With COVID-19 forcing people to social distance, our country’s beloved national parks have received a much-needed boost in foot traffic. One of these parks offers a healthy dose of danger and excitement and is more accessible than you might think…
Angels Landing located at Zion National Park in Utah is perhaps the most semi-famous hike in the United States. Many hikers I’ve encountered during my travels have “kind of” heard of it. Common responses are, “That’s the one with the big walls right?” or “The one where people always fall off and die?” My answer to these and similar questions is usually, “Well…kinda.”
Anyone in half decent shape shouldn’t have trouble completing this hike. There is nothing overly strenuous about this trail. The switchbacks leading up to the final leg of the trail are steep but they are also paved which is extremely helpful (not to mention a rarity on this kind of trek). This section is affectionately known as Walton’s Wiggles. As you hike up the wiggles, you will have solid canyon wall to your left. To your right, you will have a sliver of a view of the bigger canyon you find yourself in. Depending on the time of day, you will see a different mix of orange, red, and maroon in the rocks with random greenery sprinkled throughout. An avid hiker would probably spend no more than 60 minutes completing this trail through the end of Walton’s Wiggles.
The WW switchbacks lead to a narrow trail that eventually ascends like a staircase to the point of the trail known as Scout’s Lookout. This is where first timers will have an initial glimpse of the behemoth they are about to take on. This is also where people usually start thinking about turning back. I mentioned earlier that this hike is not strenuous which is true. The emotional component to completing this hike cannot be understated however. When you are standing on Scout’s Lookout, gazing at the thin strip of trail that leads up to Angel’s Landing, looking at the thousands of feet of drop-off on each side, there is a good chance your nerves will make the decision of quitting or going on for you. Don’t make a hasty decision though. Use the random outhouse at the lookout if you need a second to compose yourself. Take reassurance knowing that the number of people who have died trying to reach the top is not even in double digits. My point is that’s an extremely low number.
Admittedly, there are a few spots on the way to the top of Angels Landing that could use some chains. But the final portion of trail is well constructed and safe overall. Hold on to the chains whenever available, watch where you step, and resist the urge to take in the scenery until you summit. Once you make it to the top, there is plenty of space to relax safely and admire the beautiful views: giant walls of multi colored rock on both sides with a river curving its way through the canyon floor.
Don’t let any initial fears at Scout’s Lookout prevent you from completing this hike. If you exercise caution and respect your environment, you should be fine. The payoff for crossing the finish line is twofold. You get treated to unimaginable views that few will ever see form that vantage point and you gain the satisfaction of completing what most consider a daunting task. The trail is properly named. If a landing strip for angels really exists in Utah, there is good chance this is it.