Feeling Crazy? Let’s hike Angels Landing! – Zion NP

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.

Angels Landing
Angels Landing was not as long as the trek to Observation Point, but the elevation gain on this 5-mile hike was just as strenuous

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.

Angels Landing
The first series of switchbacks were long ascents

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.

Walter Wiggles
Walter’s Wiggles was resurfaced with 88 cubic yards of concrete, hauled to the site by 258 helicopter flights.  WHEW!

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.

Scouts Lookout
We’re not at the summit yet, a half mile to go


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!

Angels Landing

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.

Angels Landing
The final half mile of Angels Landing.  We went a ways past this point before calling it quits

On the way back I took a peek at the shuttle cruising along far below:

Angels Landing

We found a spot to hang out for a while, and I snapped more pictures of the beautiful surroundings up and down Zion Canyon:

Big Bend, Zion NP
Looking down at the Big Bend shuttle stop
Angels Landing
Zion Canyon looking south – that’s the trail we followed to get up here
Angels Landing
Not feeling so crazy after all!

What goes up must go down, and that’s what we did with the help of these chains:

Angels Landing
Hang on, we’re heading back down!

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.

Kayenta Trail
The Virgin River looking south from Kayenta Trail

Hiking toward the pools, we were again dwarfed by the high colorful canyon walls that were set ablaze by the rising sun:

Kayenta Trail
The canyon walls were lit up by the sun at just the right angle

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:

Upper Emerald Pool
Looking up at a faint waterfall coming from the mouth of Heaps Canyon
Upper Pool
Perhaps I’m at the wrong angle, but the water doesn’t look emerald to me!

There was no raging water here, but enough of a trickle to cascade from the upper pool to the middle and lower pools below:

Middle Pool
I suspect this is where most accidents happen at the Middle Pools – “back up just a little bit more”
Lower Emerald Pools
The falls at the Lower Pools were close enough to the trail to create a hazardous walk

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.

Virgin River
The Virgin River looking north at Angels Landing

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.

Grotto Trail
The Fremont Cottonwoods are abundant in Zion Canyon
Zion NP Shuttle Bus
Our free shuttle to the visitor center.  Steve was happy he didn’t have to drive here and could look around along the way

After a grueling day of hiking we again stopped at Zion Canyon Brewery to celebrate:

Beer Time
Our reward at the end of 10.6 miles.  Their Hefeweizen and Stout were both great, and the food was pretty good, too!





  1. Hi Lowes! We are at Zion also right now! Have been following your blog for over a year. We are at site 30 in South Campground. Reply to this email at harleyhawk43@gmail.com or call us at 617-605-6594.

    We will be here for several more days. We have done Angel’s Landing 3 times (3 years in a row). So exciting!

    Hawk and Red Fox harleyhawk43.wordpress.com

    On Fri, Apr 15, 2016 at 10:21 AM, The Lowes RV adventures wrote:

    > Lowe’s RV Travels posted: “Just as I expected, when we got into a hiking > frenzy and were distracted by southern Utah’s spectacular scenery, my > blogging came to a screeching halt and had to take a back seat to other > activities. I’m woefully behind, and embarrassed to say we’re now ” >

  2. Beautiful! You got my heart racing with that climb. I have always wanted to do that climb since I was a kid, but am too afraid of heights! You are a great motivator!

  3. Smart to just go as far as you are comfortable:) Looks like getting up wouldn’t have been a problem, but who knows how many people would have greeted you as you were coming down. Your photo of the ledge and chains is where I would be concerned with other people passing me. I guess I don’t trust others. I really enjoyed watching the day brighten as you hiked from before sunrise to the sun lit rocks:)

  4. Its odd to be commenting on your most recent blog on Angle’s Landing trail while looking out our windshield at Betsy’s butt!

    Your photos are fantastic albeit frightening. I guess even looking at pictures of those dizzying heights and narrow ledges triggers my paranoia!

  5. WOW! You sure know how to get the most out of a day! I can’t imagine all the photos you took. The morning lighting as the sun came up was perfect!

  6. That is one big hiking day. I remember doing Angel’s landing in 2011. VERY CLEARLY! It was the scariest hike I’ve ever done especially with so many other people many of whom did not have quite enough fear I thought. Passing people coming up while I was trying to go down was the worst. Your beautiful pictures brought back wonderful and scary memories of our week in Zion which was not nearly long enough. There really is so much great hiking there.

  7. Cudos to you both! Steve and I lost our nerve at Scouts Landing and decided it wasn’t meant to be. There were too many people and like you said, they didn’t seem cautious enough. I love strenuous challenging hikes, but if there is a chance I can fall to my death, well, there are just so many other hikes out there! For that reason you wont find me climbing Half Dome either! Loved your pictures, they really showed how crazy that hike is. Gorgeous views though!!

  8. You guys are brave — I’m glad you guys went just as far as you were comfortable. Loved your photos!! We’ve considered hiking Angel’s Landing several times, but I’m terrified of hiking with so many other people on a trail where the drop-offs are fatal. ;-( We enjoyed the Emerald Pools trail — but I ignored Eric when he told me to “back up” for a photo op, haha!

  9. Thanks for the detailed photos and words, so we don’t have to do it, Mona Liza! Congrats on making it as far as you did, and having the sense to stop when you did! 🙂

  10. Congrats on a fantastic hike! Your photos, as usual, are amazing! But what a scary hike! Thanks for taking us to the edge with you. Glad you turned around when you did. 😄

  11. I have a friend who has hiked Angel’s Landing 4-5 times and insists I could do it. I don’t think a hike to the top of this trail is in my future.

  12. Angels Landing is by far our favorite hike so far! if you have not seen the video we made during that hike you should check in out on the sidebar of out blog. The crowds did not look too bad. It was actually more crowded on the Emerald Pool hike when we did it, why does everyone feel they need to hike when we are?!?!?

  13. Nothing is worth doing if it isn’t fun. Smart decision to turn back. I totally understand about blogging coming to a screeching halt. Seems to be my modus operandi more often than not, and is one of the reasons I picked up journaling again … capture thoughts and moments without worrying if I have the photos to go with the words.

  14. Although I agree, passing on the down climb along the chains was the scariest part, I found people to be courteous to “take turns” on the narrowest parts. I only encountered one man on the trail who came too close for comfort. Of course, it only takes one. 😉 I agree, it’s all about comfort level, and not to be “goal driven.”

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