Angels Landing Trail
Despite over 10 miles of hiking we did the previous day from the Weeping Rock shuttle stop, we were energized to tackle the most popular strenuous trail in Zion, Angels Landing. Once again we caught the first shuttle at 7:00am, but this time about a dozen other folks had the same idea and joined us at the trailhead.
This hike ascends constantly, just like the one to Observation Point. The 1,488′ elevation gain to a narrow, slick rock lookout 2.5 miles away was well rewarded. We were ringed on three sides by the Virgin River far below, with panoramic views up and down Zion Canyon.
After completing the initial switchbacks, we followed an even steeper series of switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles – 21 tight bends that ascend nearly 400′ up the east wall of Refrigerator Canyon. At the top of them we reached the narrow saddle of Scout Lookout, with our GPS showing 2.1 miles.
The lookout is the turnaround point for those not intending to attempt the final push to the summit. We took a break while reading the cautionary warning about how six people have died falling from the rocks on the final half-mile trek. We decided to continue on only as far as we were comfortable.
The warning started to play in my head as we forged on with several other hikers, and we held onto those chain supports for dear life!
After climbing along the first set of chains, we continued on to a narrow ridge with frightening drops on both sides. We got to a spot where hikers had to slide down large rocks to continue, and we decided to call it quits. It really wasn’t fun anymore, and we were here to have fun! So we headed back, happy that we’d done the most challenging section of hiking we’ve ever attempted.
On the way back I took a peek at the shuttle cruising along far below:
We found a spot to hang out for a while, and I snapped more pictures of the beautiful surroundings up and down Zion Canyon:
What goes up must go down, and that’s what we did with the help of these chains:
Emerald Pools Trail
Wanting to fill this beautiful day with even more hiking, we followed the Kayenta Trail that eventually took us to the three Emerald Pools – lower, middle and upper. I was surprised to learn that there have actually been more fatalities at the Emerald Pools than at Angels Landing.
Hiking toward the pools, we were again dwarfed by the high colorful canyon walls that were set ablaze by the rising sun:
We clambered over rocks and picked our way between trees as we hiked to the Upper Pool. There wasn’t really a trail here, so we followed in the footsteps of others. As we enjoyed our lunch we observed that the pool was fed by water falling and seeping from the rocks of two tributaries several hundred feet up:
There was no raging water here, but enough of a trickle to cascade from the upper pool to the middle and lower pools below:
After hobnobbing with other hikers, we continued to follow the Virgin River until we crossed the road to pick up the Grotto Trail on the other side of the canyon.
After crossing the road we ended up at the lodge and from there we walked the flat Grotto Trail back to shuttle stop #6, our final 1-mile trek of the day.
After a grueling day of hiking we again stopped at Zion Canyon Brewery to celebrate: