“The mountains are calling and I must go.” John Muir
Angels Landing hike is in Zion National Park, Utah. It’s billed as one of the top two attractions in the park – and I’m not arguing, because it was the most spectacular hike that I did on my recent trip to the US.
The trail begins at the Grotto, meandering alongside the Virgin River in lower Zion Canyon. But it doesn’t stay flat for long, gradually getting steeper and steeper. This is a strenuous hike (5m/8km return) and, in summer, it’s likely to be hot. We were lucky to get started by 9am, which meant the trail was partially shaded on the way up. But, by the time we headed back down, the trail was completely exposed to the sun (and the 40-degrees-Celsius heat).
After about half an hour of walking, the cliffs loomed above us, seemingly impassable, but we could see people dotted along the trail. It’s truly remarkable that the National Parks Service were able to build a trail on these cliffs.
We followed a series of steep switchbacks and it was equally incredible looking up at the trail ahead or back down along the path we’d followed. Vertigo anyone! The view into lower Zion Canyon was also worth pausing for, and a chance to catch a breath.
This was really the first challenging hike of my trip and I was incredibly happy with how I went. Of course, I was slow, but that’s always my setting, whether I’m hiking or biking. And, why hurry, when you’re in nature’s playground. There is also something special about having to work hard to get to these incredible places.
For me, being out in the wilderness and discovering new trails is where I’m most content. I’ll never tire of this.
Eventually, we reached Refrigerator Canyon – a welcome relief – where the trail cuts a path between two cliffs. As the name suggests, this is a shady, cool section of trail. It’s also relatively flat, compared with where we’ve been. On one side there is forest and on the other smooth sandstone walls. It’s really lovely.
One of the highlights of the hike is Walter’s Wiggles – a steep zigzagging path that made the earlier switchbacks look relatively flat in comparison. The vertical nature of Walter’s Wiggles reminded me a little bit of the ‘Oh my God steps’ on the Inca Trail – at least in the way that they took my breath away when I gazed up at them. I ate a few jelly beans and continued up to Scout’s Lookout, where I joined the rest of my group.
Scout’s Lookout is close to the top of the Angels Landing hike, but there is a final portion of trail across an exposed ridge. Here sections of chain are bolted into the rock, providing some level of security for those brave enough to continue on. A part of me wanted to try it, but there was a dusting of sand on the rocks and my feet were slipping, even on the flatter sections of rock. There were also a lot of people lined up single file, waiting to go up, and this dissuaded me from trying, at least on this occasion.
Instead, I had a leisurely lunch, enjoyed the views, and watched some cheeky chipmunks skittering across the rocks. It was all downhill from here – via the same path – and I took most of my photographs on the way back down.
I also took more time to look at the canyon walls; beautiful textures and colours.
Walter’s Wiggles and the other switchback paths were amazing, and Refrigerator Canyon was the best place to be on a hot day in Zion National Park.
The views were unbeatable including lower Zion Canyon and the incredible trail winding its way down the cliff-face.
Angels Landing hike joins my ever-growing list of favourite hikes around the world.