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

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 in a land of awesome outdoor adventures, Moab, Utah.  But for now here’s another installment detailing our recent stay at Zion National Park:

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!


Next up:  Quiet Parts of Zion NP