Spring Escape – Zion National Park – Day 1: Angel’s Landing, 4.1.14

By some great chance, my husband had a business trip to Las Vegas the first week of April and wanted me to come along.  That was nice, but a week in Vegas wasn’t really that appealing to me.  Now, I know you’re thinking, that’s totally crazy, a free week in Vegas, but you don’t want to go?!?   My husband suggested there might be hiking opportunities, and after a look at the map, I had a plan.  Zion and Bryce National Parks were within driving distance of Las Vegas, and I was going to go. After flying into Las Vegas late Monday, on Tuesday morning, I picked up a rental car at the airport and was on my way northward.  Zion is about a three hour drive from Vegas, and that’s if you don’t stop. It actually took me a little longer to get there because I stopped for lunch and then some breakfasts/hiking food at the convenient Wal-Mart in Hurricane.

Entrance to Zion National Park near Springdale, UT.

Entrance to Zion National Park near Springdale, UT.

I arrived at the park, mid-afternoon, checked into the campground and set up my tent. I had reserved a walk-up tent-site, because I didn’t want to stare at the side of a large, white motorhome after it had taken me two days to get there.  I can’t complain, the tent site was exactly what I wanted, the views were great!

My tent site, F-4, complete with picnic table and food bin.

My tent site, F-4, complete with picnic table and food bin.

View of The Watchman right from my tent site.

View of The Watchman right from my tent site.

After getting my pack ready, I wandered over to the visitor center to get an updated weather and trail report. It was also where I’d need to get on the shuttle bus.  Since it was April 1, the shuttle buses into the canyon were running. The shuttle buses are required riding to get into the canyon since passenger vehicles are not allowed into the canyon during the busy season in order to reduce traffic jams and parking issues. About ten minutes to four, I decided to hop on a bus and go hike. I figured why not? It was sunny, I didn’t have to be home at a particular time, there was no husband, no kids, and no cats to take care of and no dinner to make. I could do what I wanted, so I went hiking.  My destination: Angel’s Landing. Angel’s Landing is a narrow fin-like rock projection into the canyon with an elevation of 1488 feet from the canyon floor that is notorious for the last half-mile of  the 2.5 mile trail being steep, narrow and exposed. 

Angel's Landing as seen from the trail along the Virgin River.

Angel’s Landing as seen from the trail along the Virgin River.

I got off the bus at the Grotto stop, crossed the road and then crossed over the Virgin River on a foot bridge to the trail head. Taking a right, I hiked along the river for a bit, getting to see some mule deer foraging along the way.

Looking back to the bridge across the Virgin River at the trail head.

Looking back to the bridge across the Virgin River at the trail head.

 

Signs at the trail head for Angel's Landing, with the real thing in the background.

Signs at the trail head for Angel’s Landing, with the real thing in the background.

Mule deer foraging along the river.  Throughout my trip to parks, I'd see or hear more mule deer.

Mule deer foraging along the river. Throughout my trip, I’d see or hear more mule deer.

Indian paintbrush in bloom alongside the trail.  There were quite a few plants in bloom, but I think if I would have been there a few weeks later I would have seen a lot more flowers.

Indian paintbrush in bloom alongside the trail. There were quite a few plants in bloom, but I think if I would have been there a few weeks later I would have seen a lot more flowers.

Soon the trail started ascending by switchbacks, the first of three sections of elevation. Once the top of the switchbacks was reached, I entered Refrigerator Canyon, where the trail leveled out for a bit down the canyon which led to Walter’s Wiggles. Walter’s Wiggles is a series of 21 short switchbacks leading to Scout’s Landing.

One of the first views out to the canyon, part way up the first steep section.

One of the first views out to the canyon, part way up the first steep section.

The trail in Refrigerator Canyon, easier and flatter through this section.

The trail in Refrigerator Canyon, easier and flatter through this section.

Looking down a section of Walter's Wiggles.  If you look closely, you can see people on some of the lower switchbacks.

Looking down a section of Walter’s Wiggles. If you look closely, you can see people on some of the lower switchbacks.

Up and around I went finally ending up at Scout’s Landing. Scout’s Landing is a place where many people take a break and decide whether to stop and enjoy the views, or continue the last half mile to the top of Angel’s Landing. This is where the chain section (installed by the park service to assist hikers on the narrow, exposed sections) starts and for those with difficulty with the steepness and exposure, it is a good place to just enjoy the views before heading back down. Up until this point, many, many people had passed me on their descent, but I did not meet anyone else going up. I looked up the ridge, and didn’t look so bad to me, so I started up.

Warning sign at Scout's Landing concerning the last half-mile to the top of Angel's Landing.

Warning sign at Scout’s Landing concerning the last half-mile to the top of Angel’s Landing.

The last half mile to Angel's Landing.

The last half mile to Angel’s Landing.

The narrowest section along the ridge, with a steep drop-off to the canyon floor below.

The narrowest section along the ridge, with a steep drop-off to the canyon floor below. Look closely and you can see the white shuttle bus on the road below.

The chains do offer a little confidence, but I found it was just as important watch my footing. This was a place where my experience with steep and rocky footing came in handy. I didn’t find the footing any worse than some of our lovely, rocky trails in New England. I continued my journey upward, still meeting a few groups on their way down and finding a way around them, even in narrow places. I could see that there wasn’t much elevation left, and soon I popped out on top.

View looking south from Angel's Landing.

View looking south from Angel’s Landing.

 

Looking north to the head of the canyon from Angel's Landing.

Looking north to the head of the canyon from Angel’s Landing.

Looking down from the top of Angel's Landing to what is known as Big Bend on the floor of the canyon.

Looking down from the top of Angel’s Landing to what is known as Big Bend on the floor of the canyon.

Looking back to the ridge, which I just hiked up.  Scout's Landing is along the orange colored ridge.

Looking back to the ridge, which I just hiked up. Scout’s Landing is along the orange colored ridge.

The top has a nice ridge, so I walked along the ridge, close to the end to enjoy the views. The evening sun was lighting up the southern part of the canyon and I was able to take it all in by myself – there was no one else on the ridge! Almost too soon, I knew it was time to descend. Back down I went, crossing all the narrow bits and only passing two hikers close to Scout’s Landing, who had just started ascending on the steep part. They asked me if I thought the trail was sketchy. I told them I didn’t think it was very sketchy, but then again it depended on their definition of sketchy. Everyone has a different comfort level on that sort of terrain, and since I didn’t know these hikers, their abilities or experience, I could only give them my experience. Some people are terrified by this trail, others really enjoy it! Personally, I enjoyed it and would definitely hike it again.  As a side note, it is very narrow in places with steep drop-offs, and my personal advice would be to hike it when the traffic is low – either very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon.  That way you are not stuck in traffic jams, having to figure out how to move around someone or a group in a tight, narrow spot. My first experience in Zion was great!  Happy and grateful to be there, I returned to camp, settled in and tried to decide what to do for the next’s days adventure.

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4 thoughts on “Spring Escape – Zion National Park – Day 1: Angel’s Landing, 4.1.14

  1. FANTASTIC! Many years ago, I actually hiked some (not all) of the places you visited. Have often thought that if I had to chose any place to live other than NH, then it would most likely be Utah or western Colorado.

    Your photos are beyond gorgeous!
    I’ll very much look forward to reading your upcoming blogs about your hiking adventures in this awesome part of the U.S.

    John

    • Thanks so much, John! I have other hiking friends that really like that part of the country, too, and visit when they get the chance. Yes, there will be a few more posts from this trip! Stay tuned!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Mr. Smith! It was an amazing trail – and quite different scenery than our Whites.

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