The Angel’s Landing Hike at Zion National Park is one of the most terrific hikes I’ve ever done. When I say terrific I don’t mean it so much as, as in great, but terrific as in the root of the word “terror.” This classic Zion hike covers 1400 feet of elevation gain in 2.5 miles to the absolute top one of the most distinguished peaks in the park.
The first 2 miles are on a wide, paved path that snakes up from the Virgin River. This part of the ascent offers views of the river valley stretching the length of the park. It’s a great first hike upon arriving at Zion to get your bearings in the canyon, from up here you can see everything from the Temple of Sinawava to the Visitors Center at the western end of the park.
Even if you’re not up for the strenuous hike to Scout’s Landing and the white-knuckle ascent to the ridge, do hike far enough to check out the lovely WPA-era stone work on the trail, and Refrigerator Canyon.
Named for its chilly environment, Refrigerator Canyon offers a cool, green shady respite from the blazing sunshine encountered at the beginning and end of this hike.
After the cooling confines of the canyon, the steep takes hold again on the Walter’s Wiggles section of the hike. It’s a terraced set of switchbacks that lead to Scout landing. This spot on the trail, named for the engineer who designed it, is always good for a fun photo op.
Past Walter’s Wiggles, things get serious. There’s a sign or two warning about the steep ledges and harrowing ascent that lies ahead. I have to say, in this day and age of padded playgrounds I’m somewhat shocked at how dangerous, unsupervised and harrowing the final half mile ascent to Angel’s Landing is. For most of the half mile… which took us about an hour to climb, there’s about 18” of rock ledge and a chain bolted to the ledge wall. What’s really scary is that this popular hike gets crowded on a summer weekend. Someone else’s hesitation, misstep or sweaty slippery sunscreen hands could send a whole group over the edge. All that said, once you get to the top, you know why it’s called Angel’s Landing.
The cliffs of Zion that towered over your arrival in the park now cower like foothills in the distance. Kick back, relax and enjoy this summit, because the downclimb back is just as challenging, and the swift descent down those 1400 feet of gain is anything but easy on knees. But when you’re at the bottom waiting for the shuttle and gazing up to the peaks, you’ll always have the memory of what it’s like to look out from Angel’s Landing.