Zion National Park


Angel's Landing Trail


            The Angels Landing trail has a personal significance to me because four years ago when we visited Zion National Park, Lila and I started to do this trail, but never finished.   The trail is two and one-half miles each way with a vertical rise of 1488 feet.  From these statistics it is evident that the trail is both quite steep and physically demanding and as result at that time we only reached the Scout Lookout point on the trail which was two miles and a 1300 foot vertical.   I started to go further, but soon abandoned my attempt.    

             Accompanying Lila and I on the Angels Landing trail at this time was our friend Essie, who with her husband George was visiting the Bryce and Zion parks with us.   I thought that being four years older since the last time, I had little chance of being able to do the entire trail, but I did want to at least get to Scout Lookout again.

            We started our hike in the morning to take advantage of the cooler weather and the fact that we were not tired.  Lila, Essie and I headed to the trailhead; crossed the bridge over the Virgin River and started our hike on Angels Landing trail adjacent to the river.   For about a third of a mile the trail followed the river but then gradually the trail snaked up the canyon wall at an ever increasing rate.

            With each turn we looked back down at the trail behind us and at the river that was slowly becoming smaller and smaller.  We knew that we had much more trail to walk, but the trail that was behind us gave us a true sense of accomplishment.   As we continued higher, the trail continued up the canyon wall and then turned into a narrow canyon full of trees and vegetation that is fed by runoff waters from the huge cliffs above.  

            Our trek continued higher until we crossed a bridge that joined the trails on both sides of this canyon.    Now as we were walking in the shade, the cool air was refreshing, the trail followed along some fascinating rock formations that again illustrated the result of the years that the sandstone was underwater and the erosion that occurred.



        The trail then surged upward going back and forth through the natural design of the canyon wall and the scenery becomes ever more astounding.   The last few hundred feet took us onto a portion of the trail known as Walter’s Wiggles.  These are man made switchbacks that essentially took us straight up through a twenty-five foot wide swath of the canyon wall.   It is an impressive, but demanding portion of the trail that leads almost directly to Scout Lookout.

            That alone was a significant accomplishment and I was once again at the point of the trail where I had been on my last visit.  I wanted to go on, but again not sure if I could do the last one-half mile as there was really no trail anymore just a series of chains that indicated the way ahead.



            Lila said that she would not attempt to go further and when Essie said she would go on, my desire turned to inspiration and I decided to go for it….I had someone to share the fear and the uncertainty.  Leaving our backpacks with Lila and after eating some snacks, Essie and I pushed onward. 

            We clambered up the sandstone formations and grabbed hold of the chains.  I am sure that you could still see my fingerprints all over those chains as I gripped them tighter and tighter with each step.   I could say that it was not fear but stability I needed as the reason for holding the chain so tight, but it was surely the fear factor that was the culprit.  


            Following the chains we climbed over rocks until we reached the ridge, a rather level portion of the trail that crossed to the last upward section of the trail to Angels Landing.   The ridge or saddle is maybe three feet wide, with of course the chain running down the middle and a drop of 800 feet on one side and 1200 feet on the other side down into the canyon below.   If there was ever a reason to grasp that chain now was that time. 

            Once across to the other side, we continued the ascent to the top…not easy, but after what we had already been through it looked much worse than it was.  From Angels Landing the view down into Zion Canyon below was awe-inspiring.   The Virgin River below was minuscule; we could see the park road twisting alongside the river and the perspective of looking down onto the canyon walls was so very different.



         We were proud of our accomplishment, but we still had to return down the trail.  On many of the places along the chained section of the trail it was easier to go down backwards and hold on dearly to the chain.  The rest of the trail down was easier on our breathing for sure, but was more difficult on our legs and feet.  

           I am not sure that I will ever be able to hike that trail again…..but the memory will last forever.  I am glad that I did it and that I was able to do it at this time in my life.