Friday, May 8, 2015

Angels Landing: we're still alive!

Well, so much for sticking to the easy hikes until my ankle is completely healed! On Wednesday evening, in a fit of madness, I declared that I wanted to hike Angels Landing in Zion National Park.  It's the among most popular hikes in the National Park System, and among the least-frequently completed.  I figure with my increasing age and deterioration of my body, if I didn't hike it this time, I would probably never hike it.

With a bit of trepidation, Craig agreed and it became the planned adventure for Thursday. He then read (aloud) some of the reviews of the hike including ones that mentioned the fact that six people have fallen to their deaths from the narrow rock ledges that comprise the last 1/4 mile of the hike, 1400 feet above the canyon floor, where you have to cling onto chains that are anchored into the rock to make your way along.

By Thursday morning I was no longer quite sure I wanted to do it, but we went anyway. I too had read some things about the hike, and figured I could always turn back if things got too hard. 

When we were at Horseshoe Bend, a nice man suggested I get rubber tips for my poles because they didn't slip on rock, so on the way into Zion we stopped at not one, but three different sports equipment shops looking for tips. At the first two I also talked to the guys behind the counter about Angels Landing. They assured me that although the first two and a quarter miles were "a real Huff and Puff", if you took your time it was do-able. I was also informed that many people stopped at a place called Scouts Lookout, which is just below the chains. This info gave me enough confidence to "give it a go"!

You can see hikers in the lower left corner of this image
The first part of the trail is a very easy stroll along the edge of the river, but the goal looms high overhead. Are we really going to go to the top of that?

The Huff and Puff started gradually, with long but uphill sections of trail. But these and the much steeper switchbacks ahead were easy to walk, because they were all paved with either sidewalk-like cement or a more textured hard surface. Much easier than loose or irregular rocks and roots.

Here you can see the trail winding slowly upward. The rocks at the bottom of the picture were at the edge of a sharp dropoff, overlooking the previous switchback. 

Here's another view...

We just kept going up, resting at most switchbacks.

Going up, my ankle didn't bother me very much. Catching my breath was another matter! I sure wish I were 50 or 60 pounds lighter.

Up... up... up... beautiful views! The weather was perfect for this hike: in the low seventies with just a bit of a breeze.

Eventually we got to the part of the trail called "the Wiggles." It consists of 22 or more short but steep switchbacks. The image above shows five of them. 

Just about the time you feel they will never end, the trail spills out onto a fairly large, fairly flat sandy area called Scouts Lookout.

This is where people decide if they want to climb the last quarter-mile up the rocks on the right side of this picture.  Which leads to its informal name "Chickens' Landing".

We had our picnic lunch and I stayed there while Craig bravely went about halfway up the chains. 

He said he had to turn back when he couldn't quite see where the trail went next, and couldn't bring himself to trust the designers of the trail. I held my breath as I watched him come back down.

I did not get a picture of him because he had the camera.  This is a shot of some of the other hikers. Strange how you can never quite show how steep something is in a picture, nor the fact that this rock edge overlooks a 1400 foot drop off!

The walk down had its own difficulties. Breathing was no longer a challenge, but the downhill angle was hard on our knees and my ankle. Although the stops were not as frequent, we did stop to rest from time to time.

It was a beautiful day! We both felt good because we had done (most of) it! For me, stopping at Scouts Landing was still a victory. 

Needless to say, Friday was a rest day.


  1. Well done, Craig and Merikay! Zion is one of our favorite national parks, but we only did the easy hikes. We did ride our bikes down the mountain, though.

  2. We wouldn't have even tried that, good job

  3. Oh to be 25 again! You made it further than I could have. cluck, cluck! ;)

  4. Way to go, lady! I wouldn't do that one while we were there because I'm very afraid of heights with drop offs. May have to try it next time we're there. We'll see.

  5. By the way, your photos are outstanding!

  6. Excellent! I would stop before the chains. I don't do hikes where I have a chance of falling to my death! That's why I won't hike Half Done either! We hiked there with the kids but not all the way to the chains. They were little and with 4 of them to keep an eye on, we turned back at some point. Beautiful park. We'll be back there late summer. What campground are you in?

    1. Sand Hollow West near Hurricane is winding rather than side-by-side. Maybe I'll post a review at the end of our week.

  7. Great job. I'm afraid of heights so we didn't do that one when we were at Zion. I'm pretty adventurous, but not that much. Way to go!!!!!

  8. Well, I'm impressed even if you didn't quite make it to the top. Going down is always harder on the knees I think.

  9. congratulations! That looks like an AMAZING hike! Good for you! I was with you in spirit, lol!

  10. Wow, what a terrific hike! I would love to try it someday, but neither one of us is getting any more in shape. Beautiful pictures.

  11. That is an accomplishment worth remembering. Stopping where you did just sounds like good sense - clinging onto chains - I think NOT! Congratulations and thanks for sharing all the wonderful photos.

  12. Well done. I worry about both of you pushing yourself too far ever since the Pinnacles.

  13. If you return to Zion, go back to Scout's Landing. This time turn left and do the West Rim Trail. There will be some moderate climbing, and then it flattens out. It's just gorgeous there. You can look down upon Angel's Landing and decide if you really want to do that. We've decided that we don't want to! It's pretty spectacular up there.


Leave a comment, or send an email.