Over Memorial Day, Samuel was moving back to Michigan from San Francisco so we got a chance to go on another fantastic, jam packed road trip hitting eight National Parks in four days. In my post last week, we explored Great Basin National Park before camping approximately an hour from Zion National Park. This was my second or third time every really camping and I was skeptical but I have to admit wasn’t all that bad. The secret I’ve discovered is the needed addition of having an air mattress. I’d first been to Zion National Park and conquered Angel’s Landing several years ago my best friend and I have birthdays that are separated by a week, so we decided to celebrate by meeting in Zion for the weekend where we climbed Angel’s Landing and hiked the Narrows. You’ll remember Sarah from our most recent adventure in Spain! My brother had been to Zion twice previously and had turned back for one reason or another before getting to the top of Angel’s Landing. Of course this led to merciless teasing so we had to check this hike of the list for Samuel. From various readings, we had read that it can take from 4-5 hours to complete this particular strenuous hike, but in both cases we completed the hike in 2.5 and 3 hours.
We got up early and into the park just after opening, hoping to avoid the crowds. We knew Zion would be packed for the holiday weekend, and likely Angel’s Landing would be uncomfortably busy. As this hike was our only planned one in the park, due to our packed schedule, we had a clear goal to get in and out of the park as quickly as we could hike.
A feature I really enjoy about Zion Park is its shuttle system that keeps cars from clogging up the majority of the park. The trail head for the Angel’s Landing hike is on the sixth stop on the shuttle called The Grotto. After getting off the bus you have to walk across the road to find the trail head. If you look off to your right you’ll see your destination towering over top of you. The first time Sarah and I did this hike, we had no clue as to where we were headed, so I hadn’t realized I could spot our goal from the valley floor. After crossing the Virgin River you follow the West Rim Trail that first follows along the flat canyon floor until you reach the first set of switchbacks. These switchbacks are exhausting but we would take mini breaks and set small goals throughout to get us through this first warm up part of the hike.
West Rim Trail
Refrigerator Canyon and Walter’s Wiggles
After making it to the top of that grueling first set of switchbacks, you get a respite from the heat through this cool, fairly level canyon. The temperature difference both times I’ve hiked through this section is quite refreshing. Awaiting you at the end of this canyon is Walter’s Wiggles, which is a set of 21 short switchbacks that is quite impressive. It may look daunting, however I promise it isn’t terrible and the view at the top is well worth it. Unfortunately, I was tired enough at this point of the hike that I forgot to capture any images of this set of formidable switchbacks.
Scout’s Lookout affords breathtaking views while also giving you a good idea of where you’re headed if you want to tackle the cables to make it to the top of Angel’s Landing. Even if you don’t feel up to the last half mile of the trip via cables and sheer drop offs this viewpoint is well worth the trip. A lot of people stop here to have a snack, however I would personally recommend pushing forward to have your bite to eat at the top.
The cable’s section of this hike represent the final half mile till you reach the top of Angel’s Landing. The first time when Sarah and I hiked Angel’s Landing, it was near dusk and the crowds were minimal, however on this holiday weekend, Samuel and I encountered masses of people on the cables. It really slowed our progress but allowed for ample breaks throughout this last push. This was an excellent exercise in strangers working together, sharing and demonstrating patience under stressful conditions. Honestly, you’ll meet the nicest people at National Parks.
Angel’s Landing Lookout
The view and sense of accomplishment when reaching the top of Angel’s Landing makes the whole hike more than worth it! Upon reaching the top, we found a spot where we could soak in the view while enjoying a snack before the hike back down. The chipmunks were incredibly friendly so you’ll have to keep an eye out for your food. I had one startle me terrible when it pounced on my knee and proceeded to stay there for longer than expected. Another jumped on a lady’s hat that was seated nearby causing her to jump in surprise as well.
We were dreading the hike back down the cables because the crowd was so thick coming up. Several impasses you’d have to wait while one group either went up or down. In reality, the hike back down the cables when smoothly as we must have been in between busy times. As tiring as the hike up was, the trip back to the canyon floor went so quickly and was a breeze in comparison. Having accomplished our goal in Zion National Park, we jumped in our car to head the hour drive to Bryce Canyon National Park for the second park of the day.