What’s On Your Hiking List? Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park, USA

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 

Trip Report:
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..... 

More epic hikes with Outdoorsy Mama:


What’s In Your Backpack? 5 Less Obvious Gear Necessities for a Hiking Trip

What’s in your backpack?

As I pack for my trip to Zion and Bryce National Parks coming up in less than 24 hours, I’m noticing the littler things, the more overlooked gear, that are an absolute necessity for my pack. 

Here's my list of less obvious gear:

This is a lightweight emergency water filter that acts like a straw that I carry with me at all times in my day-pack. It’s a “just in case” and it makes me feel better knowing that I can drink most any water safely.

2 - Chapstick
There’s the old story of a cowboy who drives his cattle for 100 miles, realizes he forgot his chapstick, so he turns the herd around and drives them back the 100 miles to go get it….. I am that cowboy. Cowgirl, in this case. Vital for my pack.

If you’re like me and have a massive reaction to the poisonous weeds, having a small bottle o Tecnu to smear immediately on a possible exposure will save weeks of future itchy agony. I carry a 2oz bottle with me everywhere.

4 - Ibuprofin
I have my Wilderness First Aid certificate and I’m a firm believer in listening to science. Inflammation is a cause of many things, including discomfort. I always have an emergency pair of ibuprofen pills in my pack.

5 - Luxury Item - Token of Each of My Kids
As someone who lives to get out on the trails and adventure travel, sometimes I have to leave my family behind. It’s one thing if it’s a day hike, but when I head out for multiple nights, I feel the tug of bringing something physical that I can TOUCH that belongs to each one of my kids. 

For my son, it’s a NASA patch. For one twin, it’s her tiny Eagle stuffie. For the other twin, it’s her little, teeny panda. I attach them all to a safety pin and connect them with a strap inside my backpack. So worth the extra "weight". Sob! 

Small, simple, but vital for me. What are your less obvious gear necessities? 

-Outdoorsy Mama

For more thoughts on backpacks:
6 Kinds of Backpacks for Every Kind of Adventure


7 Ways to Worship Outdoorsy Moms with Fun Gear and Outdoor Adventures

Forget everything else ‘cept the handmade goodies.

Spoil your outdoorsy gal with these fun ideas this Mother’s Day and - heck - any day. 

PlatyPreserve Wine Preservation System $10 
PlatyPreserve wine carrier perfect for backpacking
Introduced to me last summer on a backpacking trip through Hell’s Canyon Wilderness by an expert named WineHiker, this lightweight wine flask makes mom the happiest gal at the campfire after a great day on the trails. Portable, re-useable again and again. Cheers!

What the what? Yup. Something to make us smile. Brand new this year, a string of LED lights designed for a Big Agnes tent or to just string up at the campsite. Powered by AAA batteries or USB. I drool at the idea of these as a fun and festive luxury item for our campsite. 

Icebreaker Clothing – Lightweight Layers $50 & up
Shear me a New Zealand sheep and throw it on my hiking body. I love this gear and I always need more lightweight layers with the unpredictable temps that hiking and outdoor activity throws my way…..Be sure to keep an eye out for a store near you – our San Francisco store is full of friendly outdoorsy people and they throw lots of cool events.

Lululemon Pants $80 & up
Lululemon pants at the campsite
They're comfortable. They're indestructible. And darn it, they look good too. I've had mine for years. I've sat on burnt marshmallows. Not washed them according to directions. Worn them in extreme hot and cold temps. Hiked, biked, gone trail running and camping. And they still hold their shape. They cost more yet they last forever. They're my go to pants for every outdoor activity. 

Moms' Hike to Family Picnic bottle of champagne $16 + lunch
"The perfect blend of nature and nurture." You keep the kids. We gals spend the morning hiking with friends. Dads and kids meet the moms 7 miles later at the pick-up spot with lunch ready to celebrate. We've done this for years and it's a win-win for everyone. The perfect one two punch with a pop of bubbly at the end. A favorite for ALL, take note, hubbies.

Spontaneous Weekend Camping Trip  priceless
Camping in Mt Tamalpais State Park
A few days ago, the general mood in the house was set to "cranky" - not fun heading into Mother's Day. So what's the solution? Planning a spontaneous local camping trip (if you can!) to a local state park. Yesterday we set up the tents and sent the kids into the trees - go be wild, you creatures - the best jungle gym ever. Poof went the crankies. Happy kids, happy wife.... happy life. Scramble and make it happen. 

Epic National Park Trip  also priceless
Yosemite National Park, Merced River 
And finally, why not? It's time. Pick that National Park you've been drooling over and make it happen. Zion. Olympic. Yellowstone. Yosemite....Southern Utah loop. Or destination Denali. Active family trips are an ingredient for healthy families. Book it!

So get out there and worship. And we'll be sure to worship you back. 

-- Outdoorsy Mama