailing National Champion Friend Tom. We were on our way back from our Lake Powell Houseboat Adventure. It was fun to share the dare. Well, there is always more fun to be had here at ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ National Parks Hiking. Stick around for more by doing these very simple tasks: LIKE, COMMENT, FOLLOW and SHARE. If you go up to the menu above you will find more inspirational spots to adventure. They are categorized by location and some by activity. Each is a separate website and thus needs to be FOLLOWED independently. Do you see the cap I have on in the picture? You can get one at SHOP APPAREL. My PBTA Adventure Wear is top quality and carries the mantra, check it out.
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