Many years ago I went with my parents to Zion National Park where we attempted to hike Angels Landing. My Mother and I made it to Scout Lookout but that was as far as we went. My Father tried to go to Angels Landing but turned out when he realized how tough it was going to be. Now that I’m in better shape, I decided that I wanted Mike and I to tackle Angels Landing this year. I had already climbed a rock wall this year, surely I could hike this trail!
One of the stops on the shuttle trail takes you to the trail head for the Narrows. From this stop, you can see the Great White Throne (left) and the end of Angels Landing (right). We weren’t able to actually see anyone, but I’m sure there were people there!
Mike and I started the hike around 7:40-8:00 AM. The shuttles will drop you off at the Grotto, where the trail starts, before the visitor center opens so if you want to hike this trail with minimal direct sunlight, I recommend starting early! I had just learned the day before that the hike to Scouts Lookout was 2 miles, not 1, and the hike to Angels Landing was .55 miles, not .25. So, the entire hike was twice as long as I had expected! The total mileage will be 5.4 miles.
As we were on the shuttle heading that way I started getting more and more nervous. I always get nervous before races and this was pretty much that same feeling. What if I couldn’t make it? What if I had to tell my friends and family that I had to turn around? All of these thoughts were going through my head but I managed to keep them turned down enough that I didn’t chicken out!
From the Grotto you cross over the street to the steel bridge.
The first part of the trail is by far the easiest! So, enjoy it while you can! You’re well in the canyon on start and the views from the bottom are almost as beautiful as from the top! It follows the river for a bit and we saw some wildlife.
These Whiptails (not sure if that’s the right name or not but we saw a restaurant in town with a metal version of the lizard, by that name, so that’s what we called them!) were all over the place!
After going up a few of the switchbacks, I took a break to shoot a picture from where we started.
I stopped to take several -ahem- picture breaks…yeah, picture breaks!
And…the wiggles just kept on going!
We finally came upon a section of the trail that went between two mountains and was relatively flat, which enabled us (me, as Mike seemed unshakable) to catch our breath some. It was quite pretty and cool (since the sun wasn’t shining through yet).
Just when you think you’re almost to Scout Lookout, the smaller wiggles attack. Holy Steepness, Batman! I had to stop a lot more on these tiny switchbacks than I did the larger ones. You can’t see how many are left, so just when you’re thinking you’ve got to be close to the top you’re faced with yet another climb.
Then finally, you reach Scout Lookout which isn’t very big but it’s big enough for someone to wait comfortably while you finish the hike to Angels Landing, or eat a snack or lunch. The views are quite nice from here as well!
If you look to the right you can see the trail to Angels Landing, as well as the Great White Throne.
I sat down for a bit while Mike decided to go check things out. By check things out, I mean he climbed to the end to see if it was something he thought I could do! My legs/muscles weren’t tired at all (which was an improvement) but my breathing was horrible. Between my throat issues and the higher altitude (I’m a flatlander!) I was fighting for oxygen. That’s Mike in the white T-shirt and jeans.
While he was climbing, I was watching the chipmunks scurry around. They kept checking out my water bottle and hoping I’d give them food. Sorry little guys, but I’m not feeding the wildlife!
The rise of rock is a little misleading from this angle. It doesn’t look that bad.
I was able to use my 42x zoom to see Mike on the top ridge! I love my camera. At least I knew he’d made it that far!
This is the ridge he was on, right at the end of the trail.
Soon enough I saw Mike back close to the bottom waving at me to come on. On my way to the start, where the chains begin, I see this sign. Yep, in the last 8 years 6 people have fallen to their deaths. That’s almost one a year. Not very comforting!
As I sat at Scouts Lookout, I saw several people start the climb only to stop and go back down. As I got closer and started climbing, I understood why. Yes, there are chains there for your use, but the chains don’t go from beginning to end. They kinda stop and start in different places. In fact, there is one spot where there are no chains and it’s not very clear where you need to go. When in doubt, just keep going up.
After climbing what felt like hours (was more realistically just about 15 minutes) I could see the daunting task still left ahead. I’m not necessarily afraid of heights, but I’m afraid of falling. I’m a bit of a clutz, so I was concerned that I’d be one of the people who made a wrong step and tumble to my death. My game plan was to just keep my eyes on where I was stepping and not look over the edge too often. Since it’s only one way up and one way down, we had to move over several times to either let people pass going up or going down. It was at those moments I’d look around and snap some pictures.
There were several spots on this trail that had drop offs right next to the trail.
Take this spot for instance, only about 3-4 feet of a rock bridge separate you from…
The climb was slow and strenuous. I was asked a couple of times if I had asthma and even had someone offer me her inhaler, so I know I was huffing and puffing pretty good! Mike, on the other hand, is part billy goat and had no issues. We had come pretty far so far and I was feeling pretty confident I was going to make it, finally!
See?! I told you these guys were everywhere, even way the heck on the top of the mountains.
We finally made it to the end! You can sort of see where we started the trail (center) here.
The view was gorgeous. There was a 360 degree view of Zion Canyon! By the time we got to the top it had taken up 2 hours and 15 minutes. The sun was starting to glare down and was quite hot most of the way down too.
You can see the river winding through.
From the top, the Great White Throne doesn’t seem as high up! Proof that I actually did make it. That’s right…I was able to quiet the doubting voices and push through. Even Mike wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it to the top, but I proved him wrong too! He didn’t tell me that until we were done though, which I was thankful for.
There were a lot of people taking their time at the end, enjoying the views, taking pictures, re-hydrating, and refueling. Mike and I stayed for a bit. After all, how often are you going to get views like this?!
But, in the end, we knew we had a long way to go to get back to the start again!
Was it worth all of the huffing, puffing, and discomfort to hike Angels Landing? Yes, it was. It was worth all of that and more to prove to myself that I could do it. Will I hike it again? Maybe eventually, but not any time soon! The total time of the hike was 3:51:04 (of hiking, that doesn’t count the times we stopped at Scouts Lookout and at the end of Angels Landing). If you plan on giving it a go, wear sunscreen, start early, and take plenty of water and food to keep your energy up.