One of my favorite hikes on our Grand Circle Road Trip was Angels Landing in Zion National Park. Angels Landing got it’s name in 1916 when Frederick Fisher, exploring Zion with friends, exclaimed, “Only an angel could land on it!” Ten years later two Park Service employees, Thomas Chalmers Vint and Walter Ruesch, planned the construction of the Angels Landing Trail as an extension of the West Rim Trail. The trail was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1987.
You start out at the Grotto Trailhead. It is about 2.4 miles each way. The trail starts out following the Virgin River and then starts to climb several steep, paved switchbacks. I thought these switchbacks were one of the hardest parts of the trail even though they were paved. Remember, you are gaining 1,488 feet of elevation on this short hike! I was glad we started early in the morning so this part was in the shade. Even in October it was hot in the sun.
After the switchbacks, you go over a drainage bridge and through Refrigerator Canyon. It is nice and cool in here and you may hear Ravens calling to each other. Their voices echo against the walls.
Next, you reach Walter’s Wiggles a set of 21 switchbacks. Walter’s Wiggles are named for Walter Ruesh, Zion National Park’s first superintendent. I did not find these as hard as the first long switchbacks.
At the top of Walter’s Wiggles you will reach Scout Lookout. Some people call this spot “Quitter’s Corner.” I think it is a great hike even if you make it to Scout Lookout. The views along the West Rim Trail are amazing and you should stop here if you are scared of heights or tired! I planned on going to Scout Lookout and checking out the chain portion to Angels Landing to see if I thought I could do it. You can not really see a lot of it from this area though. You can see hikers in the distance. This last 1/2 mile is the actual Angels Landing Trail. We decided to try it!
The first set of chains is over slickrock and steep. I had a hard time reaching some of the chains because I am short, so you may have to let go here. One nice lady made a bridge for me with her leg so I could reach the next set! There are drop offs here, but nothing like the ridge. I was shaking from adrenaline so we climbed above the trail and took a break. Several other people did too. The chains then go around a corner with a drop off. If it is busy this can be a real pain. On the way back down about 20 of us were waiting for a while and finally one guy told the crowd to hold on for a while so we could all get around them.
After these chains you reach another wide area somewhat smaller than Scout Lookout. There are some good resting and photo areas here.
Then, the chains drop to the left and continue to the narrow (2 feet wide in some spots) ridge. The drop is pretty big and I had to hang on and drop myself down. On the way back, I needed a boost up from Craig. It is really crowded here and some people start to freak out because it is very exposed on both sides. We decided to go a bit further and take a look and some pictures. There were too many nervous people, people with backpacks bumping into others, and even people carrying small scared children! We decided to turn around here and do the rest of Angels Landing when we come back to Zion. Hopefully, much earlier in the morning and not on a holiday weekend! We only had about 10 minutes left to get to the summit, but I am proud of what I did hike.
I loved the hike and it is one of my favorites so far. I think about it often and we hope to go back and volunteer in Zion National Park soon. People were very patient, excited and kind along the trail, but I still wish it were less busy. I think with the internet and Instagram and Pinterest, knowledge of these National Park trails has really increased. Many people want to try them! A friend said she went years ago in August and she was one of only a few on the trail. I would visit soon before it becomes a permit hike like Half Dome in Yosemite.