June 1, 2009

Zion National Park - Angels Landing

Our second day in Zion we decided to hike to the famous Angels Landing. A hike that climbs nearly 1500 feet in 2.5 miles to a summit with grand views of Zion Canyon with the last half mile along a knife-edge ridge. We headed out early in hopes of avoiding the crowds and the heat. After taking the park shuttle to the Grotto stop, we started up the bridge and across the river to the West Rim trailhead. The trail starts climbing early on and most of it is exposed so we were thankful for the early start. Before we had a chance to warm up too much we felt the air cool around us as we entered Refrigerator Canyon. Soon after we came to Walter's Wiggles, a set of 21 steep switchbacks initially carved out for horses, and found ourselves setting the pace for a small group behind us. As the trail plateaued we came to Scout Lookout, a broad sandy area that serves as the junction of the Angels Landing Trail and the West Rim Trail. Most people head up Angels Landing Trail but this also serves as a turnaround point for those not daring to continue. The next half mile is the famous chain section that leads to the summit and follows a very narrow path. With a 1200ft drop off on one side and an 800ft on the other, we were thankful for the chains that helped guide us the rest of the way. There are spots where the trail is only a few feet wide. A good grip on the chains at all times was required. The chain section is only half a mile but looks very imposing as you gaze up at it. Hundreds of people do this hike daily without a problem. But an awkward slip could send you plummeting over the edge, so be careful. Once on top the views of the canyon were surreal. It wasn't too crowded at the top, thanks to the early start. After recharging our tanks and taking advantage of the photo ops, we headed back down the trail. As we stared down the sides of the cliff and headed down the chains, there were several people waiting to come up. In a matter of half an hour the trail had gotten much busier. Thank goodness we were headed back. This trail is not for beginners and definitely not for anyone with fear of heights. We recommend doing this hike as early as possible in the day because you do not want to deal with crowds while navigating the chain section.

Walters Wiggles

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