Road Trippin’ Part 2
Before we left for Zion National Park, my husband Scott and I did a little bit of research to plan our first hike in the park. We saw pictures of Angel’s Landing, with a guide chain going across a 20 foot section of the trail. We knew the trail would be different than anything we had ever done and decided to begin with that hike first. The trail had previously been closed for bridge maintenance, so we knew it would be extra busy while we were there.
We arrived at Zion as the sun was rising and were amazed at the majestic beauty of the rock formations all around us. We took one of the first shuttle busses of the day through the valley to the Angel’s landing trail head. Zion’s shuttle system is super convenient and it eliminates traffic jams in some of the more popular areas of the park.
We arrived at our stop and exited the shuttle with most of the other people. We knew the trail was 2.4 miles each way and considered strenuous. The 1500 feet of elevation gain would take us to the 5,790 foot level, which is the highest point of the trail. This would provide a great view of the valley we just drove through.
We were prepared with our day packs, with plenty of water, snacks and a light lunch.
The trail gradually wound its way up the mountain, giving us beautiful views around every turn. We stopped to take pictures often. As we climbed higher there weren’t many other hikers around anymore. The trail took us through a narrow canyon and then began the steep switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles. There were 21 switchbacks! We were lucky because our entire hike had been in the shade and at this point we finally started getting hot and had to remove layers of clothing. We eventually made it to the top of the mountain and out into the sunshine. What amazing views! We could see right into the canyon we had just hiked up.
We hiked a small steep section with guide chains and thought it was really fun. We went around a corner and found the most unbelievable view of mountains and valley. We asked a man to take our picture and then we had snacks. We thought the hike was over but the man told us that the mountain in front of us we still needed to climb, as that was Angel’s Landing! Oops, we still had some hiking to do.
The next stretch was ½ mile long and a steep uphill. There were guide chains anchored into the rocks most of the way. On either side of the trail, there were cliffs with thousand foot drop offs. Although it was intimidating we felt comfortable hiking this section. The rocks weren’t slippery and we could always find a place for a hand hold or to place our foot. This area of the trail was congested, some people were afraid and slightly paralyzed with fear, several people were not in good physical condition and couldn’t move and lift their bodies in the way needed to climb that section. I had to stop a few times just to catch my breath. I’m not sure if it was due to the elevation or the adrenaline that was running through my body!
We reached the top and were in awe of the amazing view. We could see all of Zion Canyon. It was breathtaking. We took a ton of pictures and then rested and had a snack. I had learned my lesson about eating plenty of snacks throughout the day to keep from bonking. Even a handful of cashews or a banana would keep my energy level up.
As we started our decent of the ½ mile section, it made us think about the six people that had fallen to their deaths in recent years. All it take sis one misstep and your life could be over in an instant. We were cautious but felt much more confident going down than we had going up.
After we reached Scout’s Lookout at the end of the chain section, we saw about twenty people sitting on the rocks taking in the view. The area was the place people waited if they didn’t’ feel comfortable going up the technical section. We chatted with a few people coming up who were still deciding if they wanted to continue on to the end.
We decided at that point to take another trail which went up into the mountains. It was getting hot and after a couple of miles we found a shady spot for lunch, which included a beautiful view of Zion Canyon.
Eventually we made our way down the mountain and back onto the Angel’s Landing Trail. We went back down the switchbacks, which presented a different challenge for our knees being as steep as it was. We passed so many people coming up the mountain, maybe 100 hikers or more! It must have been noon and those hikers were just getting started. Many were ill equipped with only a small water bottle. The trail had gone into full sun and it was probably 90 degrees. I even saw a woman in a black turtleneck sweater! Many people were pulled over to the side of the trail resting. We seriously wondered how these hikers would make it to the top. Angel’s Landing Trail is no joke. It’s absolutely worth the hike and one of the best hikes Scott and I have done, but being prepared and having common sense can go a long way on a trail like Angel’s Landing.
Note to self: While visiting a National Park, always arrive early, it’s so worth it.
Check back next week for Road Trippin’ Part 3, as we hike another famous location in Zion National Park, called The Narrows.
For more information on Zion National park in Utah, please click here.