Saturday, October 24, 2015

Zion National Park: Angels Landing (5,790')

"...For to his angels, he has given his command to guard you in all of your ways; upon their wings they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone..."  
-Psalm 91:11

     There are few day-hikeable peaks in the American West able to challenge Angels Landing for both sheer exhilarating thrills and enlightening views.  Dropping 1500' vertical feet into Zion Canyon, this mighty citadel, sculpted by wind and water, offers an adventure quite unlike any other.  From the remarkable Walter's Wiggles to the North Rib scramble, the ascent of this celestial palace is, like our lives, a struggle; but a worthy one at that.  As the wind blows across the forbidding ridge, the mighty river flows far below, and the spectacle into the gorge of Zion soars ever greater,  you perhaps you will indeed find personally why it is called Angels Landing--a place where heaven meets earth...       


Category: Strenuous (because of the Class 2/3 climb)
Miles: 5
Elevation Gain: 1500'
YDS Class: Class 2/3 (Fixed cables)
Location: Zion National Park
DirectionsHERE  ("The Grotto" Shuttle Stop) 

The Trail: From "the Grotto" stop, cross Zion Canyon Road, and cross the creaky bridge over the free-flowing Virgin River.  The trail meanders gently at first through the river bank and its quaint riparian vegetation.  Soon, the trail begins gaining elevation , and abruptly switchbacks up the cliff to the west of Angel's Landing.  Take the switchbacks up as they curve about 500' above the valley floor.  Right after the final steep section, the trail evens out into Refrigerator Canyon, so called because it can be 15 F cooler here than the canyon bottom.  After passing through the heart of the slender ravine, the route climbs another 500' feet steeply up Walter's Wiggles, an incredible section of winding switchbacks up a near vertical cliff.  

     At the top is Scout's Lookout, the end game for most causal travelers, but the beginning of the ascent for you.  The views from Scout's are stunning, but not nearly as enjoyable and rewarding as the summit view.  From here, the trail ends, and the climbing begins to the south up the first rib of the steep ridge.  I recommend climbing gloves for the entire next section, as the cables can wear on your hands considerably.  Grab the cables and go up, and then down, the precipitous sandstone walls.  At the low point of the ridge is the infamous "Leap of Faith" section, a block of sandstone only a few feet wide, and 1000' above the Virgin River.  If you have made it this far though, it isn't really all that bad.  From here the entire next section of the climb is visible; the narrow rib up the north ridge of Angels Landing.  The exposure on the next section is extreme, but the climbing is quite straight forward with the cables, meriting only a Class 2, and possibly Class 3 in some section.  Keep a sharp eye out for rare and noble California Condors, as I saw one only a few feet from the trail.  Only 70 of these magnificent creatures reside in all of Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and eastern California; it surely was a great blessing to see one of these up close.  

     With few flat sections, concentration is key, as many other climbers are also coming down the ridge.  At the end of the long technical ascent, you reach the summit, along with its spectacular views.  South is the end of Zion Canyon, while a glance north will bear a view to the Narrows of the Virgin River.  After the wonder and awe of the breathtaking scene, return the way you came, taking extra precaution on the descent, as falling and slippage is far easier.  Remember, never attempt this hike if it is raining or if lightning threatens, nor if it is icy (unless, of course you have the skills and equipment.)  Your safety is your responsibility.
Hiked 10/21/2015.  Garfield County, UT.  NPS Entrance Fee Required $30 for 7/days.                          

Refrigerator Canyon from the Grotto

The first steep switchbacks

Down Zion Canyon

Entering Refrigerator Canyon

View South

Scout's Lookout

Beginning the cable ascent

Ever-expanding view

The North Rib

Sheer Drops right here...

Leap of Faith

Virgin River

Final summit climb


Towards the Narrows

1500' vertical drop

Down Climbing

A California Condor: what a treat!  

I apologize for the poor pictures, my camera broke, thus I had to use my phone camera....


  1. Awesome hike! This is on my list and it these are some of the best pictures I've seen. Thanks for posting, what views. Some day.

    1. Yes, it sure was. Defiantly an adrenaline pumper! Thanks for the comment on the pics, I was afraid they would turn out miserably from my dumb phone's lens.

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