See, I’d heard things about this hike. My hiking partner was excited about it, but he’s of a more adventurous bent than I am, so I decided to read more.
For the next hour, I perused blog post after blog post about the Angels Landing hike. I read articles about people who’d fallen and died on this hike. I read posts that said “it’s not a hard hike at all!” and others that said they’d watched “hardened rock climbers weep and hug the path in fear.”
Clearly, the interwebs were not of the same mind on this one.
But hey, it’s the era of fake news, so I’m getting pretty good at cobbling together some truth out of all the hyperbole. At least, I think I am. You’ll have to fact check me on that.
When I set my computer down and pondered what I’d just read, I realized that I had every intention of doing this hike – that I really wanted to be able to say I’d done it. I noticed a real, honest-to-goodness flutter of butterflies in my stomach at the thought. And to be honest, I welcomed the flutter. There’s not much that gets my blood flowing (in a good way) these days.
Fast forward a week or so, and I’m nursing a sprained ankle, acquired the night before, and it’s a gorgeous sunny morning, and it’s Angels Landing day. I remembered all the images, all the warnings. I waffled. I hemmed and hawed, and finally, knowing we needed good weather to do it, said “Fine. Let’s go for it.” And off we went.
As we hopped off the Zion bus, this is what we saw.
“We’re going up that,” my hiking buddy said delightedly, and I probably said some variation of “Are you #^%ing kidding me?”
The first section is relatively low-key, consisting of long, fairly steady uphill switchbacks; the path is wide and almost paved, for lack of a better term, and there are stunning views around every turn. As long as you can trudge uphill, you can do this part of the hike. Just wear sunscreen and a hat and bring water – there’s not a lot of shade.
Next you’ll come to a lovely little section called Refrigerator Canyon, where temperatures drop and the terrain rolls a bit more rather than just heading up.
Then you’ll come to Walter’s Wiggles, a series of 20 or so switchbacks that take you up the cliff, in a hurry. Again, the path is wide and obstacle free, so really, most hikers can do this. Just stop and take pretty pictures/breathe whenever you need to.
After about 2 miles, you’ll arrive at Scout’s Landing, which has lovely views and provides a nice place to pause and ponder if you’ll continue on to Angels landing.
If you don’t, head back down and pat yourself on the back for your sensibleness. Because the next part of the hike is nothing to joke about.
For the final .5 of this hike, you’ll be climbing up a fin of rock with sheer 800-1000 foot drops on both sides (stop reading here, Mom & Dad).
There are chains and steps in the rock, which help, but you are exposed in many places; *if you fear heights or get vertigo or are hiking with kids I don’t recommend this. You may also have to navigate around other hikers, as there’s only 1 way up/down and the hike is popular.
While there are a few places that made those butterflies come back, and might take your breath if you look over the edge…
…in most cases, the path is wider than the fearful bloggers would have had me believe. And unless you’re climbing really early, you’ll be taking it slow as your fellow hikers make their way up and down.
After you’ve scrambled and hauled yourself up the ridge, the views at the top are just…worth it.
It’s worth pointing out that this is a hike you should avoid in rain, snow, lightening, or high winds. We knew a storm was coming, so we headed back down a little sooner than I’d have liked (plus, it gets crowded up there around midday). As you head back down the way you came, I recommend giving thanks for those who installed the chains, and then enjoying Walter’s Wiggles on the downhill.
Before you know it, 5 miles will have passed and you’ll have conquered Angels Landing.
So here’s the bottom line if you’re considering this hike; I’m not an amazing hiker. I’m slow, cautious, and prone to sucking wind on extended uphills. And I loved this hike…the challenge of it, the variety, the incredible views. It does have risk, but so do most things in life. So if you’re in decent shape, careful, but still open to a little adrenaline rush, I recommend it.
I hope I get to do it again someday, so I can look up from watching my feet a few more times.