My sister came to visit this past May and we decided to take a little road trip up to Zion National Park in Utah. We were able to get a last minute campsite at Watchman Campground, one of the two sites inside the park. Our goal for the trip was to hike Angel’s landing, named one of the 10 most dangerous hikes in the United States by Men’s Journal. The views from the top are amazing, but the hike itself is very strenuous and the last half mile takes you along a narrow trail where there’s nothing keeping you from falling off the cliff except a metal chain bolted into the rock. We wanted to check Angel’s Landing off our list, so we left early from San Diego, arrived and set up camp, and hopped on the shuttle bus to the trailhead.
Zion National Park is located in southern Utah, about a 7 hour drive from San Diego. You also cross into the Mountain Time Zone, which Sarah and I forgot to take into consideration when planning our departure, but we still made good time and had plenty of time for the hike. The guide suggests you allot 4 hours for Angel’s Landing, so we decided to hike it in the afternoon after we got to Zion in the hopes that it would be cooling off and that the crowds to hikers from the morning would all be gone. The hike is 5 miles round-trip, and the first half mile meanders along the river around the edge of the massive redrock formations. From there it turns into a steep, zig zag trail up into Refrigerator canyon, which is cooler and gives you a break from the sun, and in our case, whipping winds that were kicking up outside the canyon.
After hiking into the canyon, you reach a portion of the trail called Walter’s Wiggles, a series of 21 short, steep switchbacks where you gain elevation quickly. Once you reach the top of the ridge, you’ve arrived at Scout’s Lookout to your left. There are great views from here, but continuing to the right is the last portion of the trail to Angel’s Landing. A lot of people turn back at this point, and understandably so. The sign warns of the dangers of sheer drop offs and narrow trail along the ridge, and you can see that it’s basically a “one lane road” the rest of the way up. Also, Sarah and I had been making very good time up until this point, leading us to believe that the suggested timeframe was for extremely slow hikers, but the difficulty and amount of care required to traverse the last half mile took us almost 40 minutes to complete.
During the last portion of the hike, the wind started to kick up, and by the time we reached the top, it was gusting enough to practically blow us over! The summit isn’t much wider than the ridge trail up to it, so be careful, especially if you’re up there on a windy day like we were. Sarah and I sat and had a snack, took lots of photos, and then headed back down after about 45 minutes.
The hike down was almost as hard as the way up because of how steep the trail is. The switchbacks, especially Walter’s Wiggles, were hard on the knees and thighs, and Sarah and I took several breaks to stretch and rest our muscles. One important thing we did bring on the trail that really helped us out was plenty of water. We had 3 water bottles in each of our backpacks, plus our snacks, flashlights in case the hike took longer than expected and it got dark, and our phones/cameras. Staying hydrated was key in helping our muscles stay limber and in the summer months, it’s very important to combat against heat exhaustion. Always drink plenty of water!
Upon reaching the bottom we caught the shuttle bus back to camp and enjoyed a delicious BBQ of chips and burgers to reward ourselves for reaching the top. Angel’s Landing is an amazing hike, and, if you aren’t too scared of heights, definitely worth a trip if you’re visiting Zion National Park.