|Summit of Angel's Landing. Zion National Park. USA|
"What the whatttt am I doing clinging to a chain with literally a thousand foot drop on either side of me?" I ask myself as I tackle another wildly exposed section of the Angel's Landing hike at Zion National Park. It's mid-week. I'm here to hike the great hikes of Zion. It's a spring day. But I'm getting ahead of myself.... let's start from the first step on the trail....
It's around 9:45am and I hop off the bus in Zion at "The Grotto" inside Zion Canyon.
Slinging my day-pack onto my back, I head across the street, over the bridge at the Virgin River which has carved this spectacular valley, and begin The Hike. The notorious hike that is a wide-eyed conversation piece in all hiking circles: Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park.
|The Virgin River at the foot of the Summit of Angel's Landing, the mountain center-right.|
The trail begins quietly along the Virgin River on the West Rim Trail. Wildflowers and cottonwoods and green vegetation contrast brightly against the red Zion earth on this slightly overcast May morning.
|Giant switchbacks dug into the side of the mountain in the first mile.|
Massive switchbacks soon begin on a well maintained path dug into the side of the enormous red mountain I've been hiking towards. I can’t help but think I’ve been transported to another planet - perhaps Mars - as I make my way up and the humid air heats things up.
Out of the sun for a brief, rolling respite through "Refrigerator Canyon", I bump into "Walter’s Wiggles", twenty-one short and steep switchbacks that zig-zag up the side of the mountain to the safe, table-top mesa named Scout Lookout.
|Park Service warning at Scout Outlook, the start of the chain route.|
Two miles into the hike now, the next .5 miles is where extreme hiking begins and where peeps with fear of heights, fear of chains, fear of skinny trails, fear of giant vertical drops on either side of you on a 4 foot-wide path, fear of sandstone surfaces that crumble when you walk on them, fear of lots of people clinging to chains for dear life, and anyone in flip-flops…..should call it a day and enjoy a PB&J at Scouts Lookout.
All light, nervous humor aside, people have died on this section of the trail and now that I’ve hiked it, I can 100% see why.
|Chains to secure hikers from the enormous drop on either side of the trail.|
Even just the first section past Scouts Landing is a good example of the next .5 miles. The trail begins with an awkward, steep pitch that requires clinging to chains while at the same time, you're navigating the hikers who are on their way down from the summit who need to cling to the same chains that you are.
Huge note: There’s a need on this section of the trail for acute patience and care while managing the chains, the severe drops to each side, and the large number of fellow hikers who are also taking on this heart-pumping challenge.
Hand to hand, using my core to pull myself up and flattening myself Spiderman-like against the cliff to let others pass down, I work my way up this sandstone tower and ignore the conversation between the two dudes behind me discussing all the ways they might, at any moment, slip and spiral down the edge of the cliff but it might be cool because they’d get it all on their GoPro. Not.
|Summit of Angel's Landing looking into The Narrows down below.|
Reaching the summit without mishap or losing anyone along the way, I pick a perch with friendly hiking buddies and nibble on well deserved energy bites and hydrate and take in the view up The Narrows from 1,500ft high.
|Me. Summit. Angel's Landing.|
There is such adrenaline pumping through your body in the last .5 miles of the climb, the summit seems a safe and tranquil spot to recharge before getting back on the chains for the return-trip down.
|Looking back down from summit, GREEN arrows highlight the narrow ridge-line of the final .5 miles of the trail.|
Five miles total now hiked and I'm back walking along the burbling Virgin River again. I’m psyched to have accomplished the climb. Definitely spent from the emotional and physical adrenaline of the final section to the summit. And really, really happy that the dudes behind me made it up to the top as well without claiming YouTube notoriety for their GoPro death fall. #Truth
An intense hike in a gorgeous national park. So what was I doing there clinging to a chain a thousand feet high? Going for it, one careful step at a time.
-- Outdoorsy Mama
Location: Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park, The Grotto Bus Stop
Length & Elevation: 5 miles round-trip on same trail & @ 1,500 ft elevation
On the way up: 2 miles of steady uphill hiking on well maintained trails
.5 miles of extreme hiking using chains with severe 1,000+ foot drops on either side
Level of Difficulty: Strenuous to Extreme
Exposure: Mostly sun.
Kid Friendly?: First 2 miles recommended for children who are in excellent shape and follow strict hiking guidelines. Steep, dangerous exposures. *Final .5 miles ONLY for teens and up who are 100% secure and experienced climbers who can manage severe heights and dangerous terrain.
Best Time to Visit: Sunny, clear day with NO weather in the forecast. Do not hike when trail is wet.
What to wear: Layers and sun protection. Excellent hiking shoes specifically for extreme final .5 mile where each footstep needs to be secure.
Tip: Go first thing in the morning to avoid crowds.
Disclaimer: Check the weather and trail conditions from a trusted source before attempting this or any hike.....
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