When we vacation to an adventurous destination, there’s usually one hike we are really looking forward to. On our Four Corners trip, that hike was Angels Landing in Zion National Park.
Angels Landing is a 2.4 mile trail (one way) that has an ascent of 1,488 feet. Much of the route involves traversing a narrow ridge that can be quite steep. There are chains along the way during the most treacherous parts. The tales of Angels Landing on various message boards paint a picture of a steep, harrowing journey that is not for the faint of heart. The pictures you see when you search the hike support that statement. We learned that although Angels Landing is a challenge and probably shouldn’t be attempted by those with a fear of heights, it was relatively safe, and that nobody had died there (in a while, at least). As we were anticipating the trip, we got ourselves prepared for the trek.
Since our first full hiking day at Zion was snowy, we felt that it would be best to not attempt a steep ascent with the potential for slippery conditions. We were fortunate; the second hiking day was absolutely perfect for the trek. It was a little chilly (upper-30’s), but we would soon be peeling off our many layers of clothing.
Enough of me talking – I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves.
All in all, Angels Landing was not as terrifying as it looked. We felt safe the entire hike. There was never a time where we felt like we were on treacherous footing, or that we were one wrong step away from a long trip down. Even when you see pictures of Angels Landing hikers seemingly on the edge – the pictures of Jolyn for instance – the pictures can be a bit deceiving, as there are some trees and rocks off to your side, and it’s not totally a sheer drop. You would really have to go out of your way to fall off the edge. It was the perfect way to take in the outstanding view of Zion Canyon and the Virgin River, and it instantly became one of my favorite hikes.
Some tips for hiking Angels Landing:
- Make sure you’re up for it. Remember, you’re ascending 1,500 feet. You need to be in pretty good physical condition. You don’t need to be an athlete, but you should also be prepared for a strenuous workout.
- Start early in the day. We left relatively early (around 9AM) from the drop-off at the Grotto station on the shuttle. Going up was a breeze – it was not too crowded, and we were able to take our time and enjoy the scenery. On the way back down, however, the narrow trail became more densely populated, leading to numerous traffic jams on the ridge. I suggest leaving even earlier – I will shoot for 8AM the next time I hike Angels Landing.
- Pack snacks, water, and a lunch. While snacks and water help to feed the beast (you), one of the most enjoyable parts of the hike was taking in the view at the top of Angels Landing with lunch. Our sandwiches tasted that much better while we were perched at the top of the ridge. (Next time, I think I’ll bring a bottle of champagne and take a helicopter down.) Just make sure to not feed the chipmunks and other critters at the top – they’re persistent.
- Wear the right shoes. I bought a great pair of Columbia hiking sneakers before leaving, and Jolyn wore her trail sneakers. We had plenty of grip to dig in on the rocks and dirt. We saw many people with their Nike running shoes who were slipping and sliding quite a bit. Trust me, if there’s anyplace you don’t want to slip and slide, it’s Angels Landing.
- Mind over matter. Push through! Make yourself do it. Although I felt a little nervous at first (I make Jolyn go in front of me so I can spot her, but then it makes me queasy watching her on a harrowing part of a hike), my nerves were quickly settled. The hike really isn’t that bad, folks – it’s a challenge, it’s an adrenaline rush, but I would say that Angels Landing is 100% safe, as long as you are prepared with the right shoes and you don’t do anything stupid.
- Plan for 5-6 hours. It’s not a race. And don’t make it a race. Enjoy the experience. Take lots of pictures. This is what you came here for, people! Savor the moment, and make yourself at home on the mountain.
So there you have it – our favorite hike of the trip. But it wouldn’t be our last hike! Soon, we’d be off to Bryce Canyon.